Viewpoints from Aussie Cuisine
According to chef Leigh McDivitt, the beginning of the evolution of Australian cuisine ‘comes from the basic techniques we learnt from French cooking. We started out as a colony over two hundred years ago, which was heavily influenced by European cuisine and techniques. The English colonies at that time had adopted their way of cooking and approach to ingredients.’ The Aussie cuisine has incorporated many elements of the gastronomic French traditions, such as the technique and the sense of refinement. The French influence will certainly remain an essential reference in the culinary scene of contemporary Australian restaurants.
Chef Paul Rifkin divided the development of the Aussie cuisine into different waves: the French and Nouvelle cuisine in the 1970’s; Asian, Italian and Indigenous influence in the 80’s; the fresh and local produce wave in the 90’s, 00’ and 10’; the Latin American wave in the 00’ and 10’, and predicts the future as a cuisine orientated towards simplicity. ‘Australia’s cuisine is constantly evolving; in the 60’s and 70’s it was very French and Nouvelle, then twisted into Asian influence through the 80s, with a good helping of Australian native ingredients. Australian indigenous influence was large at that time, but continued to be affected by Asian and Italian cuisine; therefore menus were really a journey of everything. Over the last twenty years, that changed as we started to find our feet with more stable amalgamations of freshness, local, low-food miles, heirloom, lesser-known ingredients and returning chefs from England and Europe with grand ideas. [For the future of Australian cuisine] knowledge is moving so fast that simplicity has to now return, as technique and expertise will create a newer, simpler cuisine,’ points out Rifkin.
Chef Cory Campbell analyses the Australian cuisine from an intimate and poetic perspective: ‘as a reflection of our rich indigenous history, a story of survival, and being at one with the land. A blend of cultures coming together; a tale of icons embraced by the rest of the world, which at times leads people to think we are mad. It embodies a land with such diversity that reflects both in our way of life and our culture.’ Freedom is quintessentially part of the Australian lifestyle and this reflects on our cuisine.
What is Australian cuisine?
“Australian cuisine to me is not set in stone – you can’t say it’s Italian, Thai, Chinese – it’s an amalgamation of many cultures and countries. As people have immigrated here, they never forgot where they have come from. There are many restaurants that now fall under the “Modern Australian” category, and generally there is an undertone of the chef’s ancestors in the food.
Australia is a country filled with so many flavours, tastes and cultures, yet it is still very young in the whole history of things, so when it comes to its restaurants, and the food that they are producing, its cuisine has become a tangled web of beautiful cultures and flavours.”
Chef Naomi Lowry, Popolo
“In my opinion, I believe Australian Cuisine comes from the basic techniques we learnt from French cooking. We started out as a colony over two hundred years ago, which was heavily influenced by European cuisine and techniques. The English colonies at that time had adopted their way cooking and approach to ingredients.
As we grew as a Nation, we turned to our country’s ingredients, climate and sociality to find our love of fresh produce grown locally. I also feel that our multi-cultural society has influenced our cooking skills, and expanded our vocabulary of ingredients. We have also come to respect our original founders, the Aboriginals, and more recently, we are becoming more aware of, and are using, our own native ingredients.”
Chef Leigh McDivitt, ONE6EIGHT
“We use a huge variety of ingredients influenced by our multicultural population. We use those ingredients in recipes not conformed to the origins of where they may have originally come from. It’s a very free spirit way of cooking, still developing and evolving with our unique cooks, seasons, palates and venues.”
Chef Lauren Murdoch, Eat Drink, Western Foyers, Sydney Opera House
“Australian cuisine is multi-cultural. There aren’t many cities were you can walk down the strip and see Chinese, Thai, Indian, Lebanese, Greek Persian, etc and then bang in the middle will be a hatted restaurant or a funky bar, a café, maybe a burger shop. Aussie cuisine is a little bit of every culture and because we have nothing to look back too and say yeah that’s ours we can pick and choose what we like.”
