Chris Irving is the executive chef at The Gantry Restaurant and Bar at Pier One Hotel in Sydney. He’s cooked for the Beckham’s, worked with Gordon Ramsay and prefers to use the whole animal when he cooks.
We grabbed him for five minutes and picked his brain about all things seasonal, food philosophy and what he learned from working under Gordon Ramsay.
Plus Irving has shared a recipe for his almost-too-pretty-to-eat goat’s milk pudding.
Seasonal and local produce is part of The Gantry’s approach, why is this important and why should everybody cook/eat locally?
Dishes from The Gantry respect the honest purity of market fresh produce, and through nurturing the traditional rituals of cooking, we aim to present food in new and inspiring ways. Celebrating the best Australian local produce is easy when we have such an abundance of incredible farmers jumping at opportunity to supply their amazing product to eager chefs. There is so much extraordinary food within the surrounding area, it would be a shame not to make the most of it.
What was it like to cook for the Beckham’s and the Spanish Royal Family? Any favourite moments?
Of course when working with high profile individuals, discreetness and respect to their privacy is always a huge factor and an understood rule. With that said, this was an incredible experience and a rewarding period, and the friendships bonded over these times are everlasting. Developing relationships in positions of extreme trust and respect are extremely gratifying, but at the same time being in the presence of greatness is also very humbling. Experiences like this though do make you appreciate that everyone, at the end of the day, is still just human.
I have so many favourite, memorable moments. All the kids were very hands on and loved participating in cooking and preparing food, which was a great feeling. We had a lot of fun preparing different things like cakes and sushi together.
What’s your food philosophy and how are you applying it to The Gantry?
I have come to learn that cooking should be based on the finest and freshest seasonal ingredients that are produced locally and sustainably. As Executive chef I take on the responsibility for upholding the integrity of the honest, locally sourced ingredients with approachable menus that evolve daily and seasonally in a stripped back, unpretentious, interactive atmosphere.
What ingredients could you never live without?
Hot sauce and black coffee!
What’s your favourite dish on the menu at the Gantry and why?
My favourite dish currently on the menu is the duck…
The incredible prized Muscovy ducks are from family run, Jumjum Farm, situated beside the Wyong River about 100km north of Sydney. They pick at their own selection of greenery, free ranging daylong on the best pasture, under the shade of hazelnut trees. The chicks are hatched during the normal breeding cycle and mothered by hens, not electricity.
The carrots and citrus for the glaze come from Marty Boetz’s Cooks Co-op in Sackville, off the Hawksbury River. He has been an integral part of some of the brilliant produce being served at The Gantry.
And finally the wild purslane comes from just outside of Liverpool, harvested and hand delivered by Glen op den Brouw from “I Love Warrigals”.
The dish is served with duck two ways, confit leg, and roasted breast, glazed with a tangy citrus glaze. Whole baby carrots are oven roasted, and set atop a dollop of vibrant carrot puree and the lightly sautéed purslane.
What did you learn from your time working for Gordon Ramsay?
That’s easy… Never compromise!
What are the biggest trends in five-star dining? Any you’re particularly excited by?
I believe that chefs and restaurateurs are starting to recognise and divert some credit back where it’s due; to the hard working people who actually grow, produce and supply the food. Appearing more and more on menus, partnerships are being forged and you begin to start recognising names of farms, individual providores and where the products coming from. It gives massive amounts of pride to the providore for the recognition, but also to the restaurants, as they give their guests the best of the best with conscientious and educated menus.
Also, since being in Sydney, I have experienced nose to tail eating making a comeback… This is not new cuisine, in fact the quite the opposite. Chefs like Colin Fassnidge have stuck to their guns and have been successful serving these things for years. It wasn’t until recently that people are starting to fully appreciate them. Things like offal are getting used more; forgotten and secondary cuts are starting to become more recognised and fashionable, for example pig tails, pork knuckles, bone marrow and ox tongue are far more frequent on main stream dining menus. It is has been something I have always enjoyed eating and love trying to find places that serve it. Four in Hand is still my favourite restaurant in Sydney for this reason.
Goat’s Milk Pudding from The Gantry
1.5L goat’s milk
2 vanilla pods
5 leaf gelatin titanium
270ml cream whipped to soft peak
1kg rosella (wild hibiscus flower)
5g sea salt
Juice of 1 lemon
250g rolled oats
250g demerara sugar
2 vanilla pods
10g sea salt
Fresh honey comb
Place gelatin in ice water.
Mix sugar, milk, scraped vanilla and pods in a pot and bring to the boil.
Add gelatin in, strain and cool over ice. Once the liquid starts to get cold and thicken up, add the whipped cream, poor into ramekins and set over night.
Mix water, rosella, zest and juice of oranges. Bring to a slow simmer in a heavy based pot.
Mix pectin and sugar together and cook for 30 minutes.
In batches, blitz jam with a handheld mixer, but only for a few seconds so the fruit remains some of its structure.
Add lemon juice and leave it to cool down.
Oatmeal crumble: Melt butter and add oats, sugar and vanilla. Mix the rest of the ingredients, bake at 170˚C until golden and crispy.
Finishing: On top of the pudding put a spoon of rosella jam, a spoon of crumble, a dollop of honey comb and garnish with 1 or 2 nasturtium leafs.
For more information on The Gantry visit their website.