Healthy Eating

We're championing fresh food that packs a flavour punch, from salads and vegetable-packed bowls to grains and light desserts.

Subscribe to Gourmet

Subscribe to Australian Gourmet Traveller and receive a copy of Nordic Light - offer ends 23 April 2017.

Gourmet digital

Subscribe to Gourmet Traveller for your iPad or Android tablet.

Fast autumn dinners

Autumn weather signals the arrival of soups, broths, roasts and more hearty meals.

Flour and Stone Recipes

Baker extraordinaire Nadine Ingram of Sydney's Flour and Stone cooks up a sweet storm for Easter, including the much loved bakery's greatest hit.

Roasted cauliflower salad with yoghurt dressing and almonds

The cauliflower is roasted until it starts to caramelise, which adds extra depth of flavour to this winning salad. Serve it warm or at room temperature.

All Star Yum Cha

What happens the morning after the World’s 50 Best Restaurants awards? We treat the chefs to a world-beating yum cha session, as Dani Valent discovers.

Lemon tart

It's really important to seal the pastry well to prevent any seepage during cooking, and to trim the pastry soon after cooking. Let the tart cool in the tin before removing it, or it will crack.

Spelt cashew and broccoli bowl with yoghurt dressing

This nicely textured salad transports well, making it ideal for picnics or to take to barbecues. The broccoli can be kept raw and shaved on a mandolin, too.

Melbournes finest meet Worlds Best

Leading chefs descend on Melbourne in April for The World’s 50 Best Restaurants. We asked local hospitality folk who they’d abduct for the day and where they’d take them to show off their city. There may be coffee, there may be culture, but in the end it’s cocktails.

Bali's new wave of restaurants, hotels and bars

The restaurant and hotel scene on Australia's favourite holiday island has never been more exciting and Australian chefs, owners and restaurateurs are leading the charge, writes Samantha Coomber.

The storyteller chef

"It's not a straightforward cookbook," says GT's Chef of the Year, Ben Shewry, master of understatement. "And it's not really a restaurant book either. There's a lot of my family in there, and storytelling is a huge part of my family's heritage - telling real-life stories about what has been happening to us is something we've always done for entertainment - and so I wanted to bring some of that to it. So really it's the story of my journey to where I am now."

"Here", of course, is Attica, the Melbourne restaurant housed in what used to be a suburban bank. It's where New Zealand-born Shewry has for the last seven years been attracting increasing international attention (Noma's Rene Redzepi, for one, is a vocal cheerleader) for his clever, sometimes whimsical and always interesting cooking style while also developing his stances on ethics and sustainability.

More recently, his foray into the world of books has resulted in the moodily beautiful Origin: The Food of Ben Shewry. Shewry's claim that it's concerned with narrative as well as cooking is no idle marketing ploy. Parts of Origin read as a memoir about growing up in a close-knit family on a farm in the isolated rural north-west of New Zealand's North Island, with all the hard work, adventure and fantastic, almost fairy-tale elements that come with that particular territory.

Shewry's dramatic, sometimes disturbing tales tell of wild geese being senselessly slaughtered by drunken revellers at a party, of cooking schools run by bellowing, swearing chefs and of restaurants thick with Byzantine layers of politics and hierarchy. There are stories of eating Chinese takeaway with his grandparents, of taking a revelatory stroll through Copenhagen's King's Garden with food scientist Harold McGee. We see Shewry laying his first hangi at the age of 10 (potatoes only, not left long enough to cook properly), and we see him also washed off rocks while fishing as a kid and saved by his father. And we see him teaching his own children the ways and the joys of foraging. The storytelling gene is strong in this one.

Origin also reads as an entertaining how-to manual on, say, setting up that hangi, mustering a flock of panicked sheep (courtesy of Shewry's dad, Rob), foraging for sea lettuce and humanely butchering cattle. But for all the storytelling and philosophising, it's a book very much about the food of Attica.

Anyone who has eaten at Attica over the years will recognise some of the recipes in Origin, particularly the long-standing signature dishes such as the "simple dish of potato cooked in the earth it was grown" ("simple" is clearly a relative term: the ingredient list includes 3kg of soil), the ethereal, volcano-shaped "snow crab" and the six-separate-recipes, start-two-days-in-advance "terroir". You can see the Julie & Julia-style recipe challenge blogs already.

