Why SA chefs bring their romance to the boil
these South Australian couples are proof – love truly is through the stomach. Having met as far away as in Singapore, they combine their skills in cooking with their exquisite knowledge of wine and coffee. The results are some of the state’s best restaurants that have created a strong following, from premiers and governors to locals and tourists. Here, they reveal the love stories behind their restaurants and, in their own words, give us their favourite food matches.
The Love of Food – Like peas & carrots
words Simon Wilkinson
TUOI DO & GRANT DICKSON (Pictured Above)
Grant Dickson’s passion for wine is infectious. Read the list he has crafted for FermentAsian, the Barossa restaurant he runs with wife Tuoi Do, and you will find a blend of user-friendly advice and unbridled enthusiasm. That’s why it was named Australia’s best list earlier this year.
But it was another beverage that played a big part in bringing this pair together and shaping the direction of their lives.
When he worked for the Barossa’s iconic Rockford wines, Dickson took a break to go to Singapore and play in a band for a production of Miss Saigon. Do, who had come from her home in Vietnam to study English, was serving drinks and spring rolls in the foyer. “We only had instant granulated coffee in the green room and someone said they’re serving good coffee upstairs,” Dickson says. “I made my way up there and that is where I met Tuoi. I started drinking a lot more coffee.”
Less than a year later, Do had moved to Australia. At that stage she had done little cooking. “My mum and dad wanted me to be a doctor, a lawyer or a banker,” she says. “I had no interest in being a chef but mum was a really good cook.”
In his role with Rockford, Dickson organised wine dinners around Australia and Do began meeting some of our best chefs. She became interested in produce, where it came from and how it was grown. Settled in the Barossa, she began cooking weekly lunches at a local golf club. Then, in 2011, the pair took the plunge and opened FermentAsian in the main street of Tanunda.
Those who worried that an Asian restaurant in the Barossa might struggle for business had to think again. Do’s beautifully nuanced, complex dishes, taking in the flavours of her homeland and beyond, quickly attracted a following, with visitors, including the Premier and the Governor, regularly vying for a seat. So much so that the couple are extending the original building for more tables, a new bar, and a function area.
Do’s skill as a chef is all the more remarkable given she has had no formal training. “She has such an instinctive ability to balance flavour and sweetness,” Dickson says. “She’d be a great riesling maker. She pushes the acidity a little bit harder than most chefs do.” And for each of those dishes, Dickson has the perfect match in a drinks collection.
They now have two girls, Olivia and Isobel, who are growing up in the manic world of a busy restaurant. “If we knew what we were doing now a few years ago, we would never have opened a restaurant,” Do says. “But we’ve met so many people through running the restaurant and they are a big part of our lives now.”
OUR PERFECT MATCH
I was fortunate to taste through the range of wines made by Damien Tscharke. I was very impressed by the overall restraint and savoury expressiveness. The 2014 Estate Shiraz ($15, cellar door) is particularly impressive — dark-fruited, smoky and intensely spicy. It’s painted in minute brush strokes — precise with mineral detail. Complex layering is already providing intrigue: kalamata olive, blood plum, ristretto, a whiff of whole-bunch smokiness. Sensual tannins and a long amaro finish equip the wine to cut through the rich, sweetness of the orange and ginger sauce that accompanies Tuoi’s pork belly.
90 Murray St, Tanunda,
Magill Estate Restaurant and Kitchen
SCOTT HUGGINS & EMMA McCASKILL
Food is never far from the minds of remarkable young chefs Scott Huggins and Emma McCaskill, whether it is developing one of the intricate dishes for Magill Estate or talking about what they will have for breakfast with their two young daughters. The couple have had an extraordinary three years since coming to Adelaide. They launched two new restaurants, the revamped Magill Estate and Magill Estate Kitchen, started a family and bought a house.
McCaskill says having someone on hand to bounce around food ideas helps. “That’s what’s good about being two chefs running a business,” she says. “You are always going to hit a crossroads with a dish and get stuck. Having another person can bring a new element or a new idea to that dish and evolve it in a different way.”
The couple met 12 years ago when McCaskill worked at Melbourne’s Ezard, where Huggins was sous chef. “We didn’t get on initially,” McCaskill says. “I think we butted heads. But then we saw nice qualities in each other.”
