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Sepia

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201 Sussex Street 2000 Sydney
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T+61 292831990

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Name: Martin Benn
Date of birth: Unknown

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Best emerging Chefs and creators

Best emerging Chefs and creators

 

Chef Martin Benn/Photo: Louise Lister

MY DOWN UNDER GARDEN-AUSTRALIAN CHEFS: MARTIN BENN  

Let me say that if the plate (assiette) of those Chefs are as generous and of the quality of their responses, we can  assume that we will have a great time. Every encounter was a wonderful discovery, but The Australians chefs blew me away! They have a very distinct personality and a very unique cuisine that mixes technique, technology and influences from Spain, Japan, Thailand as well as New-Zealand.  You have Dan Hunter with his wonderful gardens at the foot of the Grampian National Park, Ben Shewry who picks his herbs every day near his home before going to his kitchen or Martin Benn that has for partner the best ‘’poissonniers’’ in Australia. They are all linkedin the research of the best product (produce) and the freshness of the instantaneity. I was told once that the Australian chefs’ motto was: ‘’Take the freshest product (produce) and prepare it  the simplest way!’’   

Martin Benn was born in Hastings (UK) in 1974. He began his career at the Oak Room in London with the French chef Michel Lorrain and afterword went to the Criterion with Marco Pierre White. Later on moved to Australia and worked for the master chef Tetsuya Wakuda. At the young age of 25 he became head chef of Tetsuya’s! In 2009 he opened Sepia, his new baby!  

High quality seafood is certainly at the center of his cuisine; a cuisine of purity, experimentation and perfect mastering of French techniques and Japanese’s influence. It’s impossible to qualify his cuisine by one word, it’s the Benn’s way… A young restaurant but a great chef!  

 

 

Q+A WITH THE CHEF MARTIN BENN (www.sepiarestaurant.com.au ):  

1-(Scoffier) How do you explain the philosophy behind your cuisine and what is it main characteristics?  

MBenn- My philosophy behind my cuisine is to use a light handed approach in terms of gentle cooking techniques such as slow poaching at low temperatures. My menu is strongly driven by seafood and whilst the basis of preparation is French in nature, there is an obvious Japanese influence.  

I have a high respect for ingredients, especially from the sea and demand produce that is not only high in quality but is sustainable. I believe that this helps to push the seafood industry forward and leads to better supply practices for all.  

2-(Scoffier) Do you have a particular foods (or products) that you often use in your recipes?  

MBenn- At Sepia we are always in the process of experimenting with different products or foods which sometime we come to a dead end and have to put it down for a while to reflect.  

At this moment I have turned back to my fascination back to wakame seaweed and its gel like characteristics we are finding that it can be used as a crust or to coat a food. It also gels at around 62 celsiu  to form a sponge like texture.  

3-(Scoffier) Do you have a particular flavour or taste from your childhood that is again memorable?  

MBenn- I try to have a little fun with the food and often like to base my desserts on memories of commercial product such as ice creams  

4-(Scoffier) Is there any elements from your cuisine that is typical from the Australia?  

MBenn- Being British and moving to Australia was difficult as the style of cooking here was very different than the style I was used to in the UK. Food was a lot lighter due to climate and the importance of multiculturalism shaped the Australian way of life.  

I believe that working for Tetsuya was typical in many senses as it would have been as for working for Shannon Bennett with his modern take on French Cuisine.  

5-(Scoffier) You worked and you was the executive chef of Tetsuya’s, what do you have learned with Chef Tetsuya Wakuda?  

MBenn- Working for many years along side Tetsuya was a great honour for me, from a man whom started from nothing to build the greatest restaurant in the country can teach you so many disciplines.  

I started with Tetsuya back in 1999 when he still had his 50 seat restaurant in the suburbs of Sydney. At that time there was only 6 in the kitchen serving 12 courses. I was promoted to head chef in early 2000 and then we moved to his iconic restaurant in Kent Street. For me at this time not know it but I began to grow not only within the kitchen but also on running a business. Produce became more and more interesting in Australia at this time and the abundance of seafood was where my passion lied. From the treatment of handling the fish to the tastes and textures that make food so exciting. The greatest gift that Tetsuya taught me was the memory of taste and how it affects the way we feel, and also about the Umami.  

6-(Scoffier) What do you eat when you are at home?  

MBenn- I try to keep it simple at home often just cooking a simple great Australian fish like Whiting or Blue Eye simply seasoned and cooked on the BBQ with lemon and good Australian olive oil.  

7-(Scoffier) I look at your menu at Sepia, you often change your tasting menu?  

