Issue Nine: Young Guns Autumn
Lamb
With Luke Piccolo, Olivia Evans & Bianca Johnston.

Contents

Editors’ Letters

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Editors’
Letters

2019 Appetite For Excellence winners Luke Piccolo, Olivia Evans and Bianca Johnston with MJ from Rare Medium and Lucy Allon from A4X.

This issue could just be my proudest to date. Focusing on the next generation of foodservice leaders, it tells the stories of a swathe of young, passionate and incredibly talented individuals who I cannot thank enough for the energy and enthusiasm they have poured into its pages.
 
Fostering the next generation is essential in the forward trajectory of any industry and the Australian foodservice community looks set to flourish in the hands of those featured within this issue and other young professionals like them around the country. Their ideas, their ethos and their inherent care for food, food production and each other paves a new way for the future of food.
 
Just as inspiring has been our journey into regional areas for this issue and the dedicated celebration and championing of local produce we have found there. As much of the country continues to struggle with one of the worst droughts in Australian history, never has it been more vital to support our regional communities and with the exceptional hospitality on offer, never has there been more reasons to go and do so.
 
Our guest chef editor, 2019 Appetite for Excellence Young Restauranteur of the Year Luke Piccolo, effortlessly brings together both key themes of this issue – an extraordinarily talented young chef and restaurateur bringing elevated dining to regional Australia while shining a spotlight on seasonal and local produce the way nature intended.
 
We visit one of Luke’s local suppliers, lamb producer Sally Jones, whose approach to regenerative farming to foster soil health and promote multi species plant growth – ensures the quality of her flock of Dorper sheep despite the incredibly difficult seasonal conditions. Sally and Luke have worked together for four years, maintaining an open dialogue of feedback that has allowed Sally to continually improve her end product. Again, this connection between chef and producer is such a crucial component of supply chain success and cannot be underestimated.
 
Finally – the crowning glory of this issue was the opportunity to bring together the three winners of the 2019 Appetite for Excellence program – Young Restaurateur Luke Piccolo, Young Chef Bianca Johnston and Young Waiter Olivia Evans for a special collaborative dinner in Griffith. This culmination of next generation talent worked together to pull off a faultless evening that showcased regional lamb, produce from the Piccolo Family Farm and locally sourced beverages in a stunning event that sold out in under two hours.
 
Here’s to the next generation of our fabulous foodservice community – this issue is for you. A celebration of and a nod to your commitment and passion to your chosen career paths and your enthusiasm and interest in understanding and championing producers and farmers.
 

Mary-Jane Morse
Meat & Livestock Australia
[email protected]
@_raremedium

What a pleasure to be co-editor of this great mag. I knew from the first conversation I had with MJ that this would be a heap of fun.
 
This year has been a whirlwind for my team and I, being named the Appetite for Excellence Young Restaurateur of the Year was an unexpected highlight. The Appetite program was the start of my relationship with MJ and Rare Medium and it’s been great to foster this further through the making of this issue.
 
MJ’s idea to highlight this year’s Appetite for Excellence alumni shows her amazing commitment to the next generation of our industry. Seeing the quality dishes from each of the chefs affirms that they truly are a talented bunch. Being able to work with Bianca and Olivia on the collab dinner was a buzz, to share our restaurant with them and have it come alive with their energy and ideas. They worked with our team seamlessly and I’ve never seen my staff brimming with excitement like they were that night.
 
I’m passionate about regional areas and it was an absolute blast hanging with MJ and Macca on the Roadies tour seeing first-hand the considerate and driven people producing quality lamb dishes and delivering extraordinary hospitality. A couple of highlights were munching on one of the best lamb pies I’ve ever tasted over an ice-cold Reschs in the Binalong pub and a night at the Sir George in Jugiong, a town of 150 people that pulls people off the Hume highway in hoards to check out their immaculately renovated venue and eat their delicious food.
 
There was one common theme for me in the making of this issue, it’s that food and hospitality are the mesh that hold together our regional communities. It’s evident locally in our community of Griffith and we are proud to be doing our bit to create a strong dining and food culture in this vibrant area.
 
Cheers to MJ and crew for inviting me on this journey.
 

Luke Piccolo
Chef & Owner
Limone Dining
@lukepiccolo_

Copyright: this publication is published by Meat & Livestock Australia Limited ABN 39 081 678 364 (MLA).

Guest Chef Profile

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It can be a fairly common sentiment across media and industry to lay blame on the younger generation for the chef shortage in Australia. We hear all too often how young people don’t want to put in the hard yards, that they are entitled or that the ‘Masterchef’ effect sees them chasing only a quick rise to stardom.
 
Much like any industry, sport or profession – within the foodservice community there will always be those with natural skills, those who work hard to learn and those who will get by on just enough. Then, there will also be the special ones, the future leaders, the inspired – those who will drive the future of food and the foodservice industry.
 
This is their story.

Appetite for Excellence 2019 winners – Luke Piccolo, Bianca Johnston and Olivia Evans reunite for a special collaborative dinner showcasing lamb at Limone Dining in Griffith.

In the regional town of Griffith, six hours south west of Sydney in the Riverina region of NSW, Rare Medium proudly brought together the three winners of the 2019 Appetite for Excellence Awards for a special collaborative dinner showcasing local lamb and regional produce.
 
