Unless you’re in the mood for something quintessentially Australian (that doesn’t involve a shrimp or a Barbie), then you might find yourself walking around in circles. After all, Australian cuisine isn’t exactly the choice on everyone’s lips. Think of it this way, when was the last time someone asked you what you felt like for dinner and you answered, ‘I feel like Australian’?
Like a snag burning on a smoking BBQ, when it comes to Australian cuisine and how one might define it, that’s when the details start to get a little hazy. If the produce used to make that Pad Thai or that plate of pasta or that sushi comes from Australian soil or Australian waters, does that make it Australian? Or are our cultural offerings restricted to good ol’ Fish n’ Chips or the ultimate classic – the meat pie?
The answer can be found in one simple question: What is Australian cuisine?
Okay so perhaps the question isn’t that simple. But it’s a question that Tristan Rosier, owner of the recently-opened Arthur Restaurant in Surry Hills, is curious to find out more. After all, he’s created an eatery built on creatively-designed set menus made entirely from Australian produce, from the spirits and wine to the ingredients used in each of the unique dishes.
To help with the slightly daunting task, Tristan has teamed up with Kounta, to create a podcast series where each episode Tristan will talk with someone in the industry who is already making great strides in the Australian fare domain – Josh Niland from St. Peters, Peter Doyle from Est. and Palisa Anderson from Chat Thai spring to mind – to get their thoughts and ideas on exactly what is Australian cuisine?
Although for Tristan it’s more than just a cuisine question. ‘While that might be the ultimate question it’s more of an ‘Australian restaurant’ question,’ he says. ‘I think Australian restaurants are quite different to restaurants abroad. It’s not just the cuisine that makes a restaurant Australian; it’s the culture as well. Everyone wants to move to Australia and live here because of our culture. It’s what we’re known for. So I want to know how they’ve brought this into their business? How are they incentivising their staff? How are they looking after their people? What kind of culture do they have? These are the questions I want to find out more about and which I’ll be asking.’
And that’s not surprising. After all, culture is a big deal for Tristan. Arthur is Tristan’s first solo venture after managing and then taking over Farmhouse in Kings Cross with his best mate and fellow chef, Michael Mu Sung, and he’s just as focused on creating an inclusive and cohesive culture within the business as he is about creating a unique and exciting menu.
‘I know there are things that we do at Arthur that are a little bit different to other restaurants. For example, we split all the tips evenly between every staff member so that the kitchen staff are getting the same as what the floor staff are getting, whereas in other places the kitchen might get 10% if they’re lucky.
‘The way I manage my team is to let them manage themselves. It opens you up to be bitten by people who might take advantage, but I like to think I hire people I trust and who aren’t the kind of people who would do that kind of stuff. We definitely want to empower our people and give them better working conditions and opportunities for growth. I think that goes hand in hand with Aussie culture.’ It’s certainly a long way from the Gordon-Ramsey style of doing things.
Tristan himself has learned from his own experiences after getting into the industry at the age of 16. ‘I was fortunate to have someone showing me the way when I was young. The first half of my career was spent learning how to do everything. And the last half of my career has been learning what not to do.’ But according to Tristan, there’s still more to learn.
Yet when the idea of doing the podcast series was suggested, Tristan admits he wasn’t entirely sure about it. ‘At first, I thought maybe this is more of a publicity thing but then I realised it’s an opportunity to meet some of the people who I look up to, who have made it and ask the questions that I want to know and which might help me be more successful in my business. I’m just starting with owning my place, so I think it’s a great opportunity to learn something new.’
So, what exactly are we going to be learning through this podcast series? After all, Tristan isn’t
going to be the only one to benefit from listening to some of Australia’s top chefs, producers and creators wax lyrical about Australian cuisine and what goes into setting up and running a successful Australian restaurant.
‘I don’t think it will be one big thing. I think there are some good examples of what a good Australian restaurant is out there. Some of these guys are really leading the way in defining Australian cuisine further and experimenting with interesting ingredients. So, I think it will be a series of small things I pick up from everyone. Even the smallest thing can be the genesis of a new idea.’
‘What I want to achieve is that from every conversation I come away with at least one workable idea that I can implement into my business. That’s what I would consider would make a successful series.’
And we’re sure that’s exactly what it’s going to be.
Stay tuned for episode one, and for now, get to know Tristan and Arthur a little better.