As a kid growing up in Sawtell on the north coast of New South Wales, Beau Clugston spent many a weekend fishing and gathering oysters in Boambee Creek with his best mate. That's when he wasn't surfing. When the tide was low in the estuary they'd scrape the oysters off the concrete pylons of the railway bridge that ran above the creek and eat them raw on the spot. The fish would be grilled on a public barbecue nearby or taken home to his mum for dinner. In those early teenage years Clugston was always the one who manned the barbecue or made the toasties when mates came over.
Grilled oysters with tapioca.
"Without me knowing it, I had a passion for cooking," says the 32-year-old, reflecting on a culinary career that's taken him from Sawtell to Sydney, London, Copenhagen and now Paris. He's mastered the techniques required of world-class fine-dining restaurants and the wild creativity that's a central tenet at Noma in Copenhagen. Yet one of his most lasting impressions came from Aboriginal elders in Acacia who showed him how to dig for mud clams with his feet and then cook them on the campfire until they sang. "This is the recipe: light a fire, rinse off the mud, throw on the fire, when it starts to whistle, take it off, eat - that's it," he says, recalling a trip to the outback with Noma's René Redzepi last year.
Clugston worked at Noma for six years, leaving after heading the kitchen in its Sydney pop-up in 2016. He then moved to Paris where he took over Le 6 Paul Bert, a bistro in the 11th arrondissement, in November. He called time after four months, citing "creative differences" with owner Bertrand Auboyneau. But his passion for Paris and determination to shake up its food scene are undiminished. "I feel like I want to conquer Paris, that I've done good and bad and I want to continue that. The story's not over." The best part of the experience is that he found the beginnings of a culinary voice that's a distillation of his 14-year career and his surfside upbringing and won acclaim for deceptively simple dishes with pure, intense flavours.
Avocado and kiwi salad.
"The food I cook is very raw. It can be just three ingredients - say kiwi, avocado and caviar. It brings to bear everything I've learnt, especially from Noma - it's taste- and product-driven." While he revels in the produce available in Paris, compiling these recipes to feed the family and those mates who come over made him "really homesick". "It's easy to get good stuff here but it's hard to get incredible stuff like you do back home. I still don't think I've ever tasted better produce anywhere else in the world."
Recipes by Beau Clugston