The one-off dinner sold out in less than two hours – a testament to Young Restauranteur of the Year Luke Piccolo and the reputation of his restaurant Limone Dining and the appetite of the local community to experience the talents of the trio.
 
Limone Dining is an acclaimed 45-seat regional restaurant that has been open for four years. Built by Luke’s family from reclaimed materials, the stunning venue is constructed from old primary production buildings – aligning to the restaurant’s ethos of sustainability and locality.

“Our menu is about showcasing local and utilising what’s in season which allows us to really change with the seasons and work with what’s available to us on a daily basis. We’re fortunate to be surrounded by amazing producers where we can get super fresh, high quality produce at our doorstep and we showcase those producers on a daily basis with our regional cuisine.”

The stunning Limone was built over eight years by Luke’s family from reclaimed materials.

One such producer is the 20-acre Piccolo Family Farm – run by Luke’s parents Peter and Rosa who also own and operate local café Miei Amici. Just six minutes’ drive from the restaurant, the farm produces the majority of herbs, garnishes, fruits and vegetables used on the Limone and Miei Amici menus creating an authentic paddock to plate experience for diners.
 
“I think regional dining is really important and it’s the reason why I actually moved back to Griffith. I saw the opportunity to bring everything I’d learnt working at restaurants in Sydney and Italy back to Griffith and utilise all the produce and ingredients we have here. And to do it in a really nice, relaxed setting, which I don’t think you can really find in a city area.”
 
Luke’s passion for the local area and the people and produce it represents cannot be underestimated and the young trailblazer has set about ensuring more of the world knows about it. In addition to running Limone Dining, Luke also runs large-scale events at Piccolo Family Farm including A Day in the Orchard – a festival of food, music and arts and The Long Lunch – an afternoon of regional food and beverages.

Produce is picked daily from Piccolo Family Farm to be used at Limone.

“We’re always looking forward and we’re always looking to improve what we do. The growth of the restaurant and the business is really important. I honestly think we’re still just scratching the surface of this region, it’s quite an untouched area, not a lot of people know about it as a tourist destination. So for me I think it’s about building on that and drawing people to the region and really showing them what we do and the produce that we have.”

Luke and Bianca breakdown the lamb carcases for the lamb showcase dinner at Limone.

Smoked lamb leg, heart and liver – the collaborative menu showcased the whole lamb carcase.

Bringing together fellow 2019 Appetite for Excellence winners – Young Chef of the Year Bianca Johnston and Young Waiter of the Year Olivia Evans for a collaborative dinner at Limone was another opportunity for Luke to promote his beloved Riverina region whilst also showcasing the talents of two of the industry’s brightest young stars to his hometown.
 
The two-day collaboration began at Piccolo Family Farm with a day sampling home-grown produce and menu testing with two lamb carcases from local producer Sally Jones. Working through the carcase, Luke and Bianca devised a menu that showcased the entire lamb with a range of dishes designed to celebrate the diversity of the protein whilst Olivia hand selected a range of local wines to match.
 
“Using the whole carcase is really important in respect to the whole process and to the animal but also it’s vital as lamb is so valuable. For me personally, I think that meat should be expensive because of the effort that goes into producing it and it makes you value it more and utilise as much as you can. It’s nice that we can showcase the whole animal to our guests with this menu that we’ve created for the dinner.”
 
For Luke, the opportunity to collaborate with the girls and share their talents with his hometown community exemplified the importance of the Appetite for Excellence program.
 
“The Appetite for Excellence program has been really pivotal in what we do. The networking was fantastic; I was introduced to so many amazing people doing very similar things but all over Australia. Meeting the sponsors and the industry was a great opportunity to actually create relationships and now we are building off that and things like this collaboration dinner.”

 “It’s really cool to have Bianca and Olivia coming all this way to put on an amazing dinner using our local lamb. This area grows some super high quality pasture fed lamb and we’re lucky to be able to put that on a plate at this special collaboration dinner.”

Day two saw the trio come together at Limone for the first time, familiarising themselves with an entirely different kitchen and set up, a completely new team and an event that was entirely their own. Seamlessly they worked together throughout the day to put on a flawless event that was in such high demand that some guests had travelled five hours to attend.
 
Young Chef of the Year Bianca Johnston from Tom McHugo’s in Hobart saw the collaboration as a unique opportunity to be able to work with two like-minded individuals who live and work in completely different places to her.
 
“I’m really excited to come together and bounce around ideas with people who I normally wouldn’t be working with and to learn about the different produce that is so prolific here. Obviously the lamb is really different to the stuff I work with at home so just coming to a different region and seeing the community here and working with the produce is so exciting.”

Bianca on the pass with Limone apprentice chef Liam Sibillin.

Lamb loin and sausage in broth.

“The style of cooking at Tom McHugo’s is pretty simple, it’s all about how the food tastes and creating comfort and that sense of nostalgia and that’s what I’m trying to bring to this collaborative menu. It’s pretty daunting to go into a fine dining restaurant but I think this dinner is more about the community coming together and just celebrating what this region has to offer.”
 
