Australian dining with Andrew McConnell.
Andrew McConnell’s name precedes itself. As the mastermind chef behind numerous iconic Melbourne restaurants including Cutler & Co, Cumulus Inc., Marion and Supernormal to name a few, his understanding of Australian fare is unparalleled.
At an intimate event, recently hosted by Gourmet Traveller at the Walmer display suite, Andrew took time to share exactly what constitutes the ideal Australian home dining experience.
Read on to find out more.
- Describe your ideal kitchen to cook in?
The rise in popularity of the open style professional kitchen has led to many changes in design and styling for restaurant equipment and lay out. I prefer this open style, it connects chefs more with the customer and at home it brings the family together. I also love cooking outside in the open; there is nothing better than the smell of firing up the charcoal grill or the pizza oven.
- When you think of Australian cuisine, what flavours come to mind?
Australian cuisine is one that simply celebrates Australian ingredients. I love Victoria because of its seasonality, the climate allows a distinct change in the produce and style of food, and so it’s always changing. At the moment, spring is in full force with the best asparagus we’ll see all year, luscious leafy greens, broad beans and some ripe citrus. We also seeing the start of berries coming through early which is very exciting.
- If you had to come up with a quintessentially Australian dish, what would it be? Why?
Roasted lamb, on a Sunday, shared with family. There is a reason why we’ve had the slow roasted lamb shoulder on the menu at Cumulus Inc. for 10 years; it’s such a great dish that brings people together. Served simply with a crisp green salad and some crunchy, buttery potatoes is the best.
- What makes entertaining at home successful?
If hosting a dinner party at home, setting the table somewhere different to where you usually eat, if you can, is always a good idea. On the porch, or in the garden if space and climate permit. There’s just something really special about eating outside, although in Melbourne we don’t get to do it very often! There’s also no rule book that I know of that says that a dinner party can’t be a picnic.
- How do you make sure people dining at your restaurants feel at home?
We always aim to offer generous and genuine hospitality with warmth, whether a customer is having just a couple of snacks and a negroni at the bar, or celebrating a special occasion with loved ones. Remembering a favourite wine, how someone likes their coffee served, or their favourite place to sit in the dining room also goes a really long way. Ambient music, lighting and a comfortable environment also aids in helping our guests relax into their experience.
- How do you make sure people dining in your own home feel a sense of occasion like they do in your restaurants?
I love cooking at home with friends and I try to do it as often as possible. When having friends for dinner they always offer to help when they arrive, which I always accept, so I’ll keep a couple of jobs aside so that they can join in.
I like to spend time in the kitchen cooking with friends, it’s a different dynamic and the place I feel most comfortable. I like to cook familiar comfort food for a group, something substantial and easy to share. I go for big, generous, often familiar flavours. What underpins the whole evening for me, is something I can execute easily so I’m not in the kitchen with tweezers trying to plate up food. Then I’d miss all the fun at the table.
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