All fired up as Chinese go quackers over duck ovens
AN excited FoodDetective has unearthed a red-hot Queensland company selling duck ovens to China. She has tracked down Beech Ovens director Brett Beech and the company’s corporate chef James Garton in Beijing, where they’re on a tour of duty.
Beech began making pizza ovens for the Hyatt hotel group in 1990, he tells Detective; five years later he turned out his first tandoors ( Threesixty restaurant in the Oberoi New Delhi has installed two) and the duck ovens in 2006.
Garton tells Detective that after much research the engineering for the wood-fired, stone hearth pizza ovens was translated for a duck oven with high ceilings for hanging the birds and fuelled by gas as well as wood (for efficiency and flavour). They also look gorgeous.
The ovens have ‘‘ great visuals’’, Garton says. Hotels with open kitchens have requested customised windows and internal spotlights, and the stone floor is made of refractory-made tiles that look like cobblestones.
About 60 to 70 Beech ovens are installed across the world, including in many of China’s leading hotels. The beauty of the ovens, Garton says, is that they are custom made so private homes, restaurants and hotels can order them in different sizes. Is Detective ’ s tiny inner-Sydney flat big enough, she wonders? ■ IN Beijing, Garton is learning about duck dishes — under the wing of Grand Hyatt Beijing’s executive chef Martin Aw Yong and the Hyatt’s Made in China chef Nick Du — and is reciprocating with masterclasses in his specialty, stone hearth oven cooking. He tells Detective he spent the previous evening at Beijing Pin Ya Yuan Roast Duck Restaurant undertaking further research. ■ IN other news from foreign shores, Detective has learned from a San Francisco snout that next year Spanish molecular chef Ferran Adria is considering closing his revolutionary restaurant, El Bulli, just outside Barcelona.
Detective’s Spanish contacts confirm, after some legwork, that despite frequent similar rumours this time they may be true; Adria is seriously considering closing the restaurant ‘‘ for some time, perhaps one or two years from next year’’.
It seems the copyists have begun to wear him down and he wants to reconsider El Bulli’s ‘‘ concepts and philosophy’’.
The fascinating Beech website includes recipes. www.beechovens.com.
Readers who were thinking of registering for the annual ballot for a table can redirect their energies. ( Detective’s San Fran contact, after years of trying, managed to secure a reservation in this year’s heavily contested try-outs.) ■ A FLURRY of fab food outlets is lined up to open their doors at Melbourne’s new Westfield Doncaster fresh food precinct on April 10. Jones the Grocer (the group’s first Melbourne store), Browns Bakers of Distinction, Oxfam Shop’s first food store (it has Fair Trade coffee among the bowls and wooden giraffes in Market Street, Sydney, and other stores). There’ll be a butchery at Doncaster (a resurfacing breed in the cities) and a large fruit and veg shop. Jones the Grocer will feature a glass-walled cheese room and sell coffee and light meals from a Jones Espresso kiosk. www.westfield.com/newdoncaster. ■ LIMESTONE Coast produce this year has its own category — alongside restaurants, accommodation and the usual tourism sections — in the Limestone Coast Excellence in Tourism Awards. Organisers say the quality and range of produce in the region contributes significantly to visitors’ experiences and helps put the area on the world map.
Nomination forms and entry criteria were released this week and will close April 24 (submissions close May 30). www.thelimestone coast.com. ■ ORANGE F.O.O.D. Week, one of the country’s oldest food festivals, gets going in the central western NSW town next Friday (April 11), with a night market of 30 stalls in the Orange Gallery’s forecourt.
It’ll be a long, fun week, stretching from Friday until Sunday, April 20, but otherwise how would it all fit? Farmers, cooks, orchardists and winemakers will host suppers, dinners, farm gate tours, workshops and tastings; for starters, the Orange Farmers Market is on April 12, and celebrated local chef Michael Manners’s Sunday lunch is on April 13. www.orangefoodweek.com.au. ■ CHEF Andrew Fielke, founder of the Red Ochre restaurants in South Australia, far north Queensland and Northern Territory, and champion of wild Aussie food, will serve up a banquet at the Prairie Hotel, Parachilna, SA, with the Flinders Ranges in the background, for one night only, at Shorts Outback short-film festival.
Fielke’s turn at the stoves is part of annual food and wine fest Tastes of the Outback, held across outback SA, April 1827. Book a table and feast while watching the films or tuck into bush tucker from a casual grazing menu.
April 26, 5pm for 7.30pm screenings, $15; Fielke’s banquet with pre-screening drinks, roving entree, grazing platters at a reserved table during screening and petit fours and coffee after, $60. www.shortsfilmfestival.com; www.tastesoftheoutback.com. ■ PROVIDORE Simon Johnson runs two-hour classes at the demonstration kitchen in his Pyrmont, Sydney store, in the Talk Eat Drink program. Sydney chefs Serge Dansereau ( The Bathers’ Pavilion) and Lorraine Godsmark ( Yellow Bistro and Food Store) are next in line; on April 12, 10.30am12.30pm, Dansereau will focus on respect for ingredients; May 6, 6.30pm-8.30pm, Godsmark; $90 each. www.simonjohnson.com. ■ FIND of the week: Just released Wily Trout 2005 Pinot Noir, a luscious drop from the Canberra district. Wily Trout Vineyard shares an address with Poachers Pantry smokehouse, cafe and cellar door; visit and stock up on gourmet goodies with your wines, buy Wily Trout from Canberra IGA stores or by mail order (in half-dozens). www.wilytrout.com.au; www.poacherspantry.com.au. ■ DETECTIVE loves: Lindt Petits Desserts; these praline chocolates re-create classic sweets: creme brulee, macaroon, tiramisu, lemon tart and meringue, $12.99 (170g); Lindt Swiss Tradition collection is even better, in assorted or dark ($10.49, 140g); both from leading retailers across the country. ■ DETECTIVE loathes: Blackboard menus without a blackboard — or even a sheet of paper — which can defeat even the mildly memory-challenged. Remembering dishes is part of a waiter’s stock in trade; rattling off a list of a half dozen over three courses, then leaving diners to compare them with the printed menu usually demands at least one repeat run-through.
Meanwhile, Queensland reader Brian Witte hates menus being whisked away as soon as an order has been taken and thinks it would be a good idea to leave a printed list at the table (with a different look from the main menu, so waiters know orders have been taken) for diners to browse desserts, for example.
And, adds Detective , to remind diners of the fine details of their original order.