“I’m just looking forward to having a fun time in the kitchen with Luke and success to me will just be seeing everyone out there having good times, smiling, enjoying the wine, enjoying the food. I think it’s all about fun.”

Snacks of lamb intercostal skewers and cavolo nero with fennel.

Young Waiter of the Year Olivia Evans from the tiny 12 seat Fleet in Brunswick Heads was excited to be ingrained into a new region and to discover regional nuisances outside those she is used to.
 
“I’m excited about being in another regional area because I live and work in a regional area and have become so used to my own network of farmers and producers. So it’s really amazing to see another part of Australia, another climate, another range of products that are being produced by a small and inspiring group of people.”
 
“At the event I will be looking after the wine pairing for the menu that Luke and Bianca have put together, working with some of the beautiful producers in the region and some of the local wines to find the perfect match for each dish.”

Olivia and Luke sampling local wines to pair with the lamb showcase menu.

“I think when we did the whole process with Appetite for Excellence, we all looked at each other and thought ‘imagine working together’ – the fact that we actually get to do that through this event is so amazing because it is not often that you get to work with a group of people who are like-minded like you are.”

Fried ravioli with spiced lamb.

For three young hospitality professionals to come together with little more than 24 hours to determine and test a menu utilising the whole lamb carcase, to match local beverages and to prepare, execute and host an entire event without fault – was an impressive thing to see.
 
Through their collaboration, their openness and willingness to learn and listen, their respect for the local and seasonal produce, their calm demeanours and skilled execution through every part of the process – these young superstars showed that the future of our food industry is in incredibly capable hands.

Paddock Story

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Lamb producer Sally Jones on her property at Tabbita in NSW.

Farming is in Sally Jones’ blood – an inherent part of who she is and exactly who she wants to be. She comes from a long history of involvement in the sheep industry with her family moving to the agriculturally rich Riverina region of Southern NSW in 1965. Her mother was a devoted gardener which is where Sally first developed her deep interest in soil and plants – now the livelihood and focus of her 12,000-acre property west of Griffith NSW.

“I grew up on the farm, I was surrounded by plants, animals and space. For various reasons, I went off and studied and had a 20-year professional career but it was on my bucket list to be a farmer and I did not want to die wondering if it was something that I could have done. So when the opportunity came to come back and take over my share of the family partnership, I jumped at it.”
 
“I was working in London at the time as an agricultural economist doing analysis on the global business environment and felt at that time that sustainable agriculture was going to be the cutting edge of global development because it is so important to so many aspects of planetary health and human health. It was something that I thought was going to be very meaningful and it has been.”

Despite the tough seasonal conditions, Sally has managed her land and animals to ensure the health of both.

Sally returned to Australia to take over operations of Yambiana in 2004 where her focus is on animal welfare and the care of soil and landscape to produce nutritionally dense food. She constantly seeks to work in harmony with the natural environment while striving to improve her flock through genetics, natural immune function and stress minimisation.
 
“I think that agriculture is an incredibly important industry and that lamb production has a vital role in contributing to a healthy environment in the future because of the capacity of the animals to recycle nutrients and to be grown within a healthy ecosystem as opposed to more interventionist type activities.”

"I can’t think of anything more meaningful to do than to produce nutritious food. It really does create a sense of achievement to produce something that is nutritious while also giving people pleasure. To also see a flourishing natural environment and the farm and animals respond in this very bad season is almost miraculous. To just be in the landscape, to be in the space is a daily pleasure."

Some of Sally’s Dorper lambs in her specially designed low stress stock handling yards.

Dorper lambs jumping for joy as they head out into the paddock.

Sally typically runs around 4,000 head of Dorper sheep across a combination of irrigation and dry land – working with nature to the greatest extent possible and employing any technology that can help the system evolve into a more productive system.
 
“I focus a lot on soil health and getting as wide a range of beneficial species of pasture as possible. I really try and understand the detail of the soil chemistry and the water chemistry and the interactions between them and that evolution into a more productive system with a wider range of plants.”

Sally watches on as chefs Luke Piccolo and Bianca Johnston break down two of her Doper lamb carcases.

“When we look at modern agriculture, what people often associate with productivity is high input, high output. I’m aiming for a low-input, high-output system and sheep are vital to that because they recycle the vast majority of the nutrients that they consume. So you essentially have a system that requires very low inputs but can produce extremely high outputs.”
 
Sally originally produced Merinos but when she heard about the Dorper breed, she thought the concept was brilliant for her situation. A resilient breed, the Dorper naturally sheds its wool and as such is far less complex to manage than a dual-purpose breed that produces both wool and meat.
 
Dorpers are a much simpler operation for me and they are well suited to my environment. I think the less I have to handle the sheep and the more natural their environment and lifestyle, the more beneficial it is. I like the sheep to be not stressed and I also like to avoid stress myself.

“To have a resilient enterprise as a farmer, the number one thing you have to have is a fast feedback loop so you know if you are going in the right direction. I asked Luke if he would try some of my lamb and give me honest feedback and through this, I have been able to dramatically improve the product.”

Carcase breakdown in progress.

Sally approached local Griffith restauranteur Luke Piccolo from Limone four years ago to trial her lamb and provide her with feedback. Since then, the pair have worked collaboratively together to consistently improve the product.
 
