Archive for the ‘Celeb chefs’ Category

Guillaume Brahimi announces post-Bennelong restaurant

Guillaume Brahimi

Chef Guillaume Brahimi

Pre-empting his well-publicised push exit from Guillaume at Bennelong next month, chef Guillaume Brahimi has already announced his sequel to his French fine-dining restaurant, which this year received a top-rated Three Hats by the Sydney Morning Herald Good Food Guide (whether the extra hat was deserved, or just a pity vote by his food journo peers, is worthy of another blog discussion).

Brahimi’s follow-up to his iconic Sydney Opera House restaurant will move to Paddington, at the stalwart Darcy’s Restaurant site. It looks like a fantastic move for Brahimi. Darcy’s has long been an iconic Italian restaurant to the Eastern Suburbs’ moneyed set – a seamless fit for Brahimi’s upmarket French cuisine – but for years has floundered in terms of public image and critical reception (I never ate there, nor was ever inclined to, so I can’t comment about the food). Brahimi will be giving a greater seasonal focus to his skilled French cooking to a very cosy corner of Paddington that’s crawling distance that other hatted local, The Four in Hand.

So what do you think of the move? Is it a face-saving lateral shift, a more intimate improvement, a downgrade for a chef who’s presided over the highest-profile restaurant space in Sydney, or something entirely different?

For more on the move, here’s today’s press release:



After much anticipation, chef and restaurateur Guillaume Brahimi has announced that he will open a new Sydney restaurant in early 2014.

Brahimi and his team will move into the beautiful and historic Darcy’s Restaurant site in Paddington, in Sydney’s eastern suburbs, and will reopen as guillaume by Easter 2014. The new restaurant will see his award-winning team continue the high standard they have become known for at the iconic three- hatted Guillaume at Bennelong.

The restaurant will reflect Brahimi’s philosophy of high quality produce-driven food and will serve an ever-changing menu focused on the seasonal produce of the day.

Brahimi said “My team and I are so excited at the prospect of this new restaurant. It is a fresh start for us in a wonderful venue, full of character and history, a real Sydney institution. We have some ambitious plans that I believe will raise the standard of what we do to a whole new level. I believe it will make the perfect home for my team and me to create something very special.”

Guillaume said “Attilio Marinangeli is one of Sydney’s notable restaurateurs and Darcy’s has been an iconic restaurant for more than thirty eight years. I am grateful that Attilio is giving me the opportunity to establish my new restaurant in that beautiful restaurant space.”

“Like many Sydney- siders I have a strong sentimental attachment to Darcy’s. My wife and I dined there to celebrate the birth of our first daughter and we loved the intimate and elegant atmosphere. We have since had many happy occasions there and we now look forward to many more to come.”

The team at guillaume will include Bennelong’s talented head chef of 12 years, Jose Silva, as well as head sommelier and former Sydney Morning Herald Sommelier of the Year, Chris Morrison.

Having served over half a million diners since 2001, Brahimi’s current restaurant Guillaume at Bennelong will mark its last service on December 31st, New Year’s Eve, to be followed by the move to the new premises in Paddington.

Brahimi has operated some of Sydney’s most acclaimed restaurants since the early 1990s when he moved from Paris where he worked for Joel Robuchon. His restaurants have included two–hatted Pond in Potts Point, Quay, which earned three hats, and finally, since 2001, the three hatted Guillaume at Bennelong.

His restaurants have won the title of Australian Gourmet Traveller Restaurant of the Year and The Sydney Morning Herald’s Best New Restaurant as well as numerous other accolades, and in 2013 Guillaume was awarded the Vittoria Legend Award for outstanding contribution to the industry.

Brahimi currently operates two other restaurants, Bistro Guillaume in the Crown Entertainment Complex in Melbourne, and Bistro Guillaume in Crown Casino in Perth. He was appointed Culinary Director of Crown Resorts in May 2013. He is also ambassador for Tefal and Samsung.

Following Council approval, renovations will begin at the Paddington site in early January and guillaume will open prior to Easter 2014 at 92 Hargrave Street, Paddington, Sydney. 

A Quay restaurant spinoff? Chef Peter Gilmore says – yes! (video)

It was in the middle of Saturday night’s gala dinner at the Great Barrier Feast that the drawcard celebrity chef, Quay’s Peter Gilmore, dropped a bomb – his plans to open a more casual, funkier spin-off of Australia’s top-rated restaurant in Sydney. Sometimes it pays to be a social media geek: thanks to some frenetic iPhone typing from the five-star Qualia resort in Hamilton Island, Gosstronomy was the first to break the news on Twitter.

