Viewpoints from Aussie Cuisine

  • Chef Cory Campbell acknowledges the importance of French gastronomy in shaping Australian cuisine. The godfathers and godmothers of modern Australian cuisine used the French cooking style as a main reference: ‘For many years we have been defining an Australian cuisine, from such celebrated chefs as Stephanie Alexander, Maggie Beer, Cheong Liew, Gai and Tony Bilson to name a few, but we were so influenced by one style of cuisine; French.’ Australian fine dining restaurants have incorporated many elements of the gastronomic French traditions, which appear certain to remain an essential reference for the future of menu planning in Australian contemporary restaurants.

  • Chef Naomi Lowry offers a unique perspective on the concept of immigration influencing our food. It is known that immigrants have brought their traditional dishes, produce and techniques to Australia and popularised them in the Australian popular culture. However, Lowry believes that techniques about international foods can be also be learnt in the kitchen environment, as she points out: ‘chefs will learn a new cooking technique from someone else, from another culture, in their kitchen, or a friend’s kitchen. Kitchens are so multicultural these days – and then they will be using it to create a dish. We as chefs are always experimenting and striving to create exemplary dishes – and it doesn’t matter if we learnt that technique from a kitchen hand, or a stage in a two star restaurant – I know that I have got knowledge from both.’

  • Chef Lauren Murdoch points out: ‘Australia, being such a big country, has such a varied supply of ingredients, mostly year round, but also seasonal, which gives chefs an abundance of good produce, making us happy cooks.’ Due to its geography, Australia is blessed with a vast range of fresh produce. Australian chefs can count on the diversity of Australian fresh seafood, meats, fruits and vegetables as ingredients to create produce-driven dishes all year round.

  • Chef Somer Sivrioglu uses his mother country, Turkey, as an example to put the Australian cuisine in context. Turkish cuisine has one of the world’s oldest agricultural lands and is influenced by many civilisations and cultures that have inhabited the country for more than five thousand years. ‘This makes advancing, being adventurous and open to change in culinary development quiet hard. As Australia has been only inhabited by other cultures in the last two hundred years or so, it is a lot more open to change and advancement, embracing different food cultures.’

  • Chef Liam Crawley believes that the diverse composition of the country’s cultural heritage is behind the evolution of Australian cuisine, taking into consideration the knowledge and techniques of its first inhabitants, the Indigenous Australians, as well as ‘the British settlers, along with the migrants of European and Asian descent, has embodied the foundation of Australian cuisine as we know it today.’

  • Chef Leigh McDivitt says that the evolution of Australian cuisine ‘has gone back to its roots. For example, foraging, which was always done by our ancestors seems to have come around again, and is becoming very popular amongst chefs. This skill is in no way new, but has lost its way over the generations. It’s wonderful to see that chefs, and even home cooks, are respecting what Mother Nature produces for us at the correct time of year, rather than expecting produce to be available all year around.’ The popularity of foraging, the rediscovery of native foods, the attention to provenance and the use of seasonal ingredients shows that there is a growing environmental awareness among chefs in Australia.

What do you think were the primary influences behind its evolution?

“Like with England, and its godfather of modern cuisine, Chef Michel Roux Snr, Australia has their own godfather too – Chef Tony Bilson. As well as people/chefs/restaurateurs looking outside of Australia and seeing what the world stage is producing and not wanting to be left behind, Australia has always had a competitive edge!

People also have returned to the hunter gatherer mind set- we want locally produce products, farmers’ markets, and want to know where are food has come from. We may not be hunting and gathering ourselves, but we like to know that someone is doing it for us. So now our cuisine, as much as possible, is produce from all Australian products, or at least we’d like to think so. There will always be Coles and Woolies, but there will also be a farmers’ market around the corner too!

Again, I mention the numerous cultures in Australia – as more cultures are coming into Australia, they influence our food.  Chefs will learn a new cooking technique from someone else, from another culture, in their kitchen, or a friend’s kitchen. Kitchens are so multicultural these days – and then they will be using it to create a dish. We as chefs are always experimenting and striving to create exemplary dishes – and it doesn’t matter if we learnt that technique from a kitchen hand, or a stage in a two star restaurant – I know that I have got knowledge from both.”