“Luke and I have quite a few things in common – we’re both focused on sustainability and our operations run along very similar lines. There is a sensibility about creating a functioning ecosystem, having nutrient-dense products come from that functioning ecosystem and then translating that into food in which the ingredient is the hero.”
 
For Luke, the opportunity to work with Sally was exciting because the way her production system aligned with the ethos of his restaurant model in terms on sustainability and minimalist intervention.
 

"I think that if you have good production methods, then your product is going to eat better and be of higher value. We were pleasantly surprised about the quality of the lamb initially, and what’s been really interesting in the journey over the past four years, is the open conversation."

Sally’s lamb on the spit at Piccolo Family Farm.

“We’ve been fortunate to have an ongoing dialogue, and what’s amazing about Sally is that she is always striving to improve her production methods and the end product, which in turn is great for us because we are continually getting a better product – everybody wins.”
 
“Sally’s lamb produces a really clean fat, it’s full-flavoured but not overwhelming so we can use more of it. Yield is of such high importance so the more of the lamb we can use the better. The meat has this natural, moreish sweetness that is just divine, it’s really beautiful and I think that comes from the way the lamb is raised. It’s very natural with a diverse diet which produces this really healthy, quality, tasty lamb.”

Roadies

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We took a trip through the Riverina, one of the heartlands of Australian lamb production, before moving through into South Eastern NSW and finally rolling into the nation’s capital to see what we could find on our seventh Roadies adventure. And we were not disappointed.

 

Lamb loin cooked over the Spanish Mibrasa grill and served with lamb chorizo and greens at the Sir George.

From an impeccably refurbished hotel in a town of just 150 people – that serves 400 covers on a Sunday lunch; a quaint one hatted restaurant in Yass; quite possibly the best damn lamb pie we’ve tried to date and a lamb producer connecting people to the bush through stunning eco farm tourism. There is a deep-seated passion for local produce in these areas, a sense of community and an evolution of food culture that gives the cities a good run for their money.
 

The Sir George in Jugiong grows its own lamb and serves up to 400 covers on a Sunday lunch.

Now more than ever it is essential that we support regional communities – the people and the places that feed our nation and many around the world – and with the level of food on offer, there’s no time like the present to hit the road and be inspired by local produce and community spirit.

Susan at Poachers Pantry prepares some smoked lamb rack for our platter.

On The Menu

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For this special edition of On the Menu – we feature lamb dishes created for us by the finalists of the 2019 Appetite for Excellence Young Chef of the Year.

 

These incredibly talented young chefs are pushing boundaries in their creative approach to the carcase – thoughtfully utilising non-loin cuts and skillfully bringing them to their best through considered preparations and techniques.

 

With young chefs like these – the future of Australian food is looking exceptionally bright.

 
 
 

George preparing lamb skirt at Oakridge.

Lamb Skirt with Asparagus & Pea Flowers

 

George Wintle
Oakridge Wines – Coldstream VIC

 
Passionate young chef George Wintle has a demeanour and a drive that far outweighs his years. Working alongside Matt Stone and Jo Barrett at Oakridge for the past three years, George has not only honed his skills as a talented chef but considered more broadly the social aspects of the hospitality community.
 
In 2018 George launched a mental health campaign called Eat the Issue where he aims to tackle the stigmas associated with mental health by encouraging conversation and advocating for cultural change. How incredibly inspiring to know that the future of the food industry is in the hands of people like George – and fortunately the boy certainly can cook.

Lamb Skirt with Asparagus & Pea Flowers.

For his lamb dish, George takes on the lamb skirt – a cut not often seen in isolation from the lamb carcase. Similar in texture to the beef skirt, the lamb skirt is a flavoursome cut that requires some attention to bring to its best. George marinated the skirt in kangaroo garum for 48 hours which acts as a tenderiser while also bringing a punch of salty umami flavour to the lamb.
 
Thin slices of the skirt are then briefly fried in lamb fat resulting in full flavoured and tender bites of decadent lamb and served with asparagus also sauteed in lamb fat. The dish is finished with a dressing made from asparagus trim that has been charred, juiced and mixed with sherry vinegar, olive oil, meyer lemon zest, salt and pepper and fromage blanc made from jersey milk and garnished with fragrant pea flowers.

Ashley-Maree plating her lamb neck dish at Tasca.

Koji Lamb Neck Fillet with Spent Radicchio, Peas and Mints

 

Ashley-Maree Kent
Tasca – Coolangatta QLD

 
Ashley-Maree has been running the kitchen at Tasca full time for over a year having previously worked there part time while at Paper Daisy. Tasca is a 40 seat natural wine bar with a cool coastal Mediterranean vibe and champions local producers wherever possible.
 
Working alongside her partner in the kitchen, Ashley-Maree has curated an elevated menu that surpasses the usual confines of Gold Coast dining and introduces both the local and tourist diner to bountiful new ingredients, flavours and techniques.

Koji Lamb Neck Fillet with Spent Radicchio, Peas and Mints.

