Viewpoints from Aussie Cuisine
Top Australian chefs have the benefit of being able to cook with the finest ingredients sourced from small producers to artisan’s suppliers. Chef Lowry understands that her patrons also directly benefit from this scenario. Diners in Australia are acquiring a more sophisticated taste and are more discerning about the origins of their food. When dining out, they are prepared to spend more on higher priced dishes that contain locally sourced, fresh, organic, seasonal, sustainable and ethical ingredients.
Chefs also tend to be influenced by their personal experiences, which can give a subjective interpretation in their style of cooking and presentation. They tend to cook food they appreciate and often it is connected to their childhood memories of shared family meals. Food cooked in a home environment is often influenced by the family’s heritage, affirmed by Lowry: ‘I think that [modern Australian cuisine] depends on the chefs’ heritage, and you have so many different heritages in Australia’, which in turn influences the food.
Chef Naomi Lowry from Sydney’s Culina is interviewed by Dane Richards of Aussie Cuisine at the Mise en Place Sydney 2017.
“Certainly it is not the chefs who want to know what it is, but it is the customers who want to know what the footprint is on their dish – where it is from, was it ethically treated, or if chemicals have been used on their vegetables – all these other questions we now as chefs have to deal with as well. Shows such as MasterChef, which is great, have highlighted such questions and brought more knowledge to the general public, to a point now that everyone is a chef.”
DR: I’m here at Mise en Place [Sydney 2017] with Naomi Lowry from Popolo [she now co-owns Culina Et Vinum]. I would like to ask what is your interpretation of Australian cuisine?
Chef NL: Seasonal, fresh, local produce. Popolo might be an Italian restaurant, but I can tell where our cuttlefish is from, I can tell where our mulloway is from, where the pig is from, where the beef is from, and even all the wait staff know where our produce is from. It is always Australian as much as possible obviously.
DR: Do you have an American background?
Chef NL: No, I’m half English, half Welsh, but grew up between the States and the UK. I’m just among all [laughs].
DR: What do you think defines an Australian dish?
Chef NL: An Australian dish? Things that come to mine are obviously classics like the pies, the lamingtons. But if you go to a modern Australian restaurant, I think that [depends on] the chefs’ heritage, and you have so many different heritages in Australia. I think Australian cuisine encompasses a lot of different things and it just melts into one glorious taste.
DR: It is quite interesting as it is a quite complex answer. I was earlier with the chef from Banksia asking the same question. The more we researched into it the more questions it poses and answers to a degree.
Chef NL: You know, it’s like saying you know what’s British cuisine. They say that the godfather of modern cuisine is Chef Michel Roux Snr [French-born chef who works in the UK] and he is not British at all. Being British to me, the first two dishes that are come to mind from British cuisine are curries and fish and chips, which are the two most important things that I have to have when I go home.
Coming to Australia, with all the different cuisines, this is a big melting pot. I think as long you follow the Australian cuisine’s categories of indigenous and local produce, this is becoming of more and more importance. Certainly it is not the chefs who want to know what it is, but it is the customers who want to know what the footprint is on their dish – where it is from, was it ethically treated, or if chemicals have been used on their vegetables – all these other questions we now as chefs have to deal with as well. Shows such as MasterChef, which is great, have highlighted such questions and brought more knowledge to the general public, to a point now that everyone is a chef.
[The definition of] Australian cuisine is a hard one. I know I’m thinking of lamingtons and pies, but I wouldn’t say just to Australian cuisine. I know you are also trying to steal fish and chips, but fish and chips is undoubtedly a British dish! [laughs]
Varidel, R. (6 January 2016). Unsung Heroes. Sydney Scoop. Retrieved from http://sydneyscoop.com/food-drink-features/unsung-heroes/