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Food

Curtis Stone - Inspire To Aspire

More Often Associated with the TV than the Kitchen, Curtis Stone is proving he is a Chef and Restauranteur to be reckoned with.

It may surprise many to learn that Curtis Stone only opened up his first restaurant a few years ago. Not that he intended to wait so long, it's just that he got offered a chance to be in a book, then appear on TV, then co-host a TV show. He's been on our screens ever since. Broad shouldered, blond haired, strong jawed, charismatic and attractive, and a genuinely nice guy. He is perfect for TV.

First came Surfing the Menu, with good mate, Ben O'Donoghue. He then hosted the first series of My Restaurant Rules on Channel 7 before going to the States to try his luck with a show called, Take Home Chef. It was a hit, Curtis even more so. He's since appeared on everything from Iron Chef America to Conan O'Brien. He's a regular on Oprah, and Ellen, and even starred on the Celebrity Apprentice with current US President Donald Trump.

Australians, too, instantly recognise Curtis, most often as the face of Coles. But somewhere amongst all this glitz and glamour, the identity of Curtis as a chef was lost. We know he can cook flavoursome, everyday meals. His six successful cookbooks confirm this with titles like Relaxed Cooking with Curtis Stone and What's for Dinner? But can he really cook? Like a top chef? A few impressive performances on cooking shows just wouldn't be enough. To really prove it, Curtis had to open his own restaurant.

Curtis' early career suggests he was well on the way to becoming a chef of renown. Completing an apprenticeship at The Savoy in Melbourne, he headed to London with a dream to work for culinary royalty, Marco Pierre White. Curtis met him. Marco liked the ambitious Aussie and put him to work that very day as a chef de partie at Café Royale. Just over a year later, Curtis was sous chef at Marco's Mirabelle when the restaurant won its first Michelin star. The following year, he was made head chef at another of Marco's restaurants, Quo Vadis. Curtis' future in the kitchen seemed bright - but an unexpected TV career burned brighter, while the flame of having his own restaurant always flickered inside.

Opening Daze

In February 2014, Curtis opened Maude in Beverly Hills, Los Angeles, an intimate 24-seat restaurant named after one of his culinary inspirations, his paternal grandmother. For any chef, starting a restaurant invites scrutiny, for Curtis, it was monumental.

"I was looking down the barrel because I felt there was a long line of people dying to say, 'He's only a TV guy, just a pretty face, he can't really cook,' because there's a perception that chefs on TV are not real restaurant chefs," admits Curtis when we speak after the Selector photoshoot in LA.

"Also, on a personal note, the kitchen had changed a lot in the six or so years I was out of it - different technology and techniques. Sous vide wasn't something I had done a lot of, there were no isi canisters (foams), no dehydrators - it was a very different environment. Not that I had stopped cooking, I had just stopped cooking in a restaurant.

"So I had a challenge: do I ignore it? Or do I go on a journey of learning again? That was more exciting for me, so I rolled my sleeves up and got back to it."

Curtis aimed high with Maude: a 10-course degustation menu focused around an item of seasonal produce… Oh, and the menu changes every month.

"I call it the creative treadmill, you're just never allowed off the bloody thing," jokes Curtis. "The first week you are teaching everyone what to do on their sections, week two you are dreaming of the new menu but still running the kitchen. Week three you have to perfect everything for the next menu and show it to your wine team, because they need a week to order stuff in, then the last week you are prepping people for what's coming. Then at the end of the month you literally throw it all away and start again.

"It is a very exciting restaurant to work in because you are constantly learning, teaching, figuring stuff out, making mistakes, but that is a part of the creative process and it has been so fulfilling."

And successful. The ever-evolving menu means regulars keep coming back. New bookings are near impossible. And the critics love Maude, too.

The esteemed James Beard Foundation named it one of the Best New Restaurants in the USA. The LA Weekly rated it the Best Restaurant in Los Angeles 2015 with the publication's food critic Besha Rodell gushing, "Maude's seasonal menus have been some of the most subtly thrilling meals I've had in Los Angeles."

Ode to Nan

In July last year, Curtis doubled his aspirations and his massive workload, (not withstanding his TV commitments and the fact he has two young sons with wife Lindsay) when he opened his second restaurant, Gwen, named after his maternal nan, in the heart of Hollywood.

In many ways, it is the yin to Maude's yang. Where Maude is small, restrained and largely veggie based, Gwen is large, lavish and meaty. Housed in a 1920s art deco building on Sunset Boulevard, the fit out is stunning with a dining room that recalls the golden years of Hollywood. There's an a la carte menu at the bar and a fixed umpteen-course menu in the dining room. Gwen is all at once, a restaurant, a cocktail bar, a patio hang-out, and a butcher shop. Yep, a butcher shop.

"It is a pretty special joint," says Curtis, laconically. "Something I always missed in LA was a great butcher shop, and when I say great butcher shop, I mean one that sources game, does whole animal butchery and has different cuts.

"My idea was, if you've got a butcher shop and a restaurant, then you can create a use for anything you buy in. I was just in the shop cutting some pheasant terrine for a customer. We bought that pheasant in two days ago and I turned it into a terrine, which I can sell in the shop or in the restaurant. So you never waste anything."

Curtis Stone's 80-Day Dry Aged Ribeye with Creamed Corn and Scallions

"We actually have those rib-eyes 80 days in the dry aged room, and we roast it medium rare over the wood burning grill. The creamed corn is this pretty incredible accompaniment. What we do is we take the kernels off and we take the centre of the cobs and we boil the husk of the corn which gives you a really gorgeous corn-flavoured stock and then you bring the corn back up and the corn has a natural thickening quality to it. That is why corn flavour or corn starch is used as a thickening agent. So it will actually thicken on its own. So if you cook it very gently, that juice will thicken and we will do that with the corn so it is this beautiful caramel-y flavour that you can develop into cream corn. And then the spring onions are great for a little crunch and a little richness in terms of the flavour that you get."

