Saturday, October 8, 2011

The West Australian: October 2011

Photo: Jennifer Susanto-Lee

Like a Fish to Water in Subiaco
It seems that Olympic swimming hero and all-round nice guy Eamon Sullivan can do no wrong these days.
His new cafe in Subiaco, Louis Baxters, is going gangbusters and he has just released his first book - a cookbook called Eamon's Kitchen.
Oh, and he was crowned 2011 Cleo Bachelor of the Year in April.
The just-turned 26-year-old is flitting between Sydney for training commitments and Perth to cosset his new venture - with swimming taking precedence at the moment.
"The London Olympics are next August and that's what it's all about for now," he says. "The trials are in March, so I've got around six months."
That's not to say swimming will always be his number one priority. Sullivan is passionate about cooking and won Celebrity MasterChef in 2009, wowing judges and fans with his culinary prowess.
Not only was he a popular contestant but he also made a few friends along the way, including his cafe business partner, Laki Baker.
"We met on the set of MasterChef. She was my producer," Sullivan says.
"She was filming on my bench so I got quite accustomed to spending time with her. She's a lovely girl, really easy to get on with.
"We were both born in Perth and she was in Sydney for 16 years before moving back here with her husband. So we kept catching up and then she got a French bulldog and I'd been trying to find a breeder, so that's how I got mine.
"And we'd have doggy playdates and discuss what we were going to do and it went from there."
Oh yes, the bulldogs. In fact, so enamoured are the pair with their canine buddies that they decided to name the cafe after them - Louis-Pierre is Laki's dog and Baxter is Sullivan's.
"We really wanted it to be about us and to give it a funky name with a bit of a story behind it," he says.
His first cooking spark began while watching his mum, who was a baker for New Norcia Bakery, and helping her out in the kitchen.
As swimming took off during his high-school years, a gruelling daily schedule of training and school (starting at 5am and finishing at 7pm) left him a very hungry boy. Home economics saved him from certain starvation and left an indelible impression.
"I was quite a fussy eater and home economics sort of forced me to try different things. I remember the first time I tried beef stroganoff, and as soon as I tried it - well, it just all happened from there really," he says.
As Sullivan's hunger for food grew, so too did his thirst for knowledge.
"I just read and read. Every time I was in a physio room or waiting for a doctor I would read Woman's Day, and when I'd get to the recipe section I'd discreetly rip it out to try it out," he says.
"I read whatever I could and experimented at home. I'm amazed by the Heston Blumenthal thing and molecular gastronomy, that side of cooking. I like the science behind it. I guess I like the theatre of that sort of food.
"Then there were the cooking shows. I was watching Floyd with my parents when I was growing up and the Two Fat Ladies, and Jamie Oliver, and then the whole food and lifestyle thing took off and I'd be glued to the Food Channel on Foxtel. I pretty much preferred watching that to anything else."
As if training for the Olympics and launching a trendy new eatery wasn't enough, Sullivan also decided to write a cookbook with many of the recipes that feature in the cafe.
The book is not so much about healthy low-fat food - more along the lines of simple dishes he enjoys cooking.
"There's no whiz-bang sous vide machines involved or anything like that," he says.
"It's just about bringing together really nice, fresh ingredients that you're able to cook at home.
"I guess when I was growing up as a teenager, boys didn't really cook at all and this is good for the guys who don't know how to cook but want to attempt something a bit different.
"It's a good way to impress girlfriends or if the girlfriends want the boys to cook for them. I've tried to approach the book from every way. For example, if somebody's scared of cooking for a group of people, then I've put some menus in so they don't have to think about preparing.
"It just takes the stress out of it. Even a slight shift in techniques and approaches can make all the difference."
With his ongoing affair with all things food, it comes as no surprise that Sullivan has future plans with a culinary bent that look set on remaining local.
"I honestly love the eatery and that side of things and would love to get more involved," he says.
"I'd like to open another one in a couple of years with a bit of a wine bar and an a la carte menu. Somewhere where you'd spend some time and enjoy a glass of wine. I'm quite into wines, when I'm able.
"It was hard to move to Sydney as Perth was all I'd ever known. Family and friends are here, and that's something I really can't replace after spending 20 years of being in Perth. I love this city."
Louis Baxters is at Shop 2, 50 Subiaco Square, Subiaco (opposite train station). 'Eamon's Kitchen' by Penguin is out now.

