Waiters: life on the front line

It may be too early to announce the death of fine dining. There will always be a certain type of patron who finds happiness in a waiter ferreting around their lap with a serviette. But otherwise, there’s been a general movement towards more casual eating, where food is more important than the starch in the tablecloth and the value of the art on the walls.

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The best thing about this is that pretentious waiters are a dying breed, and now for the most part we’re being greeted at the door by genuinely smashing beings who keep us relaxed, don’t touch the rim of our water glasses, and don’t interrupt our best anecdotes. Waiters are getting better. They’re transforming our nights out and making us feel special even if the first date doesn’t quite.

Which is why our lopsided obsession with chefs is growing tedious. Here we are, turning them into celebrities and labeling them sex gods crossed with rock stars. The facts elude us. If the chef is only average but the service is brilliant, we can still have a great night out. We may even return. But no matter what magic the chef is working in the kitchen, if the waiter is a robot who ejects the specials with less charisma than a clam, we’re not coming back.

This article was published in Sunday Style in my weekly Fine Foodie column. Read the rest of the story here.

Heston Blumenthal interview

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What an honour it was to get to spend the best part of day with this guy, British chef Heston Blumenthal. The man’s a gastronomic genius, to be sure, but mostly I loved his passion, his fascination for food and invention. This is what is taking him to the stars (literally, he’s doing space food), and what makes him one of the most exciting chefs out there. My interview ran as a cover story in Sunday Style in December. You can download the full story here to find out why Heston Blumenthal is moving to Australia, what’s next, and what happened when he chased debt collectors away with a meat cleaver.  {READ MORE}

Margaret and Me, my food memoir

Margaret and Me

Hello! This morning I posted this pic on Instagram, with a sneak peak of my next (the third!) book, out in May. Margaret and Me is my first book that’s not just a cookbook, and it’s my foray into writing something much, much longer, more personal, more elaborate … a memoir. It’s a food memoir (foodoir?), covering my life so far but specifically food, and what it was like growing up with one of the matriarchs of Australian cooking, my gorgeous grandmother Margaret Fulton. I go back to her childhood and look at her life growing up as an Australian immigrant, and peek into her sometimes rather surprising adventures at the table, in the food world, and in love. This is the part of my career where I basically over share. I wrote this book just to offer some stories (and 50 recipes) that I hope you will find amusing, or helpful, but in the very least a bit interesting. I can’t wait to share Margaret and Me (Murdoch Books) with you this May.

Sydney’s summer plates

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First, happy new year! I have no idea what 2015 has in store but I can’t wait to find out, and I personally want to do better, and bigger. I want to take more risks, do more work I care about. I have a few new projects in swing that I want to share soon, too.

I’m kind of relieved to see the brakes put on the summer holidays. Mornings now involve coffee and a healthy breakfast, a run or laps, days spent working on story commissions, and traipsing about Sydney to find what’s new. This is where food writing, as a job, really pays its dues, getting to explore and eat, for work. I’ve spent the last week or so in search of perfect summer plates, those summer dishes that speak of seasonality and freshness, colour, lightness of touch in cooking, just summer food. {READ MORE}

Melbourne’s Supernormal

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Sometimes you come across a new spot that has a combination of fun, possible to get in (hurrah), and food that knocks you off your feet.

Supernormal is chef Andrew McConnell’s interpretation of his favourite eating experiences while he worked in Shanghai and Hong Kong years ago. It was a rendition we saw in the former Golden Fields, his restaurant in St Kilda, that closed so that Supernormal could be born in Flinders Lane (meanwhile the French-inspired Luxembourg Bar and Bistro opened in Golden Fields’ St Kilda location). You get the feeling of same-same-but-different here, as the food is everything we’ve come to expect from McConnell, and this time it’s in a Japanese-style diner. {READ MORE}

How to take a moment

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They took care of hair and make-up, blooms, the food, the never-ending trays of fish and chips and pulled-apart croquembouche, and all I had to do was love it all up on my wedding day. But the next day my new beau and I turned to the sparkly waters of Palm Beach, dove under the waves and washed away all the heat and built-up adrenaline in the perfect, cold, salt water. He wanted to take a moment, with me. He brought with him his surfboard and I brought my towel and magazines, and we took a moment. We took a breath.

So the moral of the story is… take a moment. As we get sillier and sillier as we move through the festive season and towards Christmas, take a second to breathe and remember what matters, that all the present-buying and rush of Christmas is really meant to be a day of showing how much you love your family and friends. Ride your bike or take a dip in the pool, plunge your entire body under water, walk under trees, walk barefoot. And then return, recovered. That’s what I’ll be doing, anyway. {READ MORE}

A Palm Beach wedding

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Still reeling slightly, head still full of bouquets and my chap’s smile and all the people I love cheering me on from a little Palm Beach park on a hot summer’s day last week. Yep, I got hitched.

We filled the car with Champagne glasses and actual Champagne, one massive gown and heads packed with planning and schedules and to-do lists and drove to our Palm Beach wedding, and after a ceremony that included 32C heat and then a magical thunderstorm during the vows, including a massive lightening crack when he said “love and respect”, we were married.

The Boathouse at Palm Beach was decked out in hydrangeas and peonies, we ate fish and chips (see me at inspection point below), roast beef and paella and ordered scoops from an icecream stall, we cracked open a giant croquembouche and sliced into a traditional cake my mother made. And we danced, a LOT.

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After a few days spent with our family and mates in Palm Beach, staying at a house (see below) that was so ridiculously Palm Beach it was bordering on a good kind of cliche, me and my groom took a few days up north running and surfing and eating and not writing or referring to one single to-do list. {READ MORE}

{Restaurant Australia} Invite the world to dinner

Peter Gilmore in the Restaurant Australia campaign

Let’s invite the world to dinner, says Tourism Australia in its newest campaign, Restaurant Australia. The stunning campaign will showcase Australian produce, chefs, and food. And in a couple of weeks I get to go along to an extraordinary event in Hobart, at MONA, in which our chefs Quay’s Peter Gilmore, Attica’s Ben Shewry, and Rockpool’s Neil Perry are being given the reins to show off what this gorgeous country has to offer. Check out the video… It’s a bit pride inducing, fellow Aussies.

 

Noma chef Rene Redzepi makes the hen and the egg

Is this the perfect dish? At Noma, chef Rene Redzepi has diners cook their own egg with hay oil, served with spinach leaves and wild plants growing in the local forest.

A hot plate at 280F (138C) appears on slightly wet hay, and guests are instructed to cook the egg. “You would be surprised at the number of people who have never cracked an egg before,” he says. The dish creates dialogue and interaction, and shows people how easy food can be. Guests add thyme butter to the pan, cook the spinach leaves and wild ramp leaves, and it’s topped with a pretty potato chip. All the small wild plants are sprinkled over.

Rene Redzepi

I’m going to recreate this at home. Such a gorgeous idea to serve guests as a summer lunch.

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