Wine Match: A steak dish with this richness of flavour will pair perfectly with a classic Barossan Shiraz. The Stage Door Front and Centre Shiraz 2015 shows spicy aromas of dark cherry fruit with violet perfume. Juicy yet poised with a supple core of blackberry and plum, hints of toasty oak complexity and a gentle spicy lift.

Get Curtis Stone's 80 day dry-aged ribeye with creamed corn and charred scallions recipe here

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Food
More pork on your fork
Words by Mark Hughes on 10 Aug 2015
One of my favourite scenes in the TV show, The Simpsons, is when Lisa is telling her dad Homer that she is no longer going to eat meat.

“What about bacon?” asks Homer.

“No,” replies Lisa.

“Ham?”

“No.”

“Pork chops?”

“Dad, those all come from the same animal.”

“Heh heh heh. Ooh, yeah, right, Lisa. A wonderful, magical animal.”

It might have been a great punchline on TV, but in reality Homer was pretty spot on. The varied cuts of pork and the vast ways to cook them has seen pork become very popular with Australians. But it hasn’t always been this way. Statistics show that 50 years ago it was beef and lamb that dominated the dinner plate; pork, and chicken for that matter, were barely a blip on the radar. One of the key reasons why this has changed is also the same reason why we are drinking table wine instead of fortifieds, and that is immigration. Our once predominant English-inspired dinner of meat and three veg has thankfully been complemented by a succulent array of delicious dishes. Think spaghetti Bolognese, pasta carbonara, chorizo paella, char siu – all of which, incidentally, feature pork; and that is not even thinking about breakfast (bacon and eggs) or, for that matter, lunch; ham and salad sandwich, anyone? Kitchen tradition Peter Haydon, marketing manager for Australian Pork , says tradition has played a huge role in shaping our food preferences and hindered his job in promoting pork. “People grow up to cook the meals their parents cooked,” he says “That was steak and veg, lamb chops, roast beef.” Decades ago Australian Pork had great success with the ‘get some pork on your fork’ campaign – many of you reading this will still have that phrase indelibly inked on your memory, and while that brought attention to the ‘other white meat’, it only did some of the job. “The next challenge was teaching them how to cook it,” says Peter. For the past decade, Australian Pork have marketed PorkStars – a collection of well-known chefs such as Manu Feildel , Giovanni Pilu , Alessandro Pavoni , Dan Hong, Chui Lee Luk – all of whom have shown Australians how to cook pork via events and recipes. Manu explains that pork played a huge role in his upbringing in France, learning different cuts and the many ways to prepare them. It is this knowledge that he hopes to pass on through his recipes.   “Food has always played a big part in our lives, my dad was a chef, so was his dad,” says Manu. “One of my uncles is a ‘charcutier’, so he’s an expert with pork and making pork products, such as salamis, pâtès, rillettes, and his own specialities, so pork has always been part of my diet. “I believe that pork is more versatile than any other animal,” states Manu. “You can eat everything from ‘nose to tail’. Roasts, stews, pan fried, deep fried, confit. Charcuterie, and things you not think about, like intestine for sausage skin, blood for black pudding, head for terrines, trotters, tail, ears, and more. “Creating recipes with pork is endless and it is a great match with other ingredients. It pairs beautifully with fruits such as apple, prunes, apricots, so as a chef, you can let your imagination run wild.” The science of eating Manu is also brand ambassador for Murray Valley Pork , part of the Rivalea group and Australia’s largest pork producer. They sell their extensive range of pork products exclusively through butchers and see the affable chef as a great way to promote their brand and also to continue to educate Australians on how to cook pork. “Manu’s reputation as an acclaimed chef has been instrumental in growing awareness of the brand,” says Sean Barrett, marketing manager with Murray Valley Pork. “We work together to communicate the same message: the best quality taste and experience when it comes to pork.” To this end, over the past 15 years Murray Valley Pork have invested heavily in addressing many concerns of consumers, from animal welfare to issues such as dryness, colour and pork taint, to create a better quality product. “There’s a cultural misconception that pork needs to be served well done, however more consumers are understanding this is not the case,” says Sean, who explains that they use a number of techniques including moisture infusion to ensure their pork doesn’t dry out from cooking. “It is easy to cook, which means everyone can produce a great result This guarantee of a soft, tender and delicious meal every time significantly increases consumer confidence in cooking pork.” Well-fed welfare Dr Rebecca Morrison, animal welfare programs manager at Rivalea, details how the company has also set the benchmark in providing the best care of their stock. “Rivalea commits to ‘care for every pig, every day’,” she says. “For instance, instead of pregnant sow stalls, our pregnant sows are now housed in social groups. This ensures that the sow is able to move freely within group housing and is able to perform natural social behaviours. More than half of our pigs are reared in straw-bedded housing systems. “Other programs include loose farrowing systems, group weaning of sows and environmental enrichment for animals. This humane treatment ensures the end product is of the highest quality.” It is these points that Manu believes will see pork continue to grow in the market and is the reason why he chose to work with the brand. “Murray Valley Pork produces the highest quality of meat,” he says. “They do this ethically and responsibly. And I love the consistency, sweetness and tenderness across all of their cuts.” Check out Manu's delicious pork recipes with our wine matching suggestions Pork, peas and asparagus risotto
Two Blues Sauvignon Blanc 2014
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