Hobart Chefs: When The Obsession Becomes Real
by Sarah Aitken
Tasmania’s brand as a foodie haven is cemented. But within the local hospitality industry there are those who love to use local produce…and those who are next-level obsessed with it. We spoke to a bunch of Hobart chefs who are top of the game when it comes to fostering relationships with local farmers and growers.
MASSIMO MELE, FOOD DIRECTOR, GRAIN OF THE SILOS AND CHIEF OF FOOD, THE TASMAN HOBART
Where are you from? I grew up in Glenorchy – we moved back to Tasmania from Italy when I was almost six. I lived in Tassie until I was 18 then I left, and returned full time at the end of 2018.
What is your main focus as a chef? Quality, it all begins with an amazing product. I look for producers I can be around and spend time with. It’s all about a relationship with your growers. When they become your mates everything starts to taste better. You get a better understanding of seasonality, availability and viability.
What do you love about cooking with local produce? I like the fact that the produce I buy is grown by someone I know personally. In the restaurant you can point to a product and almost every time I can name the provenance or the name of the person who grew it, packed it and delivered it. Then you know you are really supporting local.
Which local produce are you really loving right now? Right now I’ve just been enjoying the last of the Tongola Dairy Bloom. A delicious cheese that won’t come back until October when it’s back in season. I’m also loving the winter bitter leaves. There are some great growers bringing these Italian varieties to the kitchen. Sugar loaf endives, Castelfranco radicchio, Romanesco is amazing and I’m a sucker for a good Jerusalem artichoke.
Where do you like to eat in Hobart? I love to pop into Sunbear, always happy staff, delicious local produce and great coffee.
DAVID BALL, EXECUTIVE CHEF, THE GLASS HOUSE
Where are you from? A little town in the UK called Mansfield. We’ve been here for a little over four years now.
What do you love about cooking with local produce? Being able to experience where the ingredients I’m using are from makes a huge difference. There’s a strong connection to place, the land, and the environment. It’s also about the people behind the produce too, I love building relationships with the farmers and producers who supply us.
Favourite place/supplier/producer to get local produce? Haha, that’s way too hard a question, there are so many amazing people here doing delicious things! I love a good honesty box roadside stall like the Bream Creek market stall, which is always a must-stop if I’m out that way. And on a Sunday, Farm Gate market.
What’s your current favourite supplier and ingredient? I’m loving the beetroot from Jenna and Zeb down at Cygnet from the Early Bird Market Garden – it has the most earthy and delicious flavour. I admit to a beetroot obsession! Another favourite is the regeneratively farmed beef from Sam and Steph at Tas Ag Co, it’s some of the best tasting beef on the island, and what we served up recently at the Winter Feast for Dark Mofo. And I just can’t stop eating James’ UnFeta’d from Soyoyoy Foods; it’s a plant based feta that’s super delicious.
Where do you like to eat in Hobart? I’m a huge fan of the kitchen at the Migrant Resource Centre Tasmania in Glenorchy. What they’re doing for the community is bloody brilliant, and the food is top notch.
KONSTANTIN PUTKIN, EXECUTIVE CHEF, AURA
How long have you been in Hobart? I made the move to Hobart from South Australia in March 2020. I decided after seven trips to Tassie in six years that it was time to make the move down.
What do you love about cooking with local produce? Keeping food as local as possible cultivates a successful and sustainable network of suppliers who are able to provide the very best that they have to offer and obviously keep money in the local region. The sense of knowing that you’re supporting a proper family business or small partnership in their day-to-day lives is a great feeling.
Favourite place to get local produce? Littlewood Farm. These guys were the very first supplier that I went to visit when I made the move to start the journey that is Aura. They’ve moved mountains to do anything and everything they can to support our project and it doesn’t hurt that they have some of the best lamb and strawberries that I have had in this country (the gin’s not too bad either, and I usually detest gin). Special mention to James at Soyoyoy down in Kettering with his phenomenal soy fetta and tempeh, as well as Nicole and family at Grandvewe/Hartshorn. Their support and amazing cheeses have been wonderful and will continue to feature on our menus.
Which local produce are you really loving right now? Angasi oysters, what more can I say other than WOW. Prior to now I’d never had a chance to try Angasi’s as they’d always be out of season on my visits to Tassie. One of my chefs, Jay, has just developed an amazing salt baked Angasi with a wakame butter and it’s bloody delightful!
Where do you like to eat in Hobart? Fico has long been one of my favourites, it’s consistent and delicious. Rude Boy is my absolute go to, what could go wrong with fried chicken and rum?!
STEPHEN PEAK, HEAD CHEF, THE AGRARIAN KITCHEN EATERY
Where are you from? I’m from Byron Bay. I moved to Tasmania in February 2018 to work at The Agrarian Kitchen.
What do you love about cooking with local produce? At Agrarian I try to have provenance in every ingredient we use. It’s not easy but if we didn’t know where our food came from, then we wouldn’t be able to provide a truly local food experience. Our growers, farmers and fishers are our friends, our community, they are our food family. To me, this is the only way. It’s what makes the job so enjoyable. If I wasn’t doing it this way then I wouldn’t be cooking at all.
Which local produce are you really loving right now? The produce is amazing at the moment. This week we’re using native Angasi oysters from Yvonne and Steve (The Oyster Province), hand-dived clams from Dale out of St. Helens, cabbages from Tony Shearer (Rocky Top Farm), turnips from Lauren + Mike (Feld’s Farm), potatoes from Annie and David (Little Red Hen), green corn from Derek (Ryelands Farm) and a bunch of stuff from our own farm. It’s pretty exciting!
Where do you like to eat in Hobart? Tom McHugo’s is my most frequented venue, Hamlet or Sunbear for breakfast and lunch, and then I get to Fico whenever I can, which in my opinion is up there with the top restaurants in the country.
RYAN WATSON, HEAD CHEF, TEMPLO
Where are you from? I’m originally from Yankalilla, South Australia. I moved to Hobart in 2015.
What do you love about cooking with local produce? I strongly believe in the importance of supporting our local farmers, utilising the amazing ingredients Tasmania has to offer.
Which local produce are you totally loving right now? I’m really loving sugarloaf cabbages at the moment, delicata squash and radicchio treviso are hot items on the menu right now.
Where else in Hobart do you like to eat? I like to eat at the Winston, they brew great beers and do really good burgers. I also love to stop in at Kinoko Deli for midweek lunch. So good!
CAMERON PERRY AND PETER COOKSLEY, CHEFS, HAMLET
Where are you from? Hobart.
What do you love about cooking with local produce? It makes sense. We love the people who grow our local produce and like to support them in any way we can. They produce great food and working with good produce makes our lives as cooks very easy.
Favourite place to get local produce? Tony from Rocky Tops grows great produce and is one of the nicest people you could meet.
Which local produce are you really loving right now? Aiden’s fresh Tasmanian seafood and Di and David’s produce from Caines Orchards.
Where else do you like to eat in Hobart? Tom McHugo’s.
TOM WESTCOTT, CHEF AND CO-OWNER, TOM MCHUGO’S HOBART HOTEL
Where are you from? lutruwita/Tasmanian born and bred. I’ve lived in Hobart since I was 17.
What do you love about cooking with local produce? Cooking with vegetables and meats grown by people I have a relationship with is the most important consideration, “know thy farmer”. It’s our aim to act as the link between the growers and the diner. Ideally we should all be accountable to knowing where our food comes from, most people know their doctor’s name. To me it’s more important to understand the source of our food, we provide the platform to help this happen. Connections to food drive the passion, the produce drives the menu, the interaction of people over the table enjoying food and drink prepared with this in mind drives the reasoning for farming in the first place.
Favourite place to get local produce? I could never choose, so many times a year I find discussions in the kitchen where we are all saying “this is my favourite vegetable” or “this is my favourite time of year to cook”. But it can be any month and the favourites are gone all too quickly, only to be transposed by the next favourite in the ever changing harvest. This very moment, forced to decide, I would say the line caught blue mackerel from Aiden Jackson is in peak season, winter is always best for seafood. Vegetable of the moment would go to the array of root veg grown by Provenance Growers at Neika, they have a stall at Salamanca on Saturdays. If you’ve never had an Angasi oyster, the native species to lutruwita is in season currently. Grown by the Oyster Province in Norfolk Bay and surrounds, they’re truly evocative of time and place.
Where do you like to eat in Hobart? Skewers and congee from Adam James of Roughrice at the Farm Gate Market is a must. A lunch at The Agrarian Kitchen eatery – the produce is the star, the techniques applied are austere, I always leave feeling invigorated. The team at Fico are the definition of dedication to their career, escapism with great snacks. Hamlet is the greatest breakfast/lunch you can get – they’re smashing it.
SUPER HOT, HOT SEATS
Have you tried to book a table at a top Hobart eatery lately and failed epically? You’re not alone. The owner of one local restaurant told us their waitlist is regularly topping 200-300 names on a weekend, and with school holidays upon us and the border reopened to Melbournian gastro-tourists, it could blow out further. It’s great news for our local hospitality workers and producers, and if you want to grab a hot seat maybe just book in advance…way, way in advance!