After splitting when they moved overseas, they met back in Melbourne and soon after left for Tokyo, where they worked separately in restaurants both ranked in the world’s top 20. “Being in a country where the language and the culture were so different it was really grounding for me having him there,” McCaskill says.
OUR PERFECT MATCH
Any of the aged Penfolds Bin 51 Eden Valley Rieslings are amazing, especially with natural Coffin Bay oysters, both chilled. Another of our favourite food and wine matches would be Southern blue tuna belly from Port Lincoln served sashimi style with Ginjo style sake. Ginjo is the Grange of Sake! Served slightly chilled, it’s the best!
Magill Estate Kitchen,
78 Penfold Rd, Rosslyn Park,
The Olfactory Inn
SIMON BURR & Lauren Alexander
What happens in service stays in service. It’s a rule that ensures domestic harmony for Simon Burr and his partner Lauren Alexander who run Strathalbyn restaurant The Olfactory Inn. With Burr in charge of the kitchen and Alexander overseeing the dining room, the pressure of a busy lunch can lead to a few heated moments.
“We have a classic front of house and back of house rhetoric, but it stays at work,” Burr says. “But the whole time in the back of my mind I know what Lauren is asking me to do is in the best interest of the customers. She will quietly replate things for me and it drives me nuts but I have to admit she has a great eye for it.”
Burr, a founder of Woodside Cheese Wrights and well-travelled chef and caterer, met his partner in Robe, where she was working as a roaster for Mahalia Coffee. They moved to Strathalbyn and created a small and personal dining experience that has quickly built a following with locals and visitors alike. “The model for The Olfactory Inn is the realisation of my life’s work,” Burr says. “It’s small and offers approachable food from the local area. It’s exactly what I look for in a restaurant if I’m going out.”
OUR PERFECT MATCH
Crumbed Fleurieu globe artichokes, stuffed with Woodside Cheese Wrights goat curd, asparagus, watercress, Myponga walnuts and parmesan pairs beautifully with 2010 Ngeringa ‘Assemblage’ Chardonnay Viognier, Adelaide Hills or Najobe lamb rack, Paris Creek quark, falafel, preserved lemon, red wine jus paired with Yangarra 2015 PF Shiraz
The Olfactory Inn,
35 High St, Strathalbyn,
0447 771 750
Tony Love’s – Five regions FAMOUS FOR…
The seductive Australian big gum and stone building landscape of the Clare Valley seems an unlikely happy place for a white wine variety originally from Germany, Alsace and Austria, but it flourishes here, creating a noble, new-world reputation with its mouth-watering, lemon and lime focused iterations, zinging with natural acidity.
Try these: Grosset, Mount Horrocks, Wines by KT, Knappstein, Skillogalee
While New Zealand has captured much of the commodity market in this variety, the Adelaide Hills region has patiently gone about defining its home ground advantages, the many rolling aspects and 400m-500m above sea level slopes to the near east and south-east of Adelaide providing the cool nights and long summer and autumn ripening days needed to retain refreshing grape acidity.
Try these: Shaw+Smith, Geoff Weaver, Wicks Estate, Deviation Road
That same cooler climate profile goes a long way to underpinning the state’s best chardonnays. While the variety has become one of the most talked about in terms of a maturing taste for more elegant wine styles, better Hills producers have honed in on a regional spectrum of white nectarine flavours with a fresh citrus bite underneath.
Try these: Tapanappa, Pike & Joyce, Petaluma, BK Wines, Murdoch Hill
The Barossa is synonymous with shiraz, which is by far the best known variety of the region and for most consumers their favourite red of the district. The reason: big, generous fruit flavours, mostly in the darker berry and plum spectrum, often with rich, sweet and spicy oak notes from the use of American but increasingly new French barrels.
Try these: John Duval Wines, Teusner, Kaesler, Kalleske,
The warmer inland climate in the Murray River dependent Riverland region has made for a rapid adaptation to many grape varieties indigenous to the hotter and drier territories of Mediterranean Spain and Italy.
Try these: 919 Wines, Banrock Station, Whistling Kite