Chef Naomi Lowry, Popolo

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“I believe that the primary influences behind the evolution of Australian cuisine are the diverse composition of our country’s rich cultural heritage. The degree of knowledge and technique from our Indigenous Australians, to the British settlers, along with the migrants of European and Asian descent, has embodied the foundation of Australian cuisine as we know it today.”

Chef Liam Crawley, Consultant/Private Chef/Caterer

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“I think the primary evolution came about through neglect. Chefs are always looking for something new. The local produce was largely ignored for quite a long time, so what’s old became new again. But it’s better now the technology and techniques have come a long way in a short amount of time.”

Chef Roy McVeigh, Dragoncello

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For many years we have been defining an Australian cuisine, from such celebrated chefs like Stephanie Alexander, Maggie Beer, Cheong Liew, Gai and Tony Bilson to name a few, but we were so influenced by one style of cuisine; French. Then there was a cuisine influence we called fusion. All along using unique Indigenous Australian ingredients to give it that little twist, to make the tourist stand up and take notice, yet a lot of Australians were saying, “We can’t eat our coat of arms”. Slowly, we have been chiseling away at a cuisine that we call “Modern Australian” – what makes me laugh, is type in “modern Australian” to any search engine and look at what restaurant styles pop up.

Chef Cory Campbell, (ex Vue de Monde) One Two Seven Darby Cafe

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“Turkish food has historic ties to the oldest agricultural land and is influenced by many civilizations and cultures that inhabited Anatolia for more than five thousand years, which makes advancing and being adventurous and open to change in culinary development quiet hard. As Australia has been only inhabited by other cultures in the last two hundred years, it is a lot more open to change and advancement, embracing different food cultures.”

Chef Somer Sivrioglu, Anason and Efendy

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“Technology and understanding the science of cooking has been a big game changer, as well as chefs willing to test and push the boundaries in cooking. We are becoming more aware of, and paying attention to, the “give and take” philosophy, in that we need to look after the environment to keep the world plentiful for the generations to come.

In some way the evolution of cooking has gone back to its roots. For example, foraging, which was always done by our ancestors seems to have come around again, and is becoming very popular amongst chefs. This skill is in no way new, but has lost its way over the generations. It’s wonderful to see that chefs, and even home cooks, are respecting what Mother Nature produces for us at the correct time of year, rather than expecting produce to be available all year around.”

Chef Leigh McDivitt, ONE6EIGHT

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“Asia. Australian chefs draw inspiration from Asia, and it makes sense as Asia is on our doorstep. I feel we really have found our “Asian-ness” and embraced the fact that it suits our climate and palate. We have found a way to integrate Asian ingredients with a clarity and sophistication that is slowly evolving into our own style of cuisine.”

Chef Martin Benn, Sepia

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“Even though I did do my full apprenticeship (at the right time when the Government supported us) so many well respected chefs I know leaned outside the box, breaking the rules and delighting customers. Multicultural influences, new foods, ingredients, techniques, definitely added to our plates and tastes.

Australia, being such a big country, has such a varied supply of ingredients, mostly year round, but also seasonal, which gives chefs an abundance of good produce, making us happy cooks. Also, we have a close community spirit being a relatively small population in comparison to most globally recognised food destinations. It’s a nice place to be a cook.”

Chef Lauren Murdoch, Eat Drink, Western Foyers, Sydney Opera House

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“Australian Cuisine is only starting to be defined. There are chefs in the industry who are leading the charge to help establish what this looks like. Chefs like Ben Shewry and Dan Hunter are bringing local native ingredients to the table in ways that are creative and respectful.

Australian farmers and producers will have a strong influence on the direction this takes, as will the people who understand the heritage of native ingredients, and they are helping to educate us all on what they are, and ways to get the best from this produce. Australian cuisine has a very exciting future, and I am proud to be helping define what it has become.”

Chef Paul Cooper, Bishop Sessa

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