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Visiting Chefs Praise Margaret River

 

Gourmet Escape Wrap Up

We met up with some of the Escape’s elite chefs to get their initial impressions of Margaret River and our unique south west produce.

The Margaret River region was once again flooded with foodie royalty over the Gourmet Escape weekend, with some of the top names in the industry gracing local kitchens and cooking for their Aussie fans.

Event Director Katrina King said this year’s festival had been huge, with an extra day added, more than 60 chefs and talent involved, 50 events and 25 event locations.

“Combined with the 50th anniversary of the Margaret River Wine Region there’s been plenty to celebrate,” she said.

“Our visiting chefs have been singing the region’s praises, loving the quality of the produce, the fresh air and coastline and the friendly locals.”

Before the weekend got into full swing, Amber Atkinson met up with some of the Escape’s elite chefs to get their initial impressions of Margaret River and our unique south west produce.

FUN FACTS

  • Pierre Koffman was so impressed with the sweet dessert style wines at Gralyn Estate he bought 6 bottles.
  • Guillaume Brahimi and Pierre Koffman both say truffles from the south west are the best.
  • Paul Carmichael names Golden Gaytimes as his favourite guilty pleasure.

We had marron yesterday and I really liked that, you have fantastic food because you are an island – a big island and you’ve got any type of fish you want.

PIERRE KOFFMAN

With three Michelin stars to his name, I was eager to chat with French born chef, Pierre Koffman, who has achieved superlative success in his long career, at the helm of his restaurant La Tante Claire.

Koffman has not only set the standards for French cuisine in Britain, his protégés – which include Gordon Ramsay and Marco Pierre White – have now amassed more than 20 Michelin stars between them.

Koffman and his wife have decided to stay in Margaret River until December 5 to soak up all the region has to offer.

What are your first impressions of the food scene in Western Australia?

We had marron yesterday and I really liked that, you have fantastic food because you are an island – a big island and you’ve got any type of fish you want.

Your truffles are [also] brilliant – I even buy them in London.

They are absolutely beautiful and to be honest, the ones you send to London are top quality and I would say, better than the French, Italian or Spanish.

What are your impressions of the Margaret River region in the couple of days you’ve been here?

You have very good food and very good wine. We went to Gralyn Estate yesterday and we tasted about a dozen wines and I think I liked all of them.

They were all very good so we bought six bottles, and we’ll have to drink it before we go.

You’ve trained some of the most famous chefs in the world. How does their success make you feel?

In one way I’m very proud. I trained all of those chefs and of course they worked for me. They used to call me the bear – and not because I was teddy bear.

The thing is, when you work with guys like Gordon Ramsay and Marco Pierre White – Raphael Duntoye was probably the best one and nobody talks about him; these guys, from the beginning wanted to be good, so they came to work for me and they stuck to it because I was not easy to work with.

All the credit is to them. I should say thank you so those guys because some stayed up to five years with me. At the same time they learned the discipline, technique – French technique in cooking I would say is the best one.

Then going back some time I go and see them. The things they were criticizing when they were young, they are doing exactly the same thing and now some of them have 3 Michelin stars, so I am very pleased for them and I say thank you.

What is your food guilty pleasure?

When I’m at home I don’t cook a lot, my wife cooks and to be honest, I like everything. If I had to take something on a desert island it would be a piece of cheese, a bottle of wine and some bread, a baguette or something like that, something very simple.

But if you said, tomorrow you are going to die choose your last dish, that would be a bouillabaisse – the top bouillabaisse from Provence.

GUILLAUME BRAHIMI

Guillaume Brahimi has been described a master of French cuisine, who’s skill in the kitchen has elevated him to celebrity chef status in Australia.

A Masterchef and Iron Chef regular, Brahimi has also been featured as one of the presenters of French Food Safari alongside Maeve O’Meara.

Since arriving in Sydney in the 1990’s Brahimi has leapt from success to success and is now at the helm of the prestigious Bennelong restaurant at the Sydney Opera House, plus Bistro Guillaume located at both Melbourne’s Crown Casino and Perth’s Crown Perth.

When I sat down with Brahimi he was eagerly greeting his celebrity counterparts and you could sense the enthusiasm he had for the big weekend ahead.

As a regular to the south west region, what fresh produce gets you excited?

Truffles from the south west are the best. In France we would wait for the truffle season with a lot of anticipation and I’m a big fan.

I’ve tried truffles from ACT, Tasmania, and NSW but I think the most consistent ones would have to be the Manjimup truffles – they are the ones that would remind me most of the French ones.

If I gave you a fresh truffle right now, what would you whip up?

Pasta with Manjimup truffles, a good butter and some good parmesan – I’d be very happy with that.

When dining in Margaret River are there any restaurants that you love to visit?