Click here for the Fresh article.

The West Australian: September 2011

Photo: Emma Lee

Willie Takes Chocolate Obsession to Sydney

Anybody who has even a passing interest in chocolate will have heard of Willie Harcourt-Cooze, the British eccentric whose obsession with top-notch chocolate has been documented in various television series and books.
He will be one of the top drawcards at the Crave Sydney International Food Festival next month, where he will be sharing his passion for chocolate.
"I can't wait to bring the fine flavours of chocolate and the culinary delights of cacao to the Australian kitchen," says Harcourt-Cooze.
He has visited our shores before. In fact, he came to live and work here in WA as a teenager for six months, following the death of his father in England.
"My most memorable time of being in Australia was when I was 18," he says.
"I worked on a couple of different sheep ranches outside Bridgetown, and in Kojonup. It was some of the hardest and most enjoyable work I've ever done.
"There's nothing I'd love more than to go back and see the people I worked with again, but it's not going to be on this trip unfortunately."
Harcourt-Cooze's future plans include the launch of a new fruit chocolate range that features Cuban Orange, Sierra Leone Ginger and Lime and Peruvian Fruit and Nut.
"The new range will deliver classic flavours paired with fine beans to the heart of all chocolate lovers," he says.
"And, of course, I'll continue to spread the love of chocolate."
His cacao chocolate is available in Australia from Jones the Grocer. His books Willie's Chocolate Factory Cookbook and Willie's Chocolate Bible are available from book stores now.
The Crave Sydney International Food Festival will run throughout October. For more information, head to

Click here for the Fresh article.

Monday, August 1, 2011

The West Australian: July 2011

Photo: Rob Duncan/WA News

Alain Shows Pioneering Spirit

Alain Fabregues is a happy man. Run off his feet, but happy.
Two weeks ago, he unearthed the first West Australian truffle in history found outside the traditional truffle-growing regions of Manjimup and Pemberton, on his property in Toodyay.
As ever, the award-winning chef and owner of The Loose Box restaurant is evoking the WA pioneering spirit and breaking new ground.
"Well, I planted 1600 oak trees on my land in Toodyay seven years ago. I was there with my dog a couple of weeks ago and that was when we found it," he chuckles.
"And Toodyay is about 500km due north from Manjimup, so it is quite a significant find."
Significant indeed.
Fabregues, whose accolades have included two French knighthoods and a prestigious Meilleur Ouvrier de France, has been cooking since the age of six.
He began by making pates with his grandmother and his culinary pedigree dates back to Napoleonic days, when his great-great-great grandmother cooked for Napoleon's army during its Italian campaign.
At 15, he went on to be an apprentice in Bordeaux and trained under late chef Jean Delaveyne, a proponent of nouvelle cuisine.
The production of truffles in WA has increased significantly over the years, from only a few in Manjimup in 2003 to nearly two tonnes last year.
It has surpassed production in Tasmania and, with more truffieres being established in the area, looks set to be a major export commodity. In the meantime, Fabregues has set his sights on another trophy - the elusive and extremely expensive white truffle.
"Yes, as if I am not busy enough," he laughs.
"I planted for white truffles last September, so now we have the long wait of seven years to see if our gamble has paid off. It is hard yakka growing truffles, conditions have to be perfect."
This year at the Mundaring Truffle Festival - which was his brainchild - Fabregues will be run off his feet.
"I am very, very busy preparing everything leading up to the festival," he says.
"And then at the truffle festival itself, I will be running the masterclass, which will be Philippe Mouchel from Melbourne, Emmanuel Mollois from Choux Cafe and myself. So it will be like a French affair.
"We are three French chefs and we are going to show people how to use truffles. So I will be cooking a chicken dish with truffle and Philippe Mouchel will be cooking a lamb dish with truffle and Emmanuel Mollois will be doing a dessert with truffle.
"I will also be running the VIP room, for our sponsors and government people, as well as the long lunch with the boys. So for the long lunch, there will be Nigel Harvey (from Voyager Estate), Peter Manifis (from Incontro and Beluga) and Hadleigh Troy (from Restaurant Amuse). And I will be doing the dessert, which will be a truffle pannacotta.
"And then of course, we'll be running The Loose Box stand that we run every year. So we have to make all of the food that we are going to sell to the people, which will be 12,000 portions. These will include a leek and truffle soup, duck rillettes with truffle and an apple tart and truffle.
"As well as all that, on the Friday and Saturday nights at the restaurant we will be having two truffle gala dinners, and then on the Sunday we will be shut so we can work at the restaurant."
Click here for the Fresh article.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

