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|Australia's Culinary Wizards of Oz|
Fresh and delicious define the new “Mod Oz” dining experience perfected by Australia’s rising celebrity chefs. Travels to Australia have taken on an entirely new dimension: fabulous food! The vast landscape of Oz has long been admired for its diverse beauty, ancient and modern cultures, award-winning wines and lengthy list of marsupials. But until recently, creative cuisine was built around “shrimp-on-the-barbie,” a meat pie or grilled barramundi fish.
Those savory treats are still available, but today your dining options have expanded to include menus full of mouth-watering dishes prepared with fresh-this-morning ingredients. Behind this appetizing fare is the creative genius of a handful of chefs who have inspired an Aussie cooking revolution known as Mod Oz. Their names, their cookbooks, their recipes and their restaurants have become familiar and famous worldwide.
Australian waters have always yielded prize seafood, and Mod Oz capitalizes on that bounty. It also makes use of locally raised—and sometimes organic—lamb, pork and poultry, as well as abundant and flavorful fruits, vegetables and herbs, accompanied, of course, by superb local wines. The tasty and attractive combinations are further influenced by the cooking styles of the Chinese, French, Sri Lankan, Thai, Mexican, Indian, Italian, Middle Eastern, Greek and other cultures who have settled in Australia over the past century.
Among the bright lights of Mod Oz, two of the most luminous stars are Neil Perry and Tetsuya Wakuda. Neil Perry’s influence is felt far beyond the Sydney city limits. In addition to his Rockpool restaurant in Sydney and XO restaurant in Surry Hills, his three cookbooks; Rockpool, Simply Asian and The Food I Love, his television presentations and his line of fresh food products, Perry’s Rockpool Consulting team develops menus and in-flight service standards for Qantas Airways. Known for his “passion for perfection,” Perry opened Rockpool in 1989 with the intention of establishing one of Australia’s finest restaurants. After only six months it was voted Sydney’s best new restaurant in the Good Food Guide and over the years has gone on to win a long list of awards, both in Australia and overseas.
Neil Perry trained in the classical French style that then dominated upscale dining. But he soon “realized I could bring the foods I loved into my restaurant cooking,” he says. He developed a style that relied heavily on Asian influences but also incorporated Mediterranean and Middle Eastern flavors and techniques. “The key is to respect the individual culinary traditions,” he continues, “and combine them in ways that are harmonious, rather than clashing.”
Tetsuya Wakuda grew up in Japan and traveled to Australia in search of excitement at age 23. His adventuresome spirit is still evident in Tetsuya’s approach to food. First hired as a sushi chef, he went on to study classical French technique and to begin the creative and flavorful stylings that characterize his cooking today. His own restaurant, Tetsuya’s, opened in 1989 as a tiny shopfront in the Sydney suburb of Rozelle and was thronged with appreciative diners.
In 2000, Tetsuya relocated his restaurant to 529 Kent Street, Sydney, and since then has evolved his style and reputation to become one of Australia’s most renowned chefs. Located in a refurbished World Heritage site on the edge of the central business district, Tetsuya’s features a Japanese- and French-influenced menu of ever-changing, perfectly prepared dishes served in exquisite grace from a fixed-price menu.
The list of culinary superstars goes on. In August 2001 Peter Gilmore was appointed as head chef at Quay, a Sydney French restaurant where he exercises his Mod Oz creativity on an innovative menu with a spectacular range of dishes sourced from the freshest and finest ingredients Australia has to offer. Vogue Entertaining & Travel has said of him, “Peter Gilmore is cooking like an angel” and his signature dishes include such delectable concoctions as Crisped Pressed Duck with garlic puree, salsify, porcini and duck juices and Seared Yellow Fin Tuna with tomato jelly, roasted eggplant, basil oil and shiso.
The Mod Oz creativity also manages to escape the city limits—and even the restaurant walls! At her Farm Shop, in the wine-rich Barossa Valley an hour outside of Adelaide, Chef Maggie Beer prepares a casual assortment of treats for picnic-style dining, inside or out—what she calls “foodie-friendly all day eating.”
Mod Oz has much in common with Hawaiian Regional Cuisine. Both styles make the most of the freshest local ingredients and were spearheaded by a small group of particularly creative chefs. Early influences were strongly Asian, but as the style matures, chefs are expressing their personal passions with broader interpretations.
For example, at his third restaurant, Moorish, at Bondi Beach in Sydney, chef Luke Mangan puts the emphasis on Spanish and Moroccan-influenced dishes but continues to use fresh local ingredients and flavors. Grilled baby octopus might be accompanied by vine-fresh green beans or air-cured beef might be flavored with dukkah, a blend of Australian indigenous spices.
It’s no wonder that the Asian Wall Street Journal called Sydney “planet earth’s number one town for eating.” Whatever your expectations, whatever your taste, your palate is sure to be rewarded at one of Australia’s winning Mod Oz restaurants.
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Vincent Vacations - Authorized Australia's Culinary Wizards of Oz Travel Tips - Vacation Planner
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