Brought to you by WOLL.
Widely regarded as one of the country's top chefs (and a former Gourmet Traveller Chef of the Year), Martin Benn is renowned for his innovative approach to gastronomy. With an extensive background in fine dining establishments, he rose to fame as the co-owner and chef of Sepia in Sydney.
Benn's exceptional talent lies in transforming ingredients into stunning, harmonious dishes that blend traditional techniques with modern creativity. His dedication to pushing culinary boundaries and delivering extraordinary dining experiences has solidified his status as a visionary chef on the global gastronomic stage.
Here, he tells Gourmet Traveller how he got his start, how a home chef can really excel, and his tips for entertaining.
Read on for our interview with the WOLL ambassador, then keep scrolling for his exclusive Crispy Fried Potato Feta, Dill and Smoked Trout recipe.
I wanted to be a chef at a very young age, in fact, at the age of thirteen I took a job in the local public house, The Smugglers Inn, under the watchful eye of publicans Graham and Barbara. On busy Sunday lunches, the pub would turn out about 100 meals. The buzz was unreal, and it was my first taste of the frenetic energy of a commercial kitchen. I loved it.
Graham and Barbara's son, Steve, was a head chef in a hotel in Maidenhead, just outside London, and he would come and visit every so often.
The first time I met him, he was cooking dinner for a special guest in the dining room, it was Lobster Thermidor, a classic French dish – it was the first time I had ever seen a lobster and I was in awe to be able to watch from a distance, I could smell this amazing aroma that was coming from the kitchen.
It changed me that very second and I knew what I wanted to do.
Steve invited me to cook with him in his hotel later that year to see if this was something that I really wanted to do. I was hooked immediately. I was certain then that I wanted to be a chef. I had to be.
I am classically trained in French cuisine from my time in Michelin star restaurants in London, but when I moved to live in Sydney back in 1996, I knew that I had to learn all over again. After a three-year stint at Restaurant 41, I managed to secure a job with the chef that had the biggest influence on my cuisine – Tetsuya Wakuda from Tetsuya's Restaurant – which was in Rozelle back then. It was possibly the hardest restaurant kitchen to get into but once I was in, I grew so much as a chef and became head chef at the age of 25.
I spent 10 years with Tets and then eventually opened my own restaurant, Sepia, back in 2009. This is where I mastered my craft and that took all the influences that I had gained over the past 20-plus years to form my own style that I am known for today.
Yuzu, olive oil, smoked paprika (sweet or hot), soy sauce, katsuobushi (bonito flakes).
From the first moment you pick up a WOLL pan you can feel the craftsmanship and attention to detail – they're top quality. The heat distribution is second to none, allowing for even cooking and full control throughout the cooking process. This takes the guesswork out of it when you try new recipes, dishes and cuisines.
The non-stick is the best I have ever come across in my years of being a chef that is also durable and easily cleaned. A set of WOLL pans will give you complete confidence and versatility at home – whether you're a beginner or a chef.
I think the most important part of home cooking is to understand the building blocks of flavour! This comes in many forms, such as reducing the stock for maximum flavour. Or heating your grill pan to the right temperature to caramelise meats or vegetables to add richness and flavour.
Another idea is making a braise and then reusing the broth or braising liquid again. For example, don't throw away the braising liquid from your short ribs, just simply strain it and freeze for another time.
This is a question I get asked the most and the reason I wrote our new book, The Dinner Party. The most important tip I can give you is to be organised. Don't leave it all to the last minute. Arming yourself with the right cookware and some of the basics from the book, like flavoured oils and frozen stocks, will make your life so much easier when it comes to throwing an extraordinary dinner party.
The book also helps to organise your days prior to the party, by informing you what you can cook in advance, like things such as braised lamb shanks. Rather than cooking them on the day of the party, just braise them a few days before and then reheat them – it will remove the stress, but they will taste even better.
I love doing things around my house and have recently got into some home DIY – something I have missed out on doing as being a chef over the past 30 years has been all encompassing. Though I have always had a thing for fashion, architecture, and travel.
For the Rosti Potato
- 1 kg kestrel potatoes, peeled
- 2 tbsp table salt
- 100 gm clarified butter or gee, melted
- Cracked black pepper
Feta and Dill
- 80 gm soft marinated goat feta (Meredith)
- 1 tbsp dill sprigs, chopped
- 1 tsp cracked black pepper
To Plate the Dish
- Rosti (above)
- Feta and Dill (above)
- 80 gm smoked trout, diced
- 6 sprigs dill, to garnish
For the Rosti Potato
- 1Using a box grater, grate the potatoes on the more course setting over a large bowl.
- 2Drain off the excess water, then sprinkle evenly with salt and toss the potato to combine, then leave to sit for 5-10 minutes.
The potatoes will release water and become foamy.
- 3Next rinse the potato under cold running water then strain in a colander, then squeeze the potato to remove any excess water.
You can use a tea towel to help squeeze out the excess water.
- 4Place the potato into a bowl and add in the first one third of the clarified butter and mix to combine.
Season with black cracked pepper and set to one side.
- 5Heat a Woll Diamond Lite 20cm Fry Pan (detachable handle not required) over a medium heat.
Add to the pan another third of the clarified butter and heat, swirling the pan to evenly coat.
- 6Once hot, add in the potato and spread out over the pan to make an even layer.
Lightly press into the edges of the pan, using a spatula, then allow to fry for around 8 minutes.
- 7When the potato is golden and crisp on one side carefully flip the potato using a silicone spatula or by flipping onto a board or plate.
Be careful of excess butter spilling out.
- 8Place the pan back on the stove and add in the remaining clarified butter and heat.
Next push the flipped potato back into the pan crisp side up.
Continue to fry for a further 8 minutes until the other side is crispy and golden.
Flip the rosti onto a rack and leave to one side at room temperature or keep warm until required.
Feta and Dill
- 9In a bowl, break up the feta and then add in the dill and cracked black pepper.
Gently mix with a fork to combine.
Set to one side.
To Plate the Dish
- 10Place the rosti on a serving plate.
Spoon the feta and dill on top and gently spread out over the rosti so that it's about 1 cm from the edge all the way around.
Spoon the diced smoked trout over the top liberally.
Finish with sprigs of dill and serve.