The next day, I had the extra-special privilege of having some face-to-face time with Gilmore (along with a couple of other select media folks), whose Sydney fine diner now ranks as No 26 on the S. Pellegrino World’s Top 50 list. The conversation kicked off with his firm stance against genetically engineered (GE or GM) food, and then, with video camera in hand, I grabbed the opportunity to ask him about his plans for Quay’s sister restaurant.

It turns out, there’s no site selected yet, but it’s obvious from what Gilmore had to say that he’s given it quite a lot of thought and the wheels are in motion. Check out the above video of our talk to hear about his plans for next year.

Peter Gilmore interview timeline:

    1:34 – Diversity of produce, and what he’d like to see in supermarkets
    2:20 – *Quay’s new sister restaurant*: a casual, funky, young environment
    4:40 – The crucial need to hang onto our Sydney growers, especially in the Hawkesbury
    5:37 – On the Slow Food movement in Sydney
    6:31 – How we have Quay to thank for the fact that we now get purple (and other non-orange) carrots in Australia
    7:19 – What produce we should be expecting or demanding to see in our aisles

There’s more to come about Gilmore’s cooking on the Great Barrier Feast, so make sure to check in later in the week.

Marco Pierre White’s First Australian Landing

Thursday night was the kind of dilemma that a food writer dreams about. Do I go see one of my favourite food writers, Anthony Bourdain, duke it out with AA Gill and Tony Bilson at Sydney’s Town Hall, or do I meet a full-blown culinary legend, Marco Pierre White, in an intimate gathering?

It was a gruelling choice, really, but intimacy won out, so I agreed to be whisked away in a luxury car and taken to a private waterside villa to meet up with the great British chef. Later, I’d discover that it was the first time the great man had ever set food in Australia.

For those who don’t know who Marco is – and I’ve been amazed at how many people I’ve talked to in Sydney who don’t – he became the world’s youngest three-Michelin-star chef at age 33, and his kitchens have been proving grounds for such high-profilers as Gordon Ramsay, Mario Batali and Heston Blumental. He’s also famous for being a kitchen terror, way before Gordon Ramsay popularised the formula.

I would’ve liked to have said that I enjoyed a 12-course degustation by God himself, but the night was far more humble. Marco was in town as the guest of Continental, demonstrating the best ways to use their new jelly stocks. For a guy like me who makes and freezes all of his own stocks from scratch, it wasn’t exactly how I would have wanted to see Mr White in action. But I get it – people are time-poor, so stock jellies and cubes make those big family meals happen with far less hassle. And, well, KFC or Bonanza could have brought Marco to Sydney, and I’d still show up.

Said ‘villa’ looked more like small mansion, and as I entered the grounds and into its chandelier-dangled hallway, I was handed a cold flute of Piper-Heidsieck bubbly. Yes, it’s days like this that I love my job.

Soon there was a gathering of some nine other food writers and bloggers – including Grab Your Fork’s Helen Yee, the Sydney Int’l Food Festival’s Barbara Sweeney, The Internet Chef’s Bridgette Davis and Inside Cuisine’s Rebecca Varidel. As we waited for the main event, we talked shop in the white-on-white living room, which looked so posh, I couldn’t help myself from calling it “the salon”.

As we progressed to the kitchen, we took our seats, perched less than a metre from the benchtop. Then Marco appeared, his trademark long hair wrapped inside a well-loved headscarf. He warmly greeted us. MPW informed us that he was going to cook us something that he had never made before but that he understood was popular in Australia – pumpkin soup. An asparagus risotto would follow.

That, understandably, may not sound incredibly exciting. In fact, it didn’t sound exciting, but the master found ways. First came the unique use of carrot juice to make the soup look more orange. “If I was making it for my daughter, she’d want it be bright orange,” Marco explained. “That’s what she thinks pumpkin looks like.” Then there was the zorro-like way MPW sliced into the lids of the stock packets, a circular cut and lift as effortlessly instant as a magician’s card trick. Next came the largest Japanese pumpkin any of us had ever seen: freshly picked from a private garden, and as voluptuous as a large watermelon.

But the main entertainment was Marco himself. He grumbled about the awfulness of having to use an induction stovetop, not seeming to be fussed that its maker, Electrolux, was a co-sponsor of the night. “You get excited when it finally beeps,” he grimaced as an assistant stepped in after he struggled to get a response from his finger pressings. Meanwhile, Marco made the case for gas cookers, “A kitchen should be hot; that’s what keeps the food warm.” The honesty was refreshing, although I was momentarily embarrassed for Electrolux – then I remembered that they also make gas cooktops. Travesty averted.

