Enjoy Brae – recipes and stories from the restaurant »

Dan Hunter writes about his cooking philosophy and award-winning restaurant in rural Victoria

By Paula Wriedt
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<i>Brae</i> by Dan Hunter

Brae by Dan Hunter [©Phaidon Press Limited]

Ben Shewry of Attica and Dan Hunter of Brae, World's 50 Best Restaurants

 

With a restaurant ranked Number 44 on the World’s Best 50, it was inevitable that Dan Hunter would produce a book to satisfy his avid fans. Named after his award winning restaurant, in Birregurra Victoria, is part memoir and part cookbook, and is the ultimate book for genuine foodies.

Regardless of whether or not you’ve eaten at Hunter’s restaurant, this book gives you an appreciation of his food philosophy and the dishes he so lovingly creates.

The first half of the book is where we learn about the man behind award-winning Brae: from growing up in East Gippsland, his failed attempt to get into University and his first job in a restaurant as a kitchen hand at the age of 19. His honest style of writing, including about his own failings and mischievous adventures, is comparable to that of celebrity chef and author Anthony Bourdain. It entices you to read on to understand his path to becoming one of Australia’s most revered chefs.

If not for Hunter’s determination to travel he admits he may not have learned ‘the important relationship between food and a country’s DNA.’  This revelation came to him on a trip to Mexico where, by his own admission, he flipped out and ate as much as he could!

On his return to Australia, Hunter finally began his apprenticeship and for the next fourteen years worked in kitchens of other peoples’ restaurants in Australia and overseas before purchasing the thirty acre Sunnybrae property from Chef George Biron, 135km south west of Melbourne and establishing his restaurant, Brae.

This book helps us to understand Hunter’s food philosophy – the importance he places on origin and paddock-to-plate cooking – but also providing a seasonal menu that takes diners on a journey of enjoyment of that produce.

Readers are rewarded with an appreciation of the careful planning that went into creating the restaurant's atmosphere as well as the thought that goes into every dish on Hunter's menus. There is even a series of reprinted 'diary' entries, which are a great insight into the pressures of this type of venture.

It’s not until page 40 of the book that we come across the first recipes. If you were purchasing this book purely as a cookbook you may be disappointed that you had to wade through so many pages first. But if you realise the point of the book is for us to understand Hunter’s food philosophy, it will come as no surprise. 

The recipes aren’t presented in any particular order, so you would need to refer to the index if you were looking to cook with a certain main ingredient. There is a diversity to the recipes, and the title of many illustrates their complexity – Wessex Saddleback and Fermented Roots, Barbequed Carrot and Dried Coriander; Southern Rock Lobster and Burnt Potatoes, Flathead Roe, Milk & Mustard;  Dry Aged Jumbuck and Flathead Sashimi, Broccoli & Salted Dandelion; and Artichoke and Saltgrass Lamb Washed With Mussel Juice and Citrus.

This is not a recipe book for inexperienced cooks. The recipes are difficult and time consuming. However, if you are a genuine 'foodie' and you enjoy challenging techniques, then you will relish this book.

Some ingredients such as the Australian winter truffle in the Chicken and Truffle Sandwich, Barrel-aged Mirin and Gellan Gum in the Chicken Broth and Truffle Toast, will be difficult to source. In some smaller cities the Squid Ink that is required for the Burnt Pretzel, Treacle and Pork may not be available. But experienced cooks will be able to make substitutions accordingly and reproduce something similar. 

These aren’t meals that can be thrown together for a weekday dinner, but rather ones that you make on a weekend with a glass of wine in hand and some music playing in the background. And, if you go into this book expecting to make each recipe a labour of love, you certainly won’t be disappointed. 

Read more on Brae by Dan Hunter here »

And Brae's inclusion in the World's Best 50 Restaurants here »

 

Brae – Recipes and Stories from the Restaurant by Dan Hunter is published by Phaidon (UK, May 2017; Hb; 256 pp, RRP A$75). It is available at good bookstores and can be found for online purchase via booko.com.au »


About the reviewer: Paula Wriedt is a self-confessed foodie. Whilst she loves her job running the small charity, Cystic Fibrosis Tasmania, her real passion is food. She lives in Kingston with her two teenage children who have inherited her love of cooking so her house is always filled with the welcoming smells of delicious food. 

As a former State Minister for Tourism, Paula is passionate about Tasmanian produce and the beautiful island state. Travelling is high on her agenda but she enjoys returning to Tasmania and sharing with friends and family the many recipes she discovers on her travels.

Regions

  • Geelong and Bellarine Peninsula (VIC)
  • Otways (VIC)

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July 13th, 2017
 
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