By David Sly
A new league of star chefs is making a big impression on South Australia’s dining scene. They are driving restaurant kitchens with aplomb and flair, even though many have taken the top job in kitchens for the first time, and their inventive menus are enticing a steady stream of curious diners.
Annual festival Tasting Australia has helped shine a light on this activity. In celebrating the nation’s best culinary experiences, the festival’s series of special banquets and dining events have put rising SA chefs in the spotlight, celebrating the flair and talent at work in our top restaurants.
Daniel Murphy is making a significant fine dining statement since taking over the stoves at Appellation restaurant, at The Louise resort in the Barossa, although his rise comes as no surprise to Barossa locals.
Daniel has cooked in the region at Fino Seppeltsfield, Saltram’s and was recently head chef at St Hugo Restaurant (ironically working beside executive chef Mark McNamara, who established the Appellation kitchen 12 years ago). Daniel’s first opportunity to construct his own menu has resulted in bold presentations of the finest regional fare.
Max Sharrad recently moved from his head chef role at innovative pan-Asian hotspot Shobosho to now drive the stoves at Nido in Hyde Park. This new attraction, one of restaurateur Simon Kardachi’s popular suite of hip eateries, was beloved by locals through 20 years when it was called The Pot, before a recent refurbishment and change in style to an informal Italian-accented menu.
Max, who cut his teeth in the kitchen brigade at Orana, won the national Young Chef of the Year at the 2018 Appetite for Excellence Awards.
Oliver Edwards came to The Summertown Aristologist in the Adelaide Hills after leaving chic Melbourne dining den Cumulus Inc. He was inspired to dig for his own fresh vegetables on a nearby farm, then find inventive ways to present them as the primary attractions in his ever-changing Aristologist menu.
His hands-on commitment to producing all dishes from scratch extends to milling his own wheat (for house-baked sourdough bread) and corn, making cheeses, vinegars, preserves and smallgoods.
Such incisive thinking about food informs striking authenticity and integrity on the plate, capturing supreme freshness and vitality in a range of dishes that change almost weekly, in accordance with what Oliver harvests from the farm.
Tom Tilbury has made sustainability his signature, taking a serious view of the paddock-to-plate philosophy that ensures his menus at Gather @ Coriole in McLaren Vale embrace flavour from the ground up.
Foraging formed an integral part of the kitchen output at his previous restaurant – the tiny Gather Food and Wine in Robe – and has remained important to him since moving to the bountiful Coriole Vineyards estate last year. Tom’s close relationship with local farmers brings maximum freshness to his seasonal dishes.
Quentin Whittle at Herringbone is no stranger to Adelaide diners, although this is the first time that he has an ownership stake in a restaurant. He has a wealth of impressive cooking experience, from The Melting Pot, through The Stranded Store at Colonel Light Gardens, to Stone’s Throw at Norwood.
All through this progress, Quentin delivers great generosity as he embraces many different cultures on every plate, finding delicious harmony between Middle Eastern, South-East Asian and southern European influences.
Flying under the radar of many diners is Janghoon Choi, the Korean-born chef and proprietor from +82 Pocha, a new Korean restaurant in Grenfell Street, Adelaide. Modest and highly skilled, Janghoon came to Australia in 2005 to study cookery and hotel management at Le Cordon Bleu campuses in Sydney and Adelaide.
“I want to be a cultural ambassador with my food,” he says. “Not many people know very much about Korean food apart from kimchi, but I aim to show that there is so much more to enjoy.”
The deliciousness of Janghoon’s food has caught the attention of Orana chef and Tasting Australia programming director Jock Zonfrillo, who included Janghoon in the festival’s elite Glasshouse dinners program.
“He’s a rising star,” says Jock. “He’s very talented, and as he gets more experienced, we’ll see some awesome things from him.”
A rising generation of female chefs is also making an impression in leading Adelaide kitchen brigades and will be worth keeping an eye on as they progress.
This includes quiet achiever Hayley Goodrick, who is now head chef at SC Pannell winery restaurant at McLaren Vale, and Amelia Hussey, who has joined ambitious new North Adelaide restaurant L’Italy (which has superseded Walter Ventura’s Spaghetti Crab and Spaghetti Meatballs pop-up eateries).
Tasting Australia ambassador and Salopian Inn proprietor Karena Armstrong, respected among Adelaide’s most assured chefs and kitchen leaders, is fostering a great talent in Alisha Shurville – first employed casually as a 14-year-old student and now a permanent part of the Salopian team after having recently qualified as a chef, while scooping the award pool at trade school.
“If she stays focused,” says Karena, “I bet she will run her own restaurant one day.”
Feature image is Max Sharrad who is now driving the stoves at Nido in Hyde Park.
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