The food at Cullen Wines is amazing, but you know, when I’m here I just want to go to a friend’s place and try some of the great wines of Australia. I love the vineyards and the beaches.

I like to go to the vineyards and first select the wine we’re going to use and then enjoy and relax.

What led you to opening a restaurant in Western Australia?

I have some very dear friends that live in WA and they kept telling me to come and I love it. I think it’s one of the best. It’s beautiful and Margaret River is pretty special.

The people of WA are also pretty special – they thank you. I was blown away because when you’re in the restaurant you thank your customers, but in WA people were thanking me to come all the way here, and I was like ‘oh wow’.

For my kitchen, I try to create an environment of friendship and family. Even though families can be quite annoying, they stick together even when they fight.

PAUL CARMICHAEL

Barbados born chef Paul Carmichael is best known for his culinary prowess in the kitchen at Sydney’s Momofuku Seiōbo.

Located at Sydeny’s Star Casino, Seiōbo seats 35 diners who are delivered a $185 tasting menu by the chefs themselves.

Carmichael was at the helm of Momofuku Má Pêche kitchen in New York as executive chef for four years, earning a number of accolades along the way, and in 2015 moved to Australia to head up the Sydney’s Momofuku Seiōbo.

Last year Seiōbo took out Australia’s Restaurant of the Year, in the Gourmet Traveller National Restaurant Awards – a significant achievement for Carmichael who had only taken the reigns a year earlier.

I found Carmichael to be warm, personable and the incredible love and respect he expresses for his Momofuku family is reflected in the restaurant’s success.

How is your visit to Margaret River?

It is very different to anywhere I’ve ever been. It still has the same lavish luxuriousness of wine country – they all have that – but I’ve never been to a wine region that’s so close to the beach and you have soil that looks like the desert in parts.  It’s a very pretty place and a lot flatter that I thought it was going to be.

Is there any south west produce that make their way to Momofuku in Sydney?

I used some of your truffles when I was in Sydney [and] we use plenty of Marron.

They are the two ingredients that everyone talks about.

David Chang invited you to head up Momofuku in Sydney, which is a significant move from New York. Had you spent much time in Australia prior to making the move here?

I had been here in 2012 with Dave (David Chang) for the Melbourne Good Food and Wine Festival. I was here for 10 days and I had one evening off. I landed in Sydney, I had dinner with friends then went to Melbourne.

There is a gaping chef shortage across the culinary industry. How do approach staff retention and attracting new blood to your kitchen?

For me, over time and after understanding who I am and what I need around me, I’ve definitely been more inclined to hire people more based on personality and fit rather than skill.

For my kitchen, I try to create an environment of friendship and family. Even though families can be quite annoying, they stick together even when they fight.

I really like my crew to feel good and loved and I want them to be engaged with each other and what we do.

I think a happy chef cooks good food and the more welcoming the environment, the more someone is going to want to stick around, as long as they’re constantly engaged and learning.

What is your food guilty pleasure?

I don’t really look at life like that, I don’t feel guilt about food, but I do love Golden Gaytimes. They’re delish. I try not to eat too many of them because I shouldn’t have all that sugar [laughs].

And that’s a wrap…

Over a breathtaking four days, the Gourmet Escape has cemented its reputation as one of the most successful world-class food and wine events to date.

 Curtis officially opened the festival with its hallmark event, the Audi Gourmet Beach BBQ on Castle Rock Beach, and reflected on his brief time back in Western Australia, where it all began.

“I had an absolutely brilliant time in Margaret River. It’s a testament to the region that this truly outstanding event continues to attract the very best international culinary talent.

“It’s a world class event that needs to be on everyone’s bucket list.”

The world-renowned father and son duo Rick and Jack Stein admitted they have a love affair with WA and its premium produce, with Rick taking part in the festival for the fifth time.

They thrilled fans at the Gourmet Village at Rick’s ever-popular book signing, while Jack teamed up with former pro surfer Taj Burrow for a “surf and turf” main stage talk.

Rick said this year’s event was hard to top because he had Jack by his side.

“He keeps me in line,” he said.

Back for the third time, Brazilian chef, Alex Atala, described Margaret River and the food and wine experience as “next level” to what he’s experienced around the world.

Joining these global superstars at the festival this year was an enviable line up of new and returning food and wine talent, including chefs from the World’s Best Restaurants* Andre Chiang (#14 Restaurant Andre, Singapore), David Thompson (#28 Nahm, Thailand), Ashley Palmer-Watts (#36 Dinner by Heston, UK) and Rodolfo Guzman (#42 Borago, Chile), World’s Best Female Chef Ana Roš (Hiša Franko, Slovenia) and Asia’s Best Female Chef May Chow (Little Bao, Hong Kong).

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