Julio Azarrello is a hospitality industry veteran with a wealth of experience as a chef, restaurateur and chef lecturer. He works with Gourmet Providore as client liaison, keeping his customers abreast of food trends and market updates on seasonality, availability and pricing of produce. He is Vice President (NSW) of the Australian Culinary Federation.

Chef Julio talks with Carolina Holzmeister from AussieCuisine on the definition and evolution of Australian Cuisine, on native ingredients and national dishes. This is our second interview with Chef Julio – to read previous interview visit https://aussiecuisine.com.au/2016/11/julio-azzarello-sydney-markets-australian-cuisine/

“Aussie cuisine has developed a lot and there have been some really big advances, but the fundamentals are still the same. When I started working as a chef we would pass the sauces eight times. This may not happen anymore, but we have different techniques. We may use some xanthan gum; we may use some adequate placing system. We learnt from what was happening, but the fundamental basics are still very French.”

Australian cuisine

CH: Can you define Australian cuisine?

Chef JA: That is a hard question. Our cuisine can be defined as a combination of many cultures; it’s a melting pot, a diverse blend of many cultural influences. Now we call it ‘Modern Australian’ cuisine; in reality, it’s a touch of French, a little bit of Asian, a whole lot of Eastern European, and there is even a Middle-Eastern trend happening at the moment. We chefs take parts of those influences when cooking. We are also very good at using Australian produce, that’s what makes the difference. This can be the definition of the real Australian cuisine. We use a whole lot of Australian high-quality produce and we use the cooking styles that we have learnt.

Native ingredients

CH: What are your favourite Australian native ingredients?

Chef JA: We do so many good things. Australian seafood is amazing and our vegetables are outstanding. We have some of the best produce in the world. We have a great climate all the way from the Northern Territory right down to Victoria. It is ‘summer’ somewhere in Australia sometime during the year. We also have so many great local producers, so every state has the ability to feed people within a 50-kilometre radius.

National dishes

CH: What are our national dishes?

Chef JA: In my opinion, one of our national dishes is roast pork, that’s one of the oldest Australian recipes and another one is lamb. We are a meat country. And for that matter, we also love our seafood. We love large green prawns on the barbecue and grilling whole fish. We do a fantastic lamb cutlet, lamb chop, lamb roasts, and pork roast. In summary, we love our barbecue and our roasts and that outlines our national dishes.

International influences

CH: What are the international influences on our cuisine?

Chef JA: Some people assume that we don’t have a strong base in our Australian cuisine. I believe we have an excellent Indigenous foundation. What’s more, if you look at where the Indigenous population is located around the country, for example when you visit Darwin, you will find an Asian influence in their cuisine. They cook curries and stir-fries as regular dishes due to their proximity to Asia.

We have influences on our Australian cuisine mainly from Asia, but we have a European influence. With the European chefs coming to Australia in the 1980s, we were surrounded by European food traditions from French, German and Swiss chefs in particular. That’s classical cuisine, that’s where we have drawn really good fundamentals. I tend to cook ‘Meditarasian’ food, that’s what I called my own style, which is Mediterranean food with an Asian influence.

We also have the influence of celebrity chefs, like Gordon Ramsay for example. We look at what Gordon does, which in essence is just good food really. We follow chefs like Ferran Adrià and his molecular cuisine. We like to understand these types of things, so we also look at what Heston Blumenthal does, and when we incorporate all those influences we put an interesting spin on our food. We also use culturally sensitive produce, bringing our own indigenous produce to the table, such as Warringal greens and muntries.

Evolution

CH: Can you tell me more about the evolution of our cuisine in the past 15 years?

Chef JA: Aussie cuisine has developed a lot and there have been some really big advances, but the fundamentals are still the same. When I started working as a chef we would pass the sauces eight times. This may not happen anymore, but we have different techniques. We may use some xanthan gum; we may use some adequate placing system. We learnt from what was happening, but the fundamental basics are still very French.

I call what we do evolution and revolution – because it’s actually one circle that we go through, the circle just gets bigger. So we still do croissant, we still do Danish, we still do those beautiful sauces, but maybe now they are not as heavy as traditionally, maybe the reductions are a little bit lighter.

CH: Would you say it’s fair to define our cuisine as a lighter, fresher and spicier version of Mediterranean cuisine?

Chef JA: I would agree. There are some similarities between the Mediterranean and the Australian cuisine, and on both the terroir is very important. However, our terroir is what makes our produce so unique.

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