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."
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