February 10, 2019
Last Word: Dan Hunter
Appointed head chef at Mugaritz in Spain, Dan Hunter’s career has taken him around the globe – his exceptional skills landing him in some of the most acclaimed restaurants. Dan returned to Australia, where he worked for six years, leading the kitchen at Dunkeld’s Royal Mail Hotel and taking it to its three-hat status. In December 2013, Dan opened his first solo venture, Brae, an organic farm in Victoria. It’s here he leads a team of chefs and gardeners, focusing on sustainable practices. The team grows its own fruit and vegetables and sources seasonal produce from the area, providing foodies with a contemporary Australian cuisine, taking them from paddock to plate.
I GREW UP… in Melbourne.
MY MORNING RITUAL IS… exercise, water, two coffees, a bircher of oats, seeds and grains and a three-egg omelette.
THE FIRST JOB I HAD… was washing dishes in a fish restaurant in Melbourne – I put a pan through a glass door on my first shift, it wasn’t the best start you could hope for!
MY FIRST MEMORY COOKING… is damper! I was camping in the snow with my dad and some uncles and I got most of the dough stuck in my duffle jacket! It was pretty sticky and it didn’t come out too easy. Everyone who was there still reminds me about how disgusting the damper was.
MY BIGGEST KITCHEN BLUNDERS… I’ve cut the tops off my fingers, started fires, burnt things badly; we all make mistakes along the way.
I LOOK UP TO… I don’t have a chef idol, it’s important to be yourself. I respect many, many cooks and not all are big names. There’s lots to appreciate and learn from different types of cooks. I respect people doing their own thing.
MY FAVOURITE INGREDIENT TO WORK WITH IS… generally all types of seafood and shellfish – and bread!
MY PET HATES IN THE KITCHEN ARE… guests not reading the menu and telling us they cannot eat a certain ingredient, as the food is dropped on the table.
SWEET OR SAVOURY… savoury but also savoury-sweets; sugar gives you palette fatigue if you eat too much.
TIPS AND TRICKS FOR FOODIES… is plan and prep properly, always put things back in the same place and work cleanly.
BREAKFAST, LUNCH OR DINNER… I always eat breakfast but I like a long, lazy lunch. I much prefer to eat during the day.
MY ADVICE IS… taste everything before you serve it, that’s what our guests are really paying for.
Cover image: Aged peking duck wood roasted on the bone, sour squash, muntries and purslane