Sam Pinzone, Executive Chef / Kitchen Consultant – West of Kin, Leroy’s Café Newport & Small Plates Eltham
“Australian cuisine is an amalgamation of food and flavours that have evolved from our diverse multicultural society. It has been created from the abundance of great fresh produce that we as a society, love so memorably, and hold in such high regard.”
Chef Liam Crawley, Consultant/Private Chef/Caterer
“Australian cuisine is a culmination of many cultures coming together. There are strong influences from all over the world, Italian, Greek, South East Asia, Chinese, Japanese, and Korean, along with many others, and all have had an effect on what we eat at home. Being such a young country, Australia is still developing its culture and food habits. One thing that can’t be argued though, there is nothing more Australian than a barbequed sausage and tomato sauce in sliced bread!”
Chef Paul Cooper, Bishop Sessa
“It’s a combination of the unique ingredients that the land produce, with rich and diverse techniques adopted by the owners and the immigrants of the land, allowing creative freedom to express one’s self.”
Chef Somer Sivrioglu, Anason and Efendy
“To me of course Australian cuisine would have to be seafood, Australian seafood is the best. You can get 99% of the world’s seafood here, so why source it elsewhere. Fresh is best so why get in frozen; also why help overseas suppliers as we should be looking after the local people first.
What is Australian cuisine? It’s fast, fresh and tasty. Why? People don’t have time anymore with work, gym, taking kids to school, picking kids up, going to a show, whatever else it might be. There also is 100 cooking shows on TV at the moment, chefs are becoming more recognised then sports stars, so you can’t pull the wool over Australian’s eyes anymore. They know what’s fresh, local, and tasty, which puts pressure on chefs to keep a certain level of skill in the kitchen and to get better. You can never cruise in the culinary business!”
Chef Rhys Ward, The Sydney Cove Oyster Bar
It is a reflection of our rich indigenous history, a story of survival, and being at one with the land. A blend of cultures coming together; a tale of icons embraced by the rest of the world which at times, leads people to think we are mad. It embodies a land with such diversity which reflects both in our way of life and our culture.
So from my perspective, what is Australia cuisine? Good food, good wine, good company.
And, most of all: Good fun.
Chef Cory Campbell, (ex Vue de Monde) One Two Seven Darby Cafe
“This is a question that is asked a lot. There really isn’t an answer that encompasses what actually happens. Australia’s cuisine is constantly evolving; in the 60s and 70s it was very French and Nouvelle, then twisted into Asian influence through the 80s, with a good helping of Australian native ingredients. Australian indigenous influence was large at that time, but continued to be affected by Asian and Italian cuisine; therefore menus were really a journey of everything. Over the last twenty years, that changed, as we started to find our feet with more stable amalgamations of freshness, local, low food miles, heirloom, lesser known ingredients and returning chefs from England and Europe with grand ideas. Now the South American and Peruvian influence is starting to have effect, with more unusual ingredients becoming normal. This will evolve as before, with more and more charcoals and woods, and back to basics cooking.
So my answer is essentially the same one I gave on The Good Weekender in 1995, it is an amalgamation of all cultures which constantly evolves, and is moulded by chefs who have no boundaries or borders. Australian cuisine is the most exciting in the world due to these facts. We have a cuisine which has access to more fresh ingredients than anywhere else in the world. This is very challenging and presents a huge palette to the Australian chef who can exercise their creativity wildly. The internet has given the humble chef access to everything, they can learn to cook Cantonese, make pastry, and candies on YouTube. Knowledge is moving so fast that simplicity has to now return, as technique and expertise will create a newer, simpler cuisine.”
Executive Chef Paul Rifkin, Campbelltown Catholic Club
“Australian cuisine is a way that we can use the produce we have instead of trying to copy another country. As the produce is the same, but quality and taste vary a lot, it’s also about using the technique which does the produce justice.”
Chef Roy McVeigh, Dragoncello
“Defining Australian cuisine can be the most asked and hard question for a chef to answer, and is very hard to be able to sum up in one sentence. We are not bound by tradition, so we have a uniqueness and freedom with our cuisine like no other nation does.”
Chef Martin Benn, Sepia