For her lamb dish, Ashely-Maree selected the lamb neck fillet which she then marinated in koji for 32 hours. The koji not only heightens the umami flavours of the lamb but also acts as a tenderiser thus reducing the need for braising this well utilised muscle of the lamb. The lamb is then pan fried before finishing to medium in the oven.
 
For the spent radicchio, Ashley-Maree picks the outer leaves and lightly pickles them in rice wine vinegar. The lamb is served with a mixture of Vietnamese and normal mint, fresh garden peas and snow peas and a puree of chickpeas on the base – lending a freshness to the rich, almost blue cheese flavour, of the koji marinated lamb.

 

 

Lamb Belly with Lamb Fat Vegetables

 

Serkan Tamcelik
Char – Wentworthville NSW

 
Serkan moved to Australia when he was four. His family’s obsession with all things Turkish food and culture saw him grow up with cooking over coals and fire – seeing that love of food and how it brought people together was what inspired him to get into cooking.
 
He commenced his apprenticeship at Rockpool Bar & Grill before moving on to Pier in Rose Bay where he completed it. After a break to pursue an engineering degree, his love of cooking pulled him back and he bolstered his skills and his resume with stages at Six Penny, Attica and Brae then three months at Mercado while Quay was renovated. He then joined the Quay team where he worked for three years with the great Peter Gilmore.
 

Serkan will open Char restaurant in Sydney’s West in January 2020.

Char will focus on dry aged proteins and a charcuterie program both done in house.

Following his Appetite for Excellence journey, he received a call from management at Wenty Leagues who pitched to him an idea they had for a high end restaurant in the West – to which he originally said no. But growing up in the suburb next door, he soon saw it as an opportunity to bring his refined skills back to the West and to throw himself into the challenges and learnings of opening a brand new restaurant. Raised in the area, his understanding of the local demographic and the food they like to eat has seen him curate a restaurant and a menu driven by coal and wood fire cooking with nuances of Turkish and Mediterranean cuisine. Focused on dry aged meats and seafood, Char is a new frontier for Sydney’s West – setting new standards of high end dining in the area.
 
The new restaurant will aim from 200 covers a day with a concentration of dry aged proteins and a charcuterie program both done in house and lamb cuts like lamb forequarter, belly and riblets featured on menu. Serkan will also oversee the menu of the adjacent bar with snacks like Turkish adana – lamb belly minced with capsicum juice and cayenne pepper moulded onto a skewer, cooked over coals and served on top of Turkish flat bread spread with confit garlic butter.

Lamb Belly with Lamb Fat Vegetables.

For this dish, lamb belly was seared and cooked in a steamer from around eight hours at 78 degrees in a mixture of chicken and lamb fat. The juices from the cook were then reduced with chicken stock to make a glaze. Portions of lamb belly were then cooked over the grill and served with radicchio, potato and onions that had been cooked in lamb fat and then grilled.

 

Lamb Brains with Preserved Lemon Sauce

 

Anna Ugarte-Carral
Momofuku Seiobo – Sydney NSW

 
There is nothing typical about Appetite for Excellence’s 2019 ‘one to watch’ Anna Ugarte-Carral. The energetic young chef has very much paved her own way on the path to an impressive career that is only just beginning. Anna also took home the prestigious 2020 Josephine Pignolet Young Chef of the Year at the Good Food Guide Awards – opening up a world of bright new opportunities.
 
She has been working with the Momo family in Sydney for two years – the only restaurant she really wanted to work in after returning from a three month stint opening the new Noma restaurant in Copenhagen in early 2018. One night after service at Noma she spoke with Paul Carmichael on the phone and the pair just clicked – chatting for a couple of hours and sealing her spot at Seiobo on her return.
 

Anna was named ‘one to watch’ at the 2019 Appetite for Excellence Awards and was named 2020 Josephine Pignolet Young Chef of the Year at the Good Food Guide Awards.

Lamb Brains with Preserved Lemon Sauce.

Hailing from a hospo family, Anna may have been born into the industry but her drive, determination and talent have seen her grow well and truly into it. Inspired by the cuisines of the Mediterranean – particularly France, Spain and Italy – and her stage at Lyle’s in London – she considers food the way it’s meant to be. Be that through availability of produce relevant to seasonality and regionality or through traditional preparations, doing things the right way even though it may not be the convenient way.
 
For this dish, Anna wanted to tie into old traditions while challenging herself with something she was not immediately familiar with. Lamb brains come as two lobes connected by the stem – she removed the stem and then soaked in water before sectioning into portions and poaching in water with aromats.
 
Next the portions are tossed in yoghurt and rolled in rice flour then shallow fried until crispy and golden. Served with a fresh, zingy sauce of preserved lemon, olive oil, chives, shallots and creme fraiche for the ultimate snack or starter.
 

Lamb brains are soaked in water before portioning and poaching in water with aromats.

 

Tom plating his two part lamb dish at Cirrus.

Lamb Shoulder & Sweetbread with White Asparagus & Turnip

 

Thomas Foster
Cirrus Dining – Barangaroo NSW

 
Tom always enjoyed cooking and started on the pans in high school when he met a chef who took him on as an apprentice. From there he just kept meeting chefs and kept on enjoying the process and creativity of cooking as well as the camaraderie and mateship of kitchens.
 
