Top chefs share their views on Australian cuisine

By
Casey Warrener
Added
21 January, 2017

We talk to top chefs, each with a unique backstory, about what Australian cuisine means to them.

Emiko Davies

How would you define Australian cuisine?

I think of Australian cuisine as a celebration of the many different cultures that have made this country their home. It's quite unlike other world cuisines which are defined by, say, geography and history, it's almost the opposite because everyone who arrived in Australia since 1788 brought with them their favourite ingredients so that they could keep eating the foods they were accustomed to, and today, what you find on people's plates, at the supermarket and at the farmers’ market is a mixture of all these things.

What will you cook this Australia Day?

I'm going to be landing in Sydney early in the morning on January 26, so I’ll be looking forward to not cooking but instead recovering from the flight from Italy and spending some time with my family after being away for almost a year. I've put in requests for my mother to make some of my favourite foods growing up, dishes like cold somen noodle salad and te maki sushi – because nothing is quite like mum's cooking – and lots of tropical fruit, which I miss when I'm in Italy!

Try: Maki in Spain, quick-cured salmon with soba noodles, millet and watercress sushi, spiced mango ice cream pie, grilled pineapple.

Paul Wilson

How would you define Australian cuisine?

Bright, bold, fun and fearless. I’ve been working in Australia for more than 10 years and I believe it’s an exciting time to be a chef here again because of the increased availability of unique and world-class produce coupled with a diverse food culture and enthusiastic dining public. I hope we see a return to cooking and creativity, and less of trendy junk food.

What will you cook this Australia Day?

It’s hard to think about one dish or ingredient, because we have so much incredible seasonal produce peaking at this time of year. Heritage tomato varieties, Mediterranean-style vegetables, wild herbs, stone fruits, mangoes and the last of the summer berries, to name a few. I want to cook them all, so I'll prepare a feast of wood-grilled seafood, creative salads, vegetable dishes, a wild-herb salsa verde and a pavlova, of course.

Try: Tomato, jicama and pomegranate salad, dory pescado asado, young carrot, corn and yellow tomato salad, corn, prawn and bacon tacos, pavlova with raspberries and peaches.

Simon Bajada

How would you define Australian cuisine?

I see it as a reflection of who we are, which is a diverse society. We take the best flavours and techniques from cuisines around the world, and balance our food choices to suit our lifestyle and climate.

What will you cook this Australia Day?

Seafood in abundance! I love it. It’s very likely the cliche of ‘prawns on the barbecue’ will happen and we’ll make some salads to serve on the side.

Try: Barbecued tamarind prawns, salmon carpaccio & cucumber waldorf, cod en papillotegreen bean, tomato, olive & feta salad, hot-smoked salmon, roasted garlic & apple salad.

Darren Purchese

How would you define Australian cuisine?

We are so lucky here, as we have the freedom to cook whatever we want and to twist well-known dishes, and diners are willing to try something new. There are no strict traditions, so it’s a real mix of everything… incredibly inventive and including the best parts of other cuisines.

What will you cook this Australia Day?

It all depends on the weather, but a real favourite for celebrations is my wife’s slow-cooked lamb shoulder with pita, salad and yoghurt sauce. For dessert, I can’t go past a cooling lamington ice cream sandwich.

Try: Slow-roasted lamb shoulder with harissa, lamington ice cream sandwiches.

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