MBenn- At Sepia we are trying to run a few different menus to as to please our market the business lunch, à la carte dinner and the Degustation menu which we run each night. On Saturday nights however due to popular demand we have introduced a set 9 course dinner menu only, that appeals to the enthusiastic diner. This menu we have a lot of fun with and it may change of each Saturday. It gives us the chance in the kitchen to experiment with techniques and what is unusual in the market.  

 

Sepia Poster/Photo: Sepia Restaurant

 

8-(Scoffier ) I know that the chef Pascal Barbot (L’Astrance) take a lot of time (40 % and more) choosing and picking his produces at the market. Do you spend as much of time to choose and pick your produces? I know that you pick herbs each morning at your home?  

MBenn- Unfortunately, I only have a small rosemary bush which has seen better days!!!!! But I do work closely with a farmer who grows lots of baby herbs and flowers for me at my request and we try to get certain cress to grow which can be hard in the Australia climate.  

Fortunately for me, my business partner is one of Australia’s most renowned seafood suppliers George Costi of DeCosti Seafood’s, which means I get to have the market on my door step every day. We have a choice, which in this day of sustainability is so important. Each day, I will talk direct with George to talk about the days catch adding specials to the menu or changing the menu seasonally.  

9-(Scoffier) Do you use some elements from molecular gastronomy or from new technology in your cooking techniques? If yes, which?  

MBenn- I believe that we all need to look to the future but at the same time be grounded by what we know and understand. From my days at Tetsuya’s we would use Agar in many of our applications to form gels even though this has now become part of the ingredients found in a lot of kitchens today, it came naturally to us as this is what the Japanese have used for decades.  

I am a firm believer in the sous vide technique and again have used this really for the last 15 years. But still it seems that every day my team and I are finding new and interesting ways for using this application.  

10-(Scoffier) What is the importance of wine pairings in your menu at Sepia?  

MBenn-That each must complement the other. This is very subjective to each individual guest that dines with us that is why the Sommelier is so important. We are blessed at Sepia to have Rodney Setter. A man whom is so passionate about what he does. We only have a small list at Sepia but Rodney has come up with a really clever and interesting list from around the world.  

11-(Scoffier) Can you give us a detailed recipe (Signature dish) that is characterized the cuisine of Martin Benn?  

MBenn- See the recipe with images.  

12-(Scoffier) What is your goal (ambitions) as a chef or for the restaurant? Do you think about write a book, a television show?  

MBenn- To now continue the journey that we started and to think outside the square and push the boundaries of what is the norm but not forgetting the basics from where it all begun. I would hope that Sepia becomes a platform for young chefs to learn and grow and to some day live the dream of owning their own restaurant. I think that for me personally I would love sepia to continue to grow and evolve as its cuisine does. As I said earlier we have put in place the Saturday night chefs tasting menu where we only serve a set 9 courses dinner giving us the freedom in the kitchen to explore different produce and techniques that we can not otherwise do during the week. So far the guests have embraced this and it continues to be popular.  

As for a book, this is imminent we are planning on starting next year, we hope.   

 

RECIPE: Buckwheat & Spanner Crab Risotto Avocado Cream Grain Mustard Butter  

   

 

   

 

SpannerCrab and Buckwheat Risotto/Photo: www.louiselister.com

*Influenced from the taste of the sea. The buckwheat is used to carry the flavour of the crab and the froth is like the bubbles from the ocean.  

   

INGREDIENTS : Buckwheat Risotto  

-40 gr Buckwheat (cooked in boiling salted water for 8 minutes and refreshed under cold water)  

-10 gr Shallots finely diced  

-½ tsp Garlic Oil  

-½ tsp Thyme Leaves  

 -100 ml Shellfish Stock (See Basics)  

-100 gr Spanner Crabmeat (raw meat picked)  

-½ Tsp Tarragon chopped  

-20 gr Grain Mustard Butter soften (see basics)  

-20 gr Mascarpone Cheese  

-Salt and Pepper  

PROGRESSION RECIPE  

1. Heat a little olive oil in a heavy based pan.  

2. Add in the diced shallots garlic oil and thyme leaves and sweat until transparent.  

3. Add in the cooked buckwheat and combine well together.  

4. Ladle in the shellfish stock as you would make a normal risotto.  

5. Once the buckwheat is tender add in the crabmeat and remove from the heat.  

6. Stir gently and add in the mascarpone and tarragon.  

7. Season the risotto with salt and pepper.  

 INGREDIENTS : Shellfish Foam  

 

-400 ml Shellfish Stock (see basics)  