He travelled extensively looking to learn as much as he could about different food cultures before beefing up his skill set with six months under the guidance of Brett Graham at The Ledbury and then the one Michelin starred gastro pub the Harwood Arms.
 

Lamb Shoulder & Sweetbread with White Asparagus & Turnip.

With a disciplined style of cooking, Tom favours modern cooking techniques with a European influence and an interest in nose to tail and using a variety of cuts on the plate. He likes clean plates of food that show off the produce – and is a keen forager and gardener, foraging once a week for the restaurant and growing an array of vegetables at home which sometimes make it to the restaurant kitchen.
 
For this two part lamb dish, lamb shoulder was salted, braised for 10 hours and then pressed, portioned, chargrilled and brushed with a quandong glaze – while lamb sweetbreads were brined, poached and roasted. Served with white asparagus poached and chargrilled and a mix of white asparagus, quandong and baby turnips.
 
On the base – a vibrant green turnip leaf puree and turnip leaves to garnish – picked from Tom’s own garden – and finished with a sauce made from the braising liquid and red wine.

Tom has an interest in nose to tail and using a variety of cuts.

 
 
 
 

Where Are They Now?

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Founded by renowned Australian chef and restaurateur Luke Mangan and Lucy Allon in 2005 – the Appetite for Excellence program recognises and fosters young hospitality professionals through a process of application and judging, educational workshops, paddock to plate tours and leadership mentoring activities.

 
 
 
 
Appetite for Excellence identifies Australia’s top young talent, puts them through their paces, challenges them to develop their skills and provides them with mentoring and education to nurture their success in becoming Australia’s next generation of inspiring leaders.
 
As a proud sponsor of the program, Rare Medium caught up with some of the finalists from the last few years to see where they are now – and how they’re serving up Australian lamb. These incredible young individuals are all at the top of their game and naturally working towards improving the sustainability of their industry through considered management of people and produce.

Alanna on the pass at Arc.

Runner up of the 2017 program, Alanna has crafted an impressive career to date and we were stoked to have her on board as the guest chef editor of our Autumn Lamb 2018 issue. It’s been quite the year for Alanna since leaving her role as head chef at Saint Peter in Paddington and opening Arc Dining, the flagship restaurant of Brisbane’s massive Howard Smith Wharves food precinct.

 
 
 

Lamb rump with radicchio, currents and hazelnuts.

Arc opened to rave reviews across the food community, secured its first hat at the Good Food Guide Awards and was named number one for QLD in the Delicious Top 100. Meanwhile, Alanna herself took home Gourmet Traveller’s Best New Talent and the Unearthed Next-Gen Chef Award at the Delicious Produce Awards. It’s a stellar result for the young chef who champions producers in her innovative and inspired menu and makes a concerted effort to understand where her produce comes from and to know the producers behind it – fostering a mutual respect through the entire process.
 
“What I like about lamb is it has a very definite taste – it’s not wishy-washy so as an ingredient that makes it easy to pair with other ingredients because it has such a distinguished taste. I want us to focus on understanding the primals and muscles of the carcase, how to break them down and how they respond to various preparations and techniques.”

Lamb fat curly wurly – Alanna encourages diners to venture outside the confines of what they think constitutes sweet and savoury.

Zack in the Bar Liberty kitchen.

A finalist from the 2018 program, Zack now heads up the kitchen at Melbourne hot spot Bar Liberty in his first head chef position. Prior Zack worked with chef Peter Gunn for six years – three years helping with the infamous Ides pop ups and then for three years as Pete’s sous chef at Ides in Collingwood. Prior to that the pair also worked side by side for two years at Ben Shewry’s Attica.

 
 
 

Smoked lamb breast with zucchini and chamomile.

Taking over the reins from Casey Wall, Zack is working towards tightening up the produce to have a more Australian focus while ensuring a conscious and considered approach to sourcing. The regularly changing menu gives him room to flex his creative muscles with one or two dishes changing every few weeks while he is also moving towards making everything in-house starting with his own vinegars using spent fruit.
 
Zack always has both a cooked, and a raw meat dish on the menu that change with the seasons – he prefers to utilise a variety of non-loin cuts appreciating the different flavour profiles of cuts like lamb belly and beef flank.
 
For his lamb dish, Zack rubs lamb breast with Dijon and balsamic then confits for four hours at 90 degrees. He then pulls out the bones and smokes the lamb over applewood for 25-30 minutes at a low temperature. Zucchini is sliced and seasoned with chamomile salt then lightly roasted and dressed with a house-made stringy bark mead vinegar and chamomile. The acidity of the vinegar cuts through the juicy smoked lamb for a delectable and balanced dish.

 
 
 

Brad in the kitchen at Florence.

A finalist from the 2018 program, Brad now finds himself at the helm of a stunning repurposed 1930s white weatherboard cottage in a leafy suburb of Brisbane. Florence celebrates Brisbane’s love of the cafe culture while Brad elevates the food far beyond the average suburban menu. Previously at fine diner favourite Gauge for two years, Brad brings a new level of inspired cooking to Camp Hill.

 
 
 
 

Raw lamb leg with pickled quandong, bay leaf curd and pangrattato.

