just as I was about to give up I stumbled upon an oasis of offerings that I now use in the menu
One of the first things I did after arriving in WA for my gig at Wills Domain was go out and explore the local coast. I spent a few hours walking from Smiths Beach to Injidup trying to work out what the local region had to offer.
I think understanding your local environment and produce is key to creating dishes that stand out and most importantly are fresh.
I grew up in Queensland, fishing on the reef, it was all natural, just beautiful scenery and so I have always had great care and respect for the environment. I think it is why it is important to me to keep things local. Everything is being polluted now and it is so disappointing.
On my first “wild harvest” expedition, the area was hot, arid and really scrubby and I didn’t come across anything for ages. But just as I was about to give up I stumbled upon an oasis of offerings that I now use in the menu. It was really exciting just tasting things and working it out by trial and error.
Now the team and I regularly head out into the wilderness of the South West on wild harvests — both in the forests and ocean — to search for unique ingredients that will be a point of difference.
I’ve used sea parsley, salt bush, samphire, wattle, dune spinach, sea mustard and wild mushrooms and watercress regularly in my dishes to create a uniquely local flavour.
We even use reduced sea water to cook the skins of potatoes to give it that extra kick of flavour and we have them as salty chip-style offerings for the start of the meal. Using the skins, something that would otherwise be thrown out, also helps reduce wastage.
Our wild harvests usually have to be done first thing and if a certain item is needed on the menu it does become a challenge to regularly source and find some ingredients…but it is pretty amazing at that time of morning to be out hunting around as the sun is coming up.
I also strongly believe in supporting local producers because it is not only the right thing to do but by far the better option in helping reduce food miles and keeping food fresh.
We need to support our local food industries here, how could any other produce be better than what is produced here in WA? It is always going to have a much fresher, better flavour if it is from just down the road. And the soil here is amazing it’s just as, if not better, than the Eastern States.
I also think it is important as a chef to source and develop good relationships with your local producers. I deal directly with a local farmer who only has 300 head of cattle, it is a family run business and they are so passionate about what they do and they look after their animals.
And all of the relationships you build helps make a difference to the end result in the kitchen because you know exactly what you are getting.
My hope is that when people leave Wills Domain they are satisfied and are able to reflect back on the meal and savour it. It should be a hedonistic experience where you can appreciate the flavour combinations and techniques used to make the meal.