The West Australian: March 2011

Photo: Daniel Mahon

Quite Nigella
She’s arguably the domestic goddess of our time and can turn the seemingly innocuous task of hulling a punnet of strawberries into, well, something a little more alluring. She’s Nigella Lawson – journalist, critic, author, cook, mother and ardent foodie.
“When I was 16 or so, I went to Paris – more because of the travel rather than food really - and I was fascinated in how the French cooked,” Ms Lawson says of her first independent foray into food.

“I remember I was taken out to eat at Galeries Lafayette and I tasted their fromage bleu, which was so simple and delicious. And I saw this world that was just fantastic. Then when I went to live in Italy, I started getting interested in reading about food because even though my mother cooked a lot, there were never any cookery books. So I began to read cookery books and the whole subject became interesting to me.”
Born into a refined family – her father is a baron and was chancellor of the exchequer to Margaret Thatcher while her mother was heiress to a business empire – Nigella had a somewhat conflicted relationship with food while growing up.
“Well, I will say something that will give a lot of encouragement to parents with children who don’t eat,” she says.
“I had not only no interest in food as a small child, but I really hated mealtimes and I didn’t eat at all. So when people say to me, ‘my children won’t eat’ I say ‘Well, look at me, it can change!’.
“I come from a family who are intensely involved in food, and when I was very young I wasn’t interested, but that was probably because I was brought up very strictly. It was ‘you will eat this and if you don’t finish it you will sit there until it’s cold and it will be brought back the next day’. It was that sort of way. There was no food-hiding – my mother had complete laser-vision. But I did get interested in food, and I had no idea it would become my life.”
In Australia for a quick stint at the Melbourne Food & Wine Festival last weekend, Ms Lawson is excited to be back in the country.
“I’ve previously been to Sydney as well as to Queensland, where I went on a boat through the Whitsundays with the kids. But I haven’t been to Melbourne before”, she says.
And would she like to come to Western Australia? We have truffles..
“I would love to. Why I’m not traveling much on this visit is because I’ve left the kids at home, so I’ve kept it short. But they loved Australia, and I’d love to do more traveling. The thing is, it’s such a huge country so you’ve got to have time. I love the huge sky of Australia, and the light. So you call it WA over there, then, and not Western Australia? You’re going to have to map me out an itinerary and tell me when’s the best time to go. I don’t like intense heat. I would have to wear a hat and a sunscreen factor of one hundred. Oh god, I can’t wait. Go on, fire away, I’m too busy planning my holiday now.”
Nigella has sold millions of cookbooks and her many television series are broadcast in countries all over the world. Now, she feels, it’s time to re-stock.
“I’m not working as hard in terms of filming and writing books at the moment so I can go away,” she says.
“If I did a book and a series every year, I’d have to be re-introduced to my children and I wouldn’t have a proper life. And the whole point of what I do is because it’s part of my life. My books come out of how I live my life, so if I make it all about the work, then that would make me feel it was the wrong way round. So it’s nice for me to be at home, cooking. And at the moment I’ve got other things to do. And no doubt I’ll go back inspired by some of the food I’ve eaten here in Australia, and that’s how recipes come about, by cooking meals that I don’t know. And just revelling in the luck that I can be pottering about the kitchen and pretend it’s work.”
Ms Lawson was the headlining act of the Melbourne Food & Wine Festival last week. She shared some kitchen bench space with Western Australia’s own seductive cook, Anna Gare.