In his first role as head chef, Brad’s menu is inspired by a modern approach to traditions like fermentation and preserving and makes everything in-house including kefirs, kombuchas, pickles and preserves. With a mix of diners, he keeps the menu approachable while taking guests on a journey into his own innovative takes on comfort food using wholesome ingredients thoughtfully sourced from a range of local organic and sustainable producers. Open for all-day breakfast and lunch as well as a share-style long lunch on Sundays, Florence is the kind of place you wish you could just stay the whole day.
 
Preferring the textures and flavours of non-loin cuts, Brad plated up two lamb dishes for us – one raw and one cooked. For the raw dish, a whole lamb leg was deboned then chopped and mixed with pickled quandong and salt and pepper. Served with bay leaf curd, pangrattato and a piperade made from fermented capsicum juice – the dish was perfectly balanced and delicately flavoured with textural contrasts of the raw lamb, creamy bay leaf curd and crunchy pangrattato.
 
For the second dish, lamb neck was first brined then slowly braised overnight and shredded down. It was then mixed with miso eggplant made from whole eggplants cooked down in a miso mustard mix and stuffed inside a burnt barley flour crepe with black sesame cheese, fresh radish and nasturtium.
 
 
 

Lamb neck and miso eggplant crepe.

 
 

Troy in the kitchen at Quay.

2016 Appetite for Excellence runner up Troy Crisante has well and truly landed at the top of the game with almost two years in the head chef role at perhaps one of Australia’s most renowned restaurants. Troy originally worked at Quay about six years ago where he finished his apprenticeship under the guidance of industry legend Peter Gilmore. He then travelled overseas working at the Ledbury for two years before returning home for the opening of Bennelong where he worked for three years. Next it was Firedoor for a change of culinary pace – learning the intricacies of live fire cooking with the master Lennox Hastie for 18 months. At the request of Peter Gilmore, who Troy says you can’t really say no to, he returned as head chef to Quay for its reopening in July 2018.

Tasty skewers of lamb leg cooking over coals.

With almost nine years on and off with the Fink Group – one of Australia’s most ambitious restaurant groups and well and truly at the top end of dining – Troy has found exceptional mentors that have helped to shape his career and put him in good stead for the future. He’s made conscious decisions to work around the group to experience the different styles of cooking – from the intricate 10 course tasting menu only at Quay, to the more casual fine dining of Bennelong and the thrill of fire cooking at Firedoor – he’s honed not only cooking but leadership skills learning from the best in the business.
 
During Quay’s renovation, it was more than just the menu and the dining room that evolved – the welfare and wellbeing of staff was also addressed. With 40 chefs on roster and about 20 working at any one time – most chefs are working four days on and three days off and are moving towards reducing further to three full and one half day a week. Troy says that the changes mean they are getting the most out of the team when they are there and that there is a marked difference in people’s attitudes and demeanours.
 
When we visit Troy, he cooks us up his current obsession – arrosticini – a traditional cuisine from Southern Italy. Originally a shepherd’s dish from around the mountains of Abruzzo, arrosticini is essentially chunks of lamb threaded onto skewers, simply seasoned with salt and cooked over coals. Troy uses lamb leg which has just the right amount of fat and tender meat for fast, juicy cooking – the fat dripping through to the coals and flavouring the meat with smoke. Skewers of lamb are cooked and then placed into a ceramic vessel that keeps them warm. At bars in the region, you can order them by the 100 – portable, tasty and so satisfyingly simple.

Lamb arrosticini was originally a shepherd’s dish from the mountains of Abruzzo.

 
 
 

Alex in the dining room at Icebergs Dining Room and Bar.

Alex grew up in the Blue Mountains and started as a kitchen hand at the age of 14 at Lochiel House, where he says cooking always came much more naturally to him than school. He moved into Sydney at the age of 15 and started an apprenticeship at Hugo’s before joining Momofuku Seiobo with Ben Greeno and Clayton Wells where he stayed for two and a half years. It was then on to Ananas with Paul McGrath before moving in to Australia’s most iconic beachside restaurant, Icebergs Dining Room and Bar. Alex had just moved into the head chef role when he completed the Appetite for Excellence program in 2018 and now takes on even more responsibility with the recent departure of group executive chef Monty Koludrovic.

 
 
 
Alex makes a concerted effort to work closely with farmers and growers and to encourage his team to do the same – an ethos handed down from Monty that reverberates through the kitchen. Every Saturday Alex will meet with certain producers at Carriage Works, taking different chefs along each time to build their own relationships and to learn about the production process. This connection to produce means Alex has a very natural style of food – telling the stories of his suppliers through carefully considered preparations that allow the produce to be the hero.
 
When it comes to lamb, Alex likes to utilise different cuts that offer a unique profile. His approach to red meat in general is quality over quantity – allowing provenance and quality to take centre stage. For this dish, lamb neck was boned, rolled and marinated in seaweed then braised for about 12 hours and served alongside a slice of lamb loin that had been roasted over charcoal. Served with potatoes poached with seaweed in kelp butter, a sauce of fermented hibiscus and ginger, poached turnips and hibiscus leaves.

Duo of lamb with kelp potatoes and hibiscus.