Certainly this is not cooking for the faint of heart. Origin belongs to that breed of restaurant book, along with Peter Gilmore's Quay, Mark Best's Marque and even Heston Blumenthal's Fat Duck Cookbook, where there is no dumbing-down of recipes, no shortcuts or offer of alternatives for the home cook.

"I haven't held back with the recipes," says Shewry. "I thought it was important for them to be exactly as we do them in the restaurant kitchen because it is the only way to really explain and show to people why we do the things we do, why we go to the trouble of doing things in certain ways."

One man's simplicity can be another's nervous breakdown, and while Shewry was fastidious about making sure the recipes were properly tested, nearly every dish in the book involves multiple components, many of which require advanced cooking skills and call for equipment such as rotary evaporators, chamber vacuum sealers and food dehydrators. "Terroir", for example, requires you to make beetroot cake, sorrel ice, fromage blanc sorbet, avocado jelly and terroir base (a mix of freeze-dried berries, barley and beetroot) and then finishes off with another recipe devoted just to plating and garnishing with an ingredient list that includes 32 burnet leaves. The very things that attract us to dishes on restaurant menus, of course, are the ones that send us packing when we read a recipe, and therein lies the challenge in all restaurant cookbooks.

Still, even if many of the recipes might appear insurmountable for the average home cook, the way they have been captured by photographer Colin Page (also responsible for the truly stunning landscape shots of both New Zealand and Australia that appear throughout the book) brings them to life on the page. Add the stories and Shewry's ability to deliver impassioned, personal arguments for sustainability and truth in labelling laws, ethical treatment of animals and responsible consumption without coming across as annoyingly preachy and you find yourself agreeing that this is a story worth staying with to the end.

A manifesto? Perhaps. But it's better and probably more accurate to think about Origin as The World According to Ben.

Origin: The Food of Ben Shewry is published by Murdoch Books (hbk, $95).

Newsletter

Sign up to receive the latest food, travel and dining news direct from Gourmet Traveller headquarters.

Latest news
The Royal Mail Hotel is changing
28.03.2017
Happy first birthday, Bar Brose
17.03.2017
Happening Hobart
16.03.2017
Neil Perry pulls out of haute cuisine; Eleven Bridge to close
15.03.2017
Aaron Carr to leave Vasse Felix after 21 years
15.03.2017
Momofuku takes over Lee Ho Fook
15.03.2017
GT
Signature Collection

Find out more about the Gourmet Traveller Signature Collection by Robert Gordon Australia, including where to buy it in store and online.

Read More
Recipe collections

Looking for ways to make the most out of seasonal produce? Want to find a recipe perfect for a party? Or just after fresh ideas for dessert? Either way, our recipe collections have you covered.

See more
2017 Restaurant Guide

Our 2017 Restaurant Guide is online, covering over 400 restaurants Australia wide. Never wonder where to dine again.

See more

You might also like...

Albert Street Food & Wine

Philippa Sibley may have left the building, but Albert St F...

Aravina Estate

The family-friendly nature of Aravina explains the terracot...

Assaggio

Assaggio's very red, very mod fit-out has undeniable flair,...

Aubergine

The grey-whiskered Ben Willis could pass for a maturing, bu...

Annie Smithers' Bistrot

Annie Smithers may have decamped for Du Fermier, but the bi...

Bacchus - Brisbane

Rydges doesn't exactly leap to mind when you think "complex...

Balla

Pronounce it "bah-la" for Piedmont-born artist and composer...

Balthazar

The mixing of business and pleasure comes second nature to ...

Boucher

Escargots, foie gras, bouillabaisse - the expected French s...

Carlton Wine Room

The relaxed ambience and witty, irreverent service may say ...

Celsius

A land of smoke and mirrors, Celsius is an urbane, nightclu...

Citron

Mark Newman's cassia beef cheek is the type of dish that ce...

Divido

To those who dream of the old country, Divido is the modern...

David’s

David's hums with renewed energy since its transformation t...

Eleonore’s

On the surface, Eleonore's seems immune to fashion. Its lar...

get the latest news

Sign up to receive the latest food, travel and dining news direct from Gourmet Traveller headquarters.

×