Chef shifts keep the world’s kitchens on the boil
FOOD Detective this week salutes the end of a culinary era with chef, teacher, columnist, author and editor Elise Pascoe’s decision to change course. Pascoe began her food career in a Melbourne boardroom in 1968 and progressed, via just about every food avenue here and overseas, to her five-year leadership of Elise Pascoe International Cooking School at Jamberoo on the NSW south coast (a finalist three years running in TheAustralian ’ s Travel & Tourism Awards for Best Food and Wine Tourism).
The school’s overwhelming success is really the reason Pascoe needs a break: look at the website and you’ll see ‘‘ full’’ against every class up to the final one in June. But it’s the people, Pascoe tells Detective , that she’ll miss (some have come every year since the school opened in 2002), rather than the setting up, cleaning up or the heavily laden trolleys.
Having cooked, taught and stayed in the five-star hotels of the world, Pascoe plans to sell the Jamberoo property and spend a year in Italy, probably Tuscany and Umbria. But first stop will be Venice (she was co-vicepresident of Australia’s arm of the Save Venice Committee), heading straight for Hotel Cipriani, where the manager, her old friend Natale Rusconi, is planning a retirement party: his, not hers. She says many people who know the famous Venetian hotel and its long-time manager (he joined the hotel in 1977) will be interested to hear of this other end of an era.
For Pascoe, however, it is simply a shift to the next course, which will be Elise Pascoe Internet Cooking School. But selling the property comes first, then Italia.
STEPHANIE Alexander is doing her bit for global chef shifts. The owner of Baguette in Brisbane, Marilyn Domenech, whose husband and partner, Francis, is French, tells Detective that Alexander was doing a stint as guest chef in Four Seasons restaurant at Four Seasons Inn on the Park, London, where she worked with the young executive chef, Bruno Loubet. Trained in France, he had moved to London, working as head chef under Raymond Blanc at Michelin-starred Le Manoir aux Quat’Saisons, and then won his own Michelin star at the tender age of 29. Clearly Alexander said the right thing. Loubet set sail for Australia, spending 18 months at Berardo’s in Noosa, and is now head man in the kitchen at Baguette.
IN chef shifts closer to home, Shaun Morris, who was sous chef under Loubet at Berardo’s, takes over as executive chef there. Morris has worked at Park Hyatt Paris-Vendome, as sous chef at Ireland’s Side Door and The Loft in County Cavan, at Osprey Restaurant on Lizard Island and at Melbourne’s Botanical. In March he was made head chef at Berardo’s, where he’s racked up a lot of credit with owner Jim Berardo for his ‘‘ culinary and organisational skills’’, and now he takes the executive chef’s hat.
IN a heartwarming story of mentorship in action, London’s TheIndependent recently reported that Alice Waters, famed owner of Chez Panisse in California, had visited Petersham Nurseries in Surrey, where Skye Gyngell is head chef. Gyngell says Waters has been her career-long hero.
‘‘ I do confess that I arrived at work before 5am on Sunday morning,’’ Gyngell said, ‘‘ but as soon as Alice walked in, with her dear friend Sally Clarke, I relaxed . . . She said that she had wanted to come to Petersham for a long time. She stayed late into the afternoon, spending time in the kitchen with the chefs, offering advice and telling stories.’’
TASSIE, later this month, is holding out the lure of a wilderness stay cushioned by some of the island’s best food and wine. Devil’s Corner, Pirie Estate and Hardy’s Bay of Fires wines, producers Heidi Farm, Elgaar Farm and Tasmanian Highland Cheese, 41 Degrees South salmon and Springfield Deer Farm, plus new specialist producers will be at Top Tastes in Tasmania festival at Voyages Cradle Mountain Lodge. Now in its 13th year, there will be festival degustation dinners, cooking demonstrations, even flyfishing tutorials. June 23-26. www.cradlemountainlodge.com.au.
ENTREPRENEURIAL Aussie chefs Vic Cherikoff and Ben Christie have launched www.australianfoodtv.com, a web-based channel on the world’s first broadcastquality internet TV service, Joost. Cherikoff and Christie host the show, which includes recipes and segments about Australian food with a focus on its uniqueness. One segment, filmed at Hydro Majestic Hotel in the Blue Mountains west of Sydney, cooks up pumpkin frittata with bush tomato chutney, white bean cassoulet with alpine pepper, riberry and blue cheese damper, and a wattleseed pancake stack.
BREAD is on the rise in Melbourne, where one of Detective ’ s local lookouts, Ed Charles, has come across Greg Brown, a baker who plans to use the best organic grains and environmentally friendly coldproofing methods to make bread as described by Raymond Calvel in his bread bible TheTasteofBread ( LeGoutduPain). Brown trained with the Roux brothers in London and operated Browns Bakeries in Melbourne in the 1990s, but became ill and dropped out.
Now he’s back, using age-old breadmaking methods and developing new ones: his bakery Agi’s is due to open soon at 260 Glen Eira Rd, Glen Eira.
BACK on the net, trawl restaurants around the country with bookings website www.menulog.com.au, which claims to have more than 10,000 listings in Melbourne, Sydney, Perth, Brisbane, Canberra, the Gold Coast, Newcastle, the Hunter Valley, Byron Bay and Cairns. Check specials, critics’ and patrons’ reviews and book online at any time.
MEANWHILE, South Australia food mover and shaker Kristian Livolsi has set up an internet restaurant and menu guide for establishments across SA and NSW, with plans to add Victoria and eventually widen the site to include food news, recipes and reviews: www.webmenu.com.au.
FIND of the week: The astonishing array of bush spices at Bush Tucker Shop, at Kurrajong, west of Sydney, is not new but products come and go with the vagaries of things such as desert harvests. Detective’s favourite Bush Tomato and Mountain Pepper seasoning is presently out of stock. But the Lemon Myrtle and Native Pepperberry seasoning is a worthy stand-in for sprinkling on grilled anything ($8; card pack $3.30). www.bushtuckershop.com.
DETECTIVE loves: Nigel Slater’s book, TheKitchenDiaries (HarperCollins, $39.95), due out this month in paperback. It has all the seasonal, hands-on virtues of a good time in the kitchen.
DETECTIVE loathes: Pretentious, convoluted descriptions of dishes on menus, in which every ingredient is fetishised and spun into a narrative, often involving incorrectly spelled foreign languages. (Should you come across any outrageous examples, do share them.)
Moving on: Elise Pascoe’s cooking school