Like other renowned restaurants leading the new charge of working structure, Icebergs has also changed its roster over the last 12 months to ensure that everyone gets three days off and nobody works over a 10 hour day. With the restaurant open for lunch and dinner seven days a week, the roster has also been structured so the whole team can get together and have a break together. Alex says that people are happier and providing a work and lifestyle balance is helping to retain staff.
 
One of the biggest learning processes for Alex since taking on the head chef role has been working with and learning about the wine side of the business. Head sommelier Gabrielle Webster started at the same time and the pair formed an important relationship. Alex completed WSET to understand better what she does and how the food and wine components of the business can work more seamlessly together.

Max on the pass serving up lamb ragu and goat farfalle.

Winner of the 2018 Young Chef of the Year, Max is now heading up the kitchen at the former site of The Pot which has evolved into pumping pasta bar Nido. Formerly head chef Shobosho, Max and his wife Laura felt the time was right to bring their take on Italian food to Adelaide. Both come from Italian families and grew up eating Italian food and they wanted to create a place that they felt like coming to on their day off – and it’s certainly paid off. Following a high praise review from John Lethlean, the venue has continued to be busy and the food coming from the kitchen is well and truly worthy.

Lamb ragu utilises the entire lamb carcase after the removal of the prime cuts.

Max tells us Nido is not ‘strictly Italian’ with twists on flavour combinations and a mixing up of proteins that challenges tradition whilst reflecting his and Laura’s own approach to a modern Italian menu. Lamb, veal and goat all come in as whole carcases with primary cuts showcased as specials and the rest utilised to make ragus, stocks and sauces.
 
As part of his Appetite for Excellence win, Max headed to Amass in Copenhagen for five weeks where his eyes were opened to a whole new level of conscious cooking at the certified organic and almost zero waste restaurant. Believing that this is the way of the future for restaurants, Max has started to incorporate waste management into his own operations from packaging to food scraps and sees it as a natural progression for the industry to work as mindfully as possible and to take responsibility for what they are purchasing.
 
When it comes to red meat, Max sources the best quality products he can find and primarily works with his local butcher instead of through wholesale suppliers. A relationship built over many years allows for a flexibility of providing cuts when they are needed and a trust in the sourcing of the proteins.
 
Max’s lamb ragu dish has been on the menu from the start and is made using as much of the carcase as possible after the removal of the primary cuts. The lamb is braised for about six hours with peppers and fermented chilli and served with a house made semolina pasta, fermented chilli and finished with pecorino.

 
 
 

Clare preparing her lamb dish under the trees at Hentley Farm.

Clare competed in the 2019 Appetite for Excellence program and was promoted to head chef at the beautiful Hentley Farm in October 2019 after two years in the kitchen with executive chef Lachlan Colwill. The new role sees her taking on more responsibility across the business – learning the business behind the business and the intricacies of running a restaurant.

The 150 acre vineyard and mixed farming property is the inspiration and the catalyst for a seasonally driven menu that features mostly what they can grow. Clare spends a lot of time in the garden and is always working towards being more sustainable in her operations. No food product goes into a bin – absolutely nothing is wasted and where possible waste is repurposed like using citrus peels to make their own cleaning products. All food scraps go to feed the farm animals or into the compost.
 
In the kitchen of 12, Clare encourages all the chefs to try the produce that they grow and to put forward dish ideas as a team so collectively they are able to create the best dish they can that heroes the produce. She cares passionately about the happiness of her team and works to understand their interests in the kitchen as well as the garden and other aspects of the farm – then fostering that interest to make her team more aware of and connected to their own passions.
 
Hentley Farm also grows their own proteins including lambs, pigs and chickens and practices whole carcase utilisation. Prime cuts are mostly removed and used for a main dish while the rest will be transformed into another dish or a snack and used to feed the stocks.
 
For her lamb carpaccio dish, Clare uses the topside of Black Suffolk lamb grown at Hentley Farm, slicing thinly and finishing with fresh produce from the garden including broadbeans, mint, currents and harissa.

Six-ingredient lamb carpaccio – five of which are grown at Hentley Farm including the lamb.

Fast Facts

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Fast Facts

Lamb and mutton prices surged to record levels in 2019 as lower domestic supply met with robust international demand.

The majority of Australian sheep producers are still managing heavily depleted breeding flocks and heightened feed costs as severe drought conditions continue.

The national sheep flock was hit hard in 2019 on the back of difficult conditions in many key sheep producing areas. At 66 million head, the flock estimation represents a decline of 6.5% year-on-year.

Looking forward, lamb production is expected to steadily recover over the next few years to 531,000 tonnes cwt in 2022, based on lamb productivity gains and the assumption of a growing flock and the return to average seasonal conditions.

The number of consumers shifting to a vegetarian diet remains relatively stable at 7.6% although 75% of vegetarians classify themselves as ‘flexi’ and open to including meat in their diet.

Next Issue

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With Australian Beef fuelling the Australian Olympic and Paralympic teams for Tokyo 2020 - we thought it was the perfect opportunity for a Japanese themed issue.

We hang out with Tetsuya’s executive chef Josh Raine, take a trip to Mayura Station producing outstanding Australian Wagyu and head to Tokyo to explore Aussie beef on menus. It’s going to be big!