-100 gr Butter  

-2 gr Sucro  

-1 gr Salt  

1. Pour the Shellfish stock into a pan and bring to the simmer.  

2. Reduce the stock for 5 minutes.  

3. Add in the butter and blend through with the aid of an immersion blender.  

4. Add in the sucro and blend again to for stable foam.  

5. Season the scampi stock with salt and pepper to taste.  

TO PLATE THE DISH  

1. Spoon the risotto into the required bowl.  

2. Make sure to keep it tight in the centre and then place a quenelle of the grain mustard butter on top.  

3. Scoop some of the shellfish foam from the pot and place onto the risotto to finish. 

BestEmergingChefs.wordpress.com -

BestEmergingChefs.wordpress.com -
Best emerging Chefs and creators

Best emerging Chefs and creators

 

Daniel Puskas/©A.Mintzes

MY DOWN UNDER GARDEN-AUSTRALIAN CHEFS: DANIEL PUSKAS

Let me say that if the plate (assiette) of those Chefs are as generous and of the quality of their responses, we can  assume that we will have a great time. Every encounter was a wonderful discovery, but The Australians chefs blew me away! They have a very distinct personality and a very unique cuisine that mixes technique, technology and influences from Spain, Japan, Thailand as well as New Zealand. 

It is not because of my Austalian roots (really!), that I am presenting to you a second chef from the same restaurant. It’s just that Sepia has been awarded ”Two Hats” in Australia and that Martin Benn was appointed Chef of the Year at the 2011 Good Food Guide Awards. And next to the chef Benn, there is the very talented chef Daniel Puskas.

Daniel Puskas was born in Sydney (Australia). He began his career as an apprentice chef at Tetsuya’s. From there Daniel travelled to London where he worked at Zuma restaurant (London). Back in Australia, Daniel Puskas took up a position at Marque Restaurant (See the Q+A with Mark Best). At Marque, he was nominated like the Sydney Morning Herald’s Best Young Chef Award. After several others travels and stages, Daniel took up the kitchen of Oscillate Wildly (Sydney). And now, he acts as co-Chef of Sepia with the great chef Martin Benn.

Like the chef Bennhis cuisine is a cuisine of purity, experimentation and perfect mastering of French techniques and strong Japanese’s influence. It is a cuisine that tries the highlight of the essence of a product. Creativity at the service of Nature!

 

Q+A WITH THE CHEF DANIEL PUSKAS (www.sepiarestaurant.com.au ): 

1-(Scoffier) How do you explain the philosophy behind your cuisine and what is it main characteristics?

DPuskas- My approach to cooking is modern and progressive whilst using traditional techniques and a natural focus. I like my dishes to be clean and creative with a slight twist. I take inspiration from many different sources to incorporate into my cuisine, such as history, word play and people. I also take a lot from nature, trying to make sure the food looks organic, colorful and fresh. Above all, I try not to over complicate things, using only a few components per plate to allow the ingredients to speak for themselves.

2-(Scoffier) Do you have a flavour or taste from your childhood that is again memorable?

DPuskas- My Nana’s greens beans. She grew these in the backyard and I remember picking them with her. As a child I refused to eat any other green beans.  

3-(Scoffier) Do you have a particular foods (or products) that you often use in your recipes?

DPuskas- At the moment we are having a lot of fun with dashi at work. Dashi is a base stock made from kelp and bonito flakes and is a traditional and fundamental component to Japanese cuisine. The umami flavour of the dashi creates a lot of depth and complexity to the dishes without using heavy and rich sauces. Recently, we’ve been emulsifying flavoured butter into different dashi stocks. 

4-(Scoffier) Do you have a mentor (chefs or anybody else) that inspires you in your cuisine?

 

DPuskas- I am inspired by a variety of chefs, both local and overseas, for different reasons. Andoni, Bras and René Redzepi inspires me with their love of nature and natural approach to cooking, sourcing native and seasonal produce. On the other hand, Ferran and Albert Adria inspires me with their innovative modernist approach to cooking. They use new techniques and products to help achieve textures and tastes in food that otherwise wouldn’t be possible. Heston (Blumenthal) playful yet refined cuisine is interesting in that it creates modern dishes based on historical foods and events.

Locally, Martin Benn, Mark Best, Dan Hunter and Ben Shewry are, in my eyes, defining and shaping Australian cuisine with their distinctly unique food. I also take a lot of inspiration from my close friends/chefs. We are always chatting about what we are up to in the kitchen and offering helpful advice. Without them I wouldn’t be the chef I am today.

5-(Scoffier) Eight years ago, we only know Tetsuya Wakuda like Great chef from Australia, but I have discovered with this Serie much fantastic chefs… and a really different (new) cuisine; French techniques with Asian influences and local products. Is there any an Australian signature in cuisine (in the world) presently?

