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Five minutes with chef Danielle Alvarez from Sydney’s iconic Fred’s restaurant

Five minutes with chef Danielle Alvarez from Sydney’s iconic Fred’s restaurant

Five minutes with chef Danielle Alvarez from Sydney’s iconic Fred’s restaurant

Sydney’s ever-popular Good Food Month kicks off this October. Among the many exciting foodie events, chef Danielle Alvarez from Fred’s is hosting a special intimate dining experience in celebration of her new book, Always Add Lemon. 

We sat down with the award-winning chef to hear about her food inspirations, philosophies and the joys (and challenges) of putting together her first cookbook.

A foodie childhood

Alvarez grew up in a house that was all about ‘what’s for dinner’, with a mother and grandmother at the heart of the kitchen.

“My grandmother was a wizard in the kitchen but despite her Cuban upbringing she knew how to make all these posh French dishes,” she recalls.

Danielle Alvarez’ strawberry galette

With her mother working, Alvarez’s grandmother would look after her during the day, where she got to have fun and experiment with cooking. “She would often ask me what I wanted to make that day and we would go about making it, whatever it was. I remember her crepes being a revelation,” she says.

Growing up, she says she could “taste the love” in her mother’s cooking, however, it was the first French Laundry Cookbook that first inspired her to imagine a career as a professional chef.

“I mean it when I say that if it were not for that cookbook, I might not have started on this path.”

Learning from the best

Alvarez soon worked her way up to a highly-coveted position at Alice Water’s iconic restaurant Chez Panisse.

“It was the greatest inspiration of my life. To see food cooked with such care and intuition and flavour and to know that it was also supporting an entire community of people who care about the earth and the planet was the ultimate,” she says.

It was not just in the food where she found inspiration, but the unique culture of the kitchen.

“The way the staff respected each other and supported each other was just incredible,” says Alvarez.

“It opened my eyes to having a purpose behind what we do. It’s not just food. Food can be powerful, food can change things.”

Fred’s: creating the experience of a ‘fabulous dinner party’

That purpose has followed her in her current role as head chef at Sydney’s acclaimed two-hat restaurant, Fred’s.

“The goal was to try and make everyone feel like they are at a fabulous dinner party and they are all sitting in the kitchen and I think we achieved that,” she says. “We cook simply in a wildly open kitchen without walls and we cook over an open fire.”

Alvarez’s mouthwatering buttermilk marinated chicken dish

“We also work closely with farms to buy most of our produce direct from them. This means we know we are supporting a network of farmers that look after the soil, the food is fresher and it tastes better,” she adds.

When it comes to her food heroes, Water’s understandably, is top of the list. “She is so bold and brave,” she says.

Skye Gyngell, founder of London’s Spring which follows a plastic-free, no-waste ethos, is another big inspiration for Alvarez. “I think people hear ‘simple food’ and automatically think ‘rustic’. Skye proves that ‘simple’ should also mean sophisticated and elegant. I just love her food.”

As well as running her busy restaurant, Alvarez is recently celebrated the launch of her first cookbook, Always Add Lemon. The idea, she explains, was to bring together all the culinary lessons that have defined her career.

“The inspiration was ‘what are some of my favourite recipes?’ and ‘what are the important things people need to know to make the best food at home?’

“I wanted to tie together in a neat little (and beautiful) package, my greatest cooking lessons and over 100 recipes that you can cook throughout the year,” she adds.

Always Add Lemon: An Intimate Dining Experience with Danielle Alvarez

Where: The Apartment at Hotel Centennial

When: 12:30pm Lunch or 6:30pm Dinner, Sunday 18 October

Visit goodfoodmonth.com to book your tickets.

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