A Canadian with a flair for fish keeps Melburnians supplied with the best in cold-smoked seafood.
WHO Tom Cooper has been at the forefront of curing seafood for the Melbourne restaurant scene for more than 30 years, supplying the likes of Guy Grossi, Frank Camorra and Andrew McConnell with his smoked and cured salmon and ocean trout, as well as other smoked sundries. "I gave Frank Camorra his first smoked tomato around 13 years ago before he opened MoVida," says Cooper. The smoked tomato sorbet with anchovy and capers is now his signature dish.
HOW Cooper takes the best local fish he can get his hands on, carefully pin-bones the fillets, then cures them in various mixtures of salt, sugar, pepper and soft herbs for around 24 hours, depending on the weight and the type of fish. "It takes me almost four days from start to finish because there's a lot involved in the process," he says. His signature salmon gravlax is done with Four Pillars gin, fresh dill and juniper, while marinades for cherrywood-smoked ocean trout might include sake, nori, cucumber juice and plum wine, or vanilla and apple juice for swordfish. The fillets not destined for gravlax are cold-smoked at 3C over a range of American hardwood in his custom-made smoker.
WHY "I want people to understand that cold-smoking can be delicate and smooth, and can vary considerably depending on the time of year and the fish." September to April is the best time for Australian salmon and ocean trout, when the texture is dense yet silky, and never greasy or oily, he says. Cooper's seafood is never vacuumpacked and never frozen. "I'm bringing it back to where it should be as a gourmet product, not the mass-produced product that it's become."
WHERE Tom Cooper sells his seafood from $75 per kilo from a shopfront in Melbourne's Camberwell Market, where you can also have gravlax and a glass of Champagne at the five-seat salmon bar. Tom Cooper, Stall 23, Camberwell Fresh Food Market, 519-525 Riversdale Rd, Camberwell, Vic, 0412 200 148