Maude’s Journey through South Australia
A morning forage of discovery in the Adelaide Hills with one of the country’s more recently lauded chefs and an Arbana man epitomizes what is happening in Australian cuisine at the moment – an integration of modern gastronomy with native ingredients, crusading to give voice to Australia’s earliest people. Jock Zonfrillo of Orana, awarded Australian Restaurant of the Year in 2018 and 2019, introduced Curtis and Executive Chef Chris Flint to a walking legend, Peter Watts. Pete is working as an indigenous advisor at Jock’s Adelaide restaurant which brings recognition and cultural preservation to the native Australians who have respected and communed with their environment for more than 50,000 years. Prior to a creekside trek and forage in the hills, Jock and Pete showcased over forty indigenous ingredients and applications that are currently on the menu including wattleseed, mountain pepper, lemon myrtle, and strawberry gum.
Wine Director Andrey Tolmachyov joined our chefs in the afternoon for a tasting with the largest grower of biodynamic wine in Australia. With his Robert Plant locks, purple paisley cords, sequined boots and a golden belt buckle touting the championship at the 2010 Houston Livestock Show & Rodeo, Chester Osborne is as hard to miss as the D’Arenberg Cube appearing among the fourth-generation winemakers vines. The Osbornes were one of the first families of Australian wine and their portfolio includes over 76 different bottles. At seven years old, Chester knew he wanted to make a wine that was “yummy,” and he’s done much more than that. Approaching winemaking as a puzzle, Chester conceived of the Cube, a five-story structure in McLaren Vale with the top stories skewed as its namesake, the greatest puzzle, the Rubik’s cube.
The structure is a sensory experience, resplendent with alternative reality rooms that provide a glimpse of what a cellar would look like if Willy Wonka and the Mad Hatter were oenophiles. We awoke in the Barossa the following morning, an hour outside of Adelaide, where a palm-lined road led us to Seppeltsfield, both a winery and old stables that house some of the finest artisans in South Australia.Aside from fire, there arguably may not be a more important piece of equipment to a chef than his knife. An extension of his hