Local Lad John Churchill
by Stephanie Williams
As executive chef of The Deck and core restaurant and bar, John Churchill believes sustainability starts with teaching apprentices well.
Where in Hobart do you live? Howrah, near the Cambridge Valley Vineyard.
What’s the best thing about Hobart? The potential. In the past five years I’ve witnessed Hobart solidly contesting Melbourne and Sydney as the cultural capital of Australia. You can really see it in all the new talented chefs and eateries popping up.
And the worst? The lack of sunlight six months of the year.
Tell us a little about your work? Being a chef is a labour of love. You essentially must be enthusiastic about serving others. Cooking something might take all day, only for it to be eaten in 30 minutes. It really necessitates a certain pride of work, to want to make that 30 minute experience worthwhile.
You focus on sustainability. How is that being played out in the kitchen and on the plate? The most sustainable thing we can do as chefs is inspire and educate our apprentices to adopt the best practices possible. With methods like “nose to tail” and reducing waste wherever possible, whilst also creating dishes that draw attention and excitement.
Which ingredients are you loving right now? I’m really into wood smoke and chargrilling right now, so that means that a that a lot of things are taking on a campfire aesthetic. Burnt onions, charred meats, smoked tomato, and I’m even dabbling with ash and salt bakes.
There is much talk of seasonal eating and chefs having a strong relationship with their producers. Who do you enjoy working with and why? I love the passion that Stu and Natasha from Albatross Fishing have for their oysters. Every time I call to order we spend at least 15 minutes talking about the oysters. They put so much care and attention into their product and it’s really evident on the plate. Suppliers like that make my job easier, and I love to see that drive for excellence is thriving in Tasmania.
What’s your dream project to work on? I would love to be a part of a project that predominantly focuses on educating and practicing farm-to-table ideologies, with a special focus on ecology and passing the torch to the next generations of chefs.
I’m inspired by… Just about everyone. I find that every person I meet has a story to tell about food and cooking that might be mundane to them but insightful and unique to me.
What do you love doing outside work? Spending time with my wife and daughter. We’re relatively new parents and it’s amazing to witness her experience things for the first time.
Where’s your favourite Hobart eatery? The Agrarian Kitchen. They’re always innovative and dedicated to providing a great experience.
Drink of choice and where do you head for it? The bartender at Faro makes a mean Old Fashioned, or an FGR Riesling by Frogmore Creek.
Guilty pleasure? Definitely Bunnings snags with onion.
Favourite team? West Coast!
What do you never leave home without? I have a small tea strainer in the shape of dugong that I always seem to have with me.
I’d like to travel to…Canada, I like hockey and maple syrup.
If I didn’t live in Hobart I’d live…Probably Perth, where my parents and siblings are from.
When there’s nothing to do, I… Watch old Sci-fi movies, or work on home renovations.
Favourite Hobart secret? Dumbo Dumplings, it is a well-hidden restaurant in Warrane. It’s very clear that they make everything fresh and have a lot of passion for their trade.
Last meal? Porridge oats with blackberry coulis, and a cup of tea.
Where to next? I would love to have a closer look and work in aquaculture in Tasmania, before opening a venue that can holistically deliver a great experience with sound ethics for ecology.
Quote to live by? Everyone you meet is fighting a battle you know nothing about. Be kind, always.