It’s difficult to fully appreciate the trickle-down effect on Australian food that resulted from a single but highly significant restaurant industry award in 1999.
That was the year Newcastle-reared chef Brett Graham — then cooking at that incubator of Sydney talent, Banc — won the prestigious Josephine Pignolet Award as NSW’s most promising young chef. The rest, as the cliche goes, is history.
Countless Australians subsequently have worked with Graham in London — the place he headed to and never left — at The Square and The Ledbury, bringing home their own vocational souvenirs. Graham has been particularly helpful to chefs from the Hunter, including Margan’s Thomas Boyd.
Hunter Valley born and bred, Boyd grew up “surrounded by fine wine and food”, he says. “I was a second-year apprentice when I started at Margan and worked my way to sous chef, but making a career dream a reality took me from Broke to London in a heartbeat.”
Graham gave Boyd a job at his two Michelin star Notting Hill restaurant that lasted more than two years, a career-changing second apprenticeship.
“I worked across all sections of the kitchen, learning utmost respect for produce and the dedication and commitment required of a two Michelin star restaurant. It was amazing,” Boyd says.
Returning to the Hunter, he was drawn back to Margan, this time as head chef. His partner Eliza Stevenson, also an alumna of The Ledbury, runs Margan’s restaurant service team.
Unlike central London, the kitchen Boyd now runs is inextricably linked to the surrounding land and the vegetables, herbs, fruit and animals it produces.
The dish is simply Margan — estate grown, estate made. Everything is sourced less than 100m from the restaurant.
“Guests are watching the chickens run around the fruit trees at the same time enjoying the soft, rich velvety egg they produced. Every morning we say hello to Skater (the rooster) and the girls, collect the eggs and hand scrub the Jerusalem artichokes and celeriac that we pull from the ground, along with other produce. Unlike London or suburban restaurants, there is no need for hours of ordering and contacting suppliers; the garden produce is the inspiration and the dictator of the menu.”
Winemakers Lisa and Andrew Margan established their garden more than a decade ago and it is maintained by horticulturist Pat Hanssen.
“She works with us to ensure we are getting the produce that we want to feature in our menus and in the quantities that we need it,” says Boyd.
“The slow-cooked egg from our chickens is part hero of this dish, as is the Jerusalem artichoke that takes almost 12 months in the ground to grow. It’s hard to beat hand-grown vegetables dug straight out of the ground. Pat maintains the garden with organic and biodynamic principles: lots of recycling, composting and chicken manure, and Margan is a recognised leader in environmental sustainability.”
“The eggs go into a low-temperature water bath for an hour and are cracked into the bowl to serve. The egg shells go to the garden and are used as a pest deterrent for snails and slugs.
“I keep the skin on the Jerusalem chokes to keep that earthy, nutty flavour and simmer them in milk. The celeriac is also simmered in milk, then blitzed until silky and sexy and poured around the egg and pieces of artichoke. We shave and deep fry some chokes for texture and garnish with garden chives and flake salt. So everything in this dish except the salt is grown on site at Margan. How cool is that?”
“As a wine producer we are well-positioned to put something appropriate alongside this dish,” says Boyd. “Our perfect match for this dish is Margan albarino, a Spanish white varietal. It grows right next to the kitchen garden, less than 5m. We often feature a meat version using the estate-reared Suffolk lamb and Margan barbera. For a luxe version I would add some black Australian truffles shaved over the top. Estate truffles next, perhaps?”
As part of a two-course menu, $65. “We offer a full vegetarian degustation as well, with vegan options included, which really lets our kitchen garden produce shine.”
Read the original article here at The Australian