All chefs use their own source of inspiration to shape their style of cooking. For Seth James, head chef of Wills Domain winery in Yallingup, Western Australia, that inspiration is his local environment and therefore local produce. He sources fresh, local and sustainably-sourced produce, always falling back on the elements of environment, ocean, fresh, uniquely local, ecology, sustainability and artistry — creating modern Australian artisanal dishes.
Here are his Top 5 favourite ingredients to work with.
Ocean Grown Abalone, Augusta
“We are lucky abalone is available in WA because it is one of my favourite ingredients to work with due to its fantastic natural flavour and texture and desirability among seafood lovers. Ocean Grown Abalone are a company that can deliver sustainably-produced green-lip abalone via sea ranching, that tastes just as good as the wild product, and they take care of the ocean while doing it.
When I work with abalone, I like to leave it with natural surrounds and if I am introducing any subtle tastes I use Asian flavours to bring out the abalone’s natural flavour. I will be working with abalone with Andre Chiang at our Octaphilopsophy Meets Wills Domains dinner for Gourmet Escape as he loves this product as well.
2) Asparagus from the Great Southern
Torbay Asparagus, near Albany
Asparagus is a great vegetable to work with due to its unique flavour and distinct appearance. I like to use Torbay Asparagus because their product is crispy, juicy and has a beautiful flavour and texture. They are a lovely husband and wife team, Phillip and Sheelagh Marshall, and they created one of the first commercial asparagus farms in WA in 1972. I have visited their farm and really like how they produce their asparagus, they have been doing it for so long and they really know their product. One of my favourite ways to use it is cooked on the Japanese grill with fish salt and seafood salts…this combination tastes really good!
3) White Point Wagyu Beef
White Point Wagyu is beyond compare and is special because it is only available at certain times and in certain quantities which gives it a rare and desired quality. The cattle are free-range and grass-fed which helps give the meat maximum flavour and texture. This is perfect just on the grill, maintaining the juice with a beautiful crust, it doesn’t need much assistance to taste delicious, it just needs to be expertly cooked.
Blue Yabby Australia, South West
Blue yabbies are an incredible electric-blue colour and are a unique freshwater crayfish only found in Australia. They have a sweet flesh and are a little muddier in flavour that can hold onto a good strong sauce like XO. You can also roll these yabbies up like a nori roll.
5) WA Marron
Blue Ridge, Manjimup
Marron is a great ingredient to work with, we have some in the dam here at Wills Domain which I sometimes go out and catch to use for inspiration in the kitchen. When we have it on the menu though we source it from Blue Ridge Marron which produce some of the largest live marron in Australia. You don’t need to do much to marron, the simpler the better. I like to just cook it on the grill or for something different it also goes well with broth.
Head Chef Wills Domain