DPuskas- Australia is close to Asia so we are influenced by its produce and ingredients and luckier for it. We are fortunate to have chefs like Neil Perry, Tetsuya, David Thompson, Kylie Kwong and Christine Mansfield to help us understand and use Asian foods and techniques. As a country, we are a very young and multicultural. This is helping to shape and develop our cuisine. I believe that the future of food in Australia will get stronger so that one day we will have a rich food history.

Sepia Kitchen/Photo Louise Lister

6-(Scoffier) You have worked with several excellent chefs; Tetsuya Wakuda, Mark Best, a stage at WD-50 and Alinea, and Martin Benn. Presently, you are a small but a really strong team at Sepia Restaurant. How do you work every day with Chef Martin Benn?

DPuskas- Martin Benn is an amazing chef and a great boss. It’s easy working alongside him in the kitchen because he’s a great motivator, mentor and friend. We work side by side on the pass everyday, with Martin controlling the service and me making sure things are running smoothly. Generally at some point we sit down with a coffee or a glass of wine and talk about new dishes that we are working on. We always discuss what we can do to change and develop new and existing dishes to improve them.

7-(Scoffier) How do you develop (your inspiration) and construct the Saturday night chefs tasting menu at Sepia, a really popular experience?

DPuskas- Martin is very flexible and encourages all the kitchen staff to think about menu ideas for the Saturday deg. If one of the younger chefs has an idea they will approach us and be encouraged to develop it. Martin has always wanted his team to be included in everything. If a dish is a standout on the Saturday deg it will make its way on to the weekly menu.

8-(Scoffier) Do you use some elements from molecular gastronomy or new technology in your cooking techniques? If yes, which?

DPuskas- Yes we love new and innovative ideas and techniques but we try not to lose focus of the original product. If we can make a dish without the use of different types of additives then we do it. One day I would love to have fancy equipment like gastrovacs and lyophilizes, but at the moment we have a pretty standard fit out.

 

9-(Scoffier) Can you give us a detailed recipe (Signature dish or other) that is characterized the cuisine of Daniel Puskas?

DPuskas- Recipe: Butter Poached Leek, Cooked and Raw Wild Garlic, Lentil Sprouts and Golden Dashi. 

10-(Scoffier) What is your goal (ambitions) as chef? Do you think about write a book, a television show, others?

DPuskas- I love being in the kitchen and inspiring the younger generation. My goal is to one day have my own restaurant cooking contemporary Australian food with a focus sustainability. To do this I plan to create seasonal menus and use produce from my own garden or sourced from local suppliers when possible.

 

RECIPE: Butter Poached Leek, Cooked and Raw Wild Garlic, Lentil Sprouts and Golden Dashi

Recipe Poached Leek/©A.Mintzes

INGREDIENTS & PROGRESSION RECIPE

-1 Baby Leek

-20g Lentils

-2 stems of Wild Garlic bulbs attached

-Baby Daikon Leaves

-Native Violets, Red Nasturtium

-20g of butter, 200mlOlive Oil

-5cm stick of Kelp,1 tea spoon, Mirin, liquid Shiro Dashi, 1Tbl spoon of white soy,

-500ml of water

-Xantham Gum

1. Leek: trim of the green on the leek and reserve for stocks or ash. Bag the leek with a little of the olive oil and 10g of butter. Season with salt and pepper and vac on full. Poach in a water bath around 70°C for about 10 mins or until soft to touch then refresh in an ice bath.

2. Sprouting lentils: using a small tray and paper towel, sprinkle the dried lentils onto the layer of paper towel and cover with another piece of paper towel then water, making sure it’s very wet and then keep in a warm part of the kitchen around 36°C making sure it stays moist. This will take about 2 days before you start to see the lentils sprout. Let them grow for another day and then store in the fridge.

3. Wild Garlic: get rid of any dirt on the bulbs of the garlic and try not to damage the leaves or separate them from the bulb.

4. Golden Dashi: bring the water up to boil with the stick of kelp. Once it boils remove kelp and then season with white soy and liquid dashi. Simmer and reduce slightly until you achieve the correct flavor, then emulsify the olive oil into the hot soup. You might not need all of the olive oil so be careful when adding to the soup. Thicken slightly with Xantham.

5. To finish, warm a pan with butter. Hold the garlic by the bulbs and wilt the green in the warm butter. Season with salt and pepper. Warm the leek in a water bath then remove from the bag and place it in the same pan to give it a little color on one side. Warm the dashi and dress the plate.  Finish with the violets, nasturtium and baby daikon leaves.

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