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Food

Peter Gunn - The New Guard

It's been 12 months since his successful pop-up, Ides, became one of Melbourne's most exciting restaurants, but this Kiwi chef is out to prove there's much more to come.

Shrugging off expectations can be difficult, something Peter Gunn discovered when he left Melbourne's renowned Attica to open his own restaurant, Ides, last year. "Being the ex-sous chef at Attica can be hard to shake off," he says. "Ben is my greatest mentor and has changed my life, but I don't want that restaurant. I think we're through that now, but it did take a while."

 

The Wellington-born chef spent five years in Ben Shewry's kitchen, having come from Dunkeld's Royal Mail Hotel with Dan Hunter. Guests familiar with both restaurants will see the DNA at his eatery in Collingwood's Smith Street, but Peter is definitely taking his own path.

FROM LITTLE THINGS

Ides developed from an idea to start a catering company with a friend. They had business cards printed, put out the word and booked zero jobs. Thankfully, Attica allowed him to flex his creative muscle.

"I started to have a lot of my own ideas and I really wanted them to go somewhere," says the 31-year-old. The idea of a pop-up was floated.

"Month by month, we grew. We started bringing in our own stuff, we got people involved, we started cooking better food, serving it better." Soon, it was near impossible to get a seat at the monthly events.

"Right from the beginning," he says when asked when he knew the pop-up would translate to a full-time establishment. Not that there haven't been moments when he's wondered if it would work, but he's developed a coping mechanism that involves focusing on his family, wife Nirvalla and three-year-old son Oden, on days off. They have another baby on the way and Peter's planning to spend less time in the kitchen, a move that may raise some eyebrows.

"I've learned not to give a toss what anyone thinks," he says. "I've been praised in some media, belittled in others, and if you look for approval, it can really chew you up. But I'd come into the restaurant, which was full of people enjoying themselves, and realise it didn't really matter what was going on out there."

TALKING EVOLUTION

Ask a Melbourne diner what they know about Ides and they'll likely tell you it's the place where the chefs serve the dishes.

"We started running the food at the pop-up, but we just ran it, put it down and said this is what it is," Peter explains. "These days we serve the food. We really try and engage, although not everyone is interested - they just want to eat."

There are just six chefs in the kitchen, and they create six-course menus each night for 36 diners. More recently, they've added an optional course, an appetiser and two different types of bread.

"It's really about building a repertoire of dishes I can call my own," says Peter. Rather than regularly changing the entire menu, a new dish is introduced every fortnight. "It takes about two weeks, I think, to get a dish right. We started a new, very intricate dessert on Wednesday and it's in its third version tonight."

When the restaurant opened, the menu changed each week. "But guests don't come in every week, so it was putting a lot of pressure on my small team. Now we work on one thing until it's rock solid then we can move on to the next dish."

It's not just the food evolving. With the restaurant's first birthday happening on March 15 , Peter is keen to move forward. He's introduced the Sample Menu, where diners are served dishes currently in development. One Day Sundays are the equivalent of a pop-up within the space. Then there are the guest chefs, like Federico Zanellato from Sydney's LuMi Dining, who brought his Italian offering in February.

"When your on-call mentor is gone, you call on other chefs to learn from them. We're not going to replicate his (Zanellato's) food, but we are going to learn some stuff we don't come across from day to day here."

TIS THE SEASONING

If George, Matt or Gary were to take a seat at Ides they would never give Peter a pasting about lack of seasoning.

"It's got me in trouble, but I'm a sucker for salt," he says. "And it's made me realise I need to create seasonings that can withstand the amount of salt I like. So to balance it out, I need high-intensity sugar or high-intensity pepper."

It is the ability to present those different bold flavours in innovative 
ways that has proved Ides' big attraction. "The inspiration comes from everywhere, the flavour profiles come from anywhere and, for the most part, dishes are based around produce at its peak."

He goes on to explain the lengthy development of a dish involving pork hock, tomatoes, lovage, rhubarb and blood orange. "There's a lot of focus, a lot of restraint and discipline there."

The four dishes he's presented here are riffs on classics - the mint-glazed lamb neck wrapped in roasted parsley is a nod to a traditional roast. They're dishes meant to be shared for a Sunday lunch. And all four involve full-on seasoning.

"The cos lettuce is brushed with bonito vinegar and lemon oil, then the seasoning is lots of salt, lots of palm sugar, lots of chilli, there's so much sensation going on. It's so unassuming, but the flavour is big."

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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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