Marco acknowledged that it was hard to beat a homemade stock, but for the time-constrained, he was intent on making a stock with from the manufactured jelly that didn’t taste like one. So he changed the recommended water-to-packet ratio of 500ml to a less salty 700ml, and used the risotto’s asparagus and chervil trimmings (and some spring onion, too, I think) to lift it. “It’s certainly the shortest recipe in Sydney,” Marco said, as he served the soup in the whole carved-out pumpkin. He noted that there was no need to add salt, and asked us if we could taste if the soup was made from a stock packet. None of us could, although I admittedly wondered how much this good soup would approach great, livelier heights with a fresh stock.

Someone in the audience asked whether serving the soup in the pumpkin was a bit daggy, a tad old-school. Marco didn’t think so. “There’s something about putting something in the middle of the table,” he said before diverting into a talk about the lost art of entertaining. “There’s no theatre in restaurants these days.” He compared today’s modern restaurants and the penchant for small plates as to “going to a canapé party where you get small bites that are lukewarm.” A dig at molecular restaurants, perhaps?

Marco served up the pumpkin soup with a good sprinkle of parmesan, and we gleaned other tips as he moved on to the risotto. He demonstrated what he said was the only way to finely chop an onion, which was to quarter it, remove a single petal and then finely julienne it and finely chop it crosswise. He told us that stock is more forgiving than salt, so he sometimes takes a stock cube, turns it into a paste with olive oil and finely chopped rosemary, then coats the paste onto lamb chops or steaks. He also shared his love of ketchup vinaigrette, making an emulsion with tomato sauce, olive oil, chervil and white wine vinegar. When I ogled his Japanese knife, he shared that it was a Mac knife: “It’s the best knife on the market.” I’m not sure if Marco is sponsored by Mac, but a quick Google searched showed Thomas Keller and Gordon Ramsay as additional proponents, so it’s either a killer knife, or there’s an all-star sponsorship program going on.

Marco became most animated when talking about Sydney, pointing to the harbour view behind him and gushing about how beautiful the city is. He also spoke highly of Australia’s statesman food writer, Leo Schofield, who impressed him with his insights into the restaurants of Marco’s era. “He was a very lovely man. Very knowledgeable,” he said, and then commended Schofield for being “a critic, but someone who look at things for what they are, not simply to criticise.”

In the end, MPW thanked me for my patience, and encouraged me to try using the store-bought stocks to lift my homemade versions. “Used correctly, they really enhance.” I’d normally be skeptical, but he said it with so much sincerity and conviction that I think I’ll have to give it a go, just to verify that I’m not being a food snob. On one hand, using a manufactured stock give me pangs of guilt – a sell-out of all things handmade and fresh. On the other hand, I need to stay open-minded. There’s certainly the justification that it’s better for people to make home meals with stock cubes and jellies than turn to pre-packaged or fast foods. Or maybe I’m just star-struck and bending over backwards. But there’s only so far you can bend a cynical expat New Yorker.

I don’t know who first called MPW an ‘enfant terrible’, but the guy I met was gracious and humble. It could have been the jet lag, or politeness in front of food media, but somehow I don’t think so. Maybe Marco has gone soft in his older age, but whatever it is, it was a pleasure to meet the English legend, and while shaking his hand, he made it seem as if the feeling was mutual. That’s something I would have never experienced at Town Hall.

Book Wishlist – “Watching What We Eat” and the evolution of celeb TV chefs

Instead of the usual gluttony, I spent the day at MediaBistro’s Media Circus conference adjacent to the New York Times building, catching up on all the great ways you can build an audience in the digital age. Shame no-one was completely sure exactly how you monetise this blogging business, but I was inspired by the five-figure sums that “The 4-Hour Workweek” author Tim Ferriss receives for each speaking engagement. Hmmm, maybe I’m deluding myself about my food book project and should be going to Toastmasters instead. Erm….


With the wee hours approaching, I finally got my head back into food and discovered the next book for my wishlist. Watching What We Eat: The Evolution of Television Cooking Shows, examines how food shows have continued to survive and thrive, and gives much of the credit to the industry’s ability to keep up with the times and offer people what they’re looking for. (Here’s hoping that the Global Financial Crisis sounds the death-knell of 15-minute recipes in favour of long, long braises.) There’s also some discussion about the brilliance of legendary American TV cook, Julia Child.

For early reviews of the book, check out write-ups by The New York Times and Time magazine. It’s also worth checking out author Kathleen Collins’ blog about more current developments in the food TV world.