Acclaimed Chef Brian Geraghty owns Sydney’s restaurant Berowra Waters Inn, which is considered one of the top restaurants in Australia. Chef Brian talks to Dane Richards about immigration, native ingredients and regional cuisine.
“Unfortunately, this is a blight on our nation’s food heritage. Whilst the energy in this area is always growing, there just needs to be more readily available produce both to the public and commercially, and a better understanding for proper applications – lemon myrtle cheesecake is not the answer.”
DR: What is Australian cuisine?
Chef BG: To its core; it is the tapestry of our nation’s great multicultural past, in essence, a microclimate of nations trying to identify together in unity.
DR: What do you think were the primary influences behind its evolution?
Chef BG: Postwar immigration. World War two brought a more continental European cuisine, and the immigrants post the Korean and Vietnam wars, brought our love and appreciation of South East Asian food, and of course, our colonial British heritage played its part.
DR: What is your heritage, and what part has that played in the dishes on your menu?
Chef BG: I immigrated to this country at the age of four from Ireland. This fact has made the sourcing of proteins on my menu imperative, as it is the core of Irish cooking.
DR: How important is the integrity, provenance and sustainability of produce in both inspiring and influencing your dishes?
Chef BG: Of the utmost, as we all move forward in this vocation as chefs, we must all realise that this is the most important factor. I could not be more serious on this point, as we must all champion our great land and all it has to offer.
Sustainability harbours integrity, provenance demands sustainability, they all coexist together.
DR: What part has produce played in the overall development of modern Australian cuisine?
Chef BG: It has played a pivotal role, as a new set of immigrants moved to our shores, they brought their produce and cooking methods, and as a nation, we shaped that into our cuisine and forged our food identity from that.
DR: What particular produce in your opinion quintessentially represents Australia on a plate?
IChef BG: would say seafood. It is all around us (literally) in every stage of our development to get where we are today in identifying Australian cuisine, be it Aboriginals eating Sydney rock oysters, to ceviche of snapper.
DR: Is Australia properly showcasing the diversity of its produce to International visitors?
Chef BG: No, but we are on our way to showcasing it well. There is safety in big overseas produce, whether it be; truffles from Alba, or foie gras from the Dijon, but there is not too much safety in wallaby or warrigal, but we must preserve it. If not now, when?
DR: How important is it for the untapped potential of Indigenous influence on Australian cuisine to be fully realised?
Chef BG: Unfortunately, this is a blight on our nation’s food heritage. Whilst the energy in this area is always growing, there just needs to be more readily available produce both to the public and commercially, and a better understanding for proper applications – lemon myrtle cheesecake is not the answer.
DR: What native Australian ingredients have you successfully incorporated into your dishes?
Chef BG: Lemon aspen and finger limes, as acidity is paramount to cooking well. This is an obvious choice, but they do work well with my cooking style.
DR: Are the hospitality industry, and various levels of government, doing enough to encourage young Indigenous chefs?
Chef BG: No, but in saying that, our industry and levels of government are not doing enough to entice people to cooking generally. I believe the lack of regional infrastructure is creating a lack of regional chefs, which in turn is furthering the void.
DR: What is your understanding of bush tucker?
Chef BG: Until recently, the only consideration given to bush tucker was survival in the outback, which is such a shame, as my understanding is more that of an untouched pantry.
DR: How influential was the CWA to Australian Cuisine in the postwar years?
Chef BG: Rather, not just scones and jams, lamingtons and pies; but more importantly how we dine together, by making food for regional towns and fairs, installing our identity of shared dining.
DR: What is your quintessential memory of an iconic regional Australian dish?
Chef BG: Apple pie in Bilpin.
DR: Did the foundations of regional cuisine influence modern Australian cuisine in any way?
Chef BG: Yes, by being humble and delicious, thankfully long gone are the days of stacked foams and airs. The foundations of regional cuisine have shown modern cuisine how to be modest and unpretentious.
DR: Do you think regional cuisine of recent times has developed its own sense of sophistication and identity?
Chef BG: Yes, just look at restaurants in the regional areas, from Biota Dining to Brae, Provenance to Clementine, and let’s not forget that the Chico roll is from Bendigo!