The Agrarian Kitchen’s Rodney Dunn ventures into new digs
It’s been a while in the making, but diners can now finally take a seat at the table of Rodney Dunn’s new venture in New Norfolk.
The Agrarian Kitchen Eatery & Store opened by Dunn and his wife Séverine Demanet yesterday, is located in the Bronte Building of historic Willow Court, and will follow the same paddock-to-plate principles as their acclaimed Lachlan cooking school.
Dunn, who moved to Tasmania about nine years ago, was an apprentice under internationally renowned chef Tetsuya Wakuda, and was formerly the food editor at Australian Gourmet Traveller.
His time in the Derwent Valley has only enhanced his passion for flavours and devotion to locally grown produce.
Mr Dunn said his inspiration for the latest venture was to offer similar experiences to the cooking school but to make them more accessible.
“We really want to give everyone the experience of the classes; that is to taste the amazing produce that is cooked just beautifully but it’s also an opportunity to give something more to New Norfolk,” he said.
“I love to be inspired and at the same time to inspire others, so with the Eatery I want to bring our philosophy and what we do [at the cooking school] to a wider audience.
“At Lachlan we get loads of people coming out thinking that we might be a restaurant or calling asking for a table for four and we have to say ‘oh sorry it’s just cooking classes’.”
He said he also wanted to ensure that there was something on offer at the Eatery for everyone.
“We hope it will be very accessible, we don’t want to make it a really high-end fine dining restaurant, we want people to be able to come here and feel comfortable even with their kids,” he said.
A lot of the kitchen is fire-driven, with a grill, wood-fired oven and a smoker, however, Mr Dunn said it
We hope it will be very accessible, we don’t want to make it a really high-end fine dining restaurant, we want people to be able to come here and feel comfortable even with their kids
was difficult to pin down any one particular type of food that would be on offer.
The menu which will include set meals for dinner and easy afternoon lunches is based on the same philosophy as the cooking school. As in, the ingredients will speak for themselves with little adornment.
He said their aim was to source most of their ingredients from a community of local growers, farmers and fishermen and complement this with excess from the cooking school’s garden and farm.
The new venture will be headed up by a team of young guns that hail from here and abroad.
The kitchen will be led by Ali Currey-Voumard, who has returned to her home state after a very successful start in Melbourne, which included working at The Builders
Arms Hotel and Cumulus Inc.
Adi Ruiz, who hails from Bulletin Place in Circular Quay, Sydney, will be applying his serious talents to the drinks side of the menu, creating a range of alcoholic and non-alcoholic beverages.
“Adi is one of the top barmen in the country, we’re just lucky that he decided to move to Tassie as a bit of a tree change and we’ve nabbed him,” Dunn said.
The final touch to the Eatery is former Garagistes co-owner Katrina Birchmeire who will head up the management to tick everything along.
“We have known Katrina for a long time. She’s amazing, extremely professional and exceptionally knowledgeable in what she has done.”
The fit-out is an obvious labour of love, from the light fittings made by local potter Lee Farrell to the reused bricks from the historic site’s barracks that make up the new oven.
While many would think that opening a restaurant in a former mental asylum was not for the fainthearted, Dunn said since the renovation the building has been transformed.
“If you had of asked me if I was scared of ghosts before this I would have said yes, but the more time I have spent in the building and on the site the more comfortable I am,” he said. “I saw the building about nine years ago when we first moved here and it was completely derelict and it was a bit freaky but with it all done up it has a different feeling.”
He said he was also grateful for the support he’d received to help make the opening a reality.
“We received a grant for $130,000 from the Australian and Tasmanian governments through the Tasmania Jobs and Investment Fund.”
“I think as the site gets developed more people will see how amazing these buildings are and realise that they are just too good to get knocked down.”
“I have every faith that it will happen as people see the potential in New Norfolk.”
The Eatery will be open from Monday to Friday for lunch, as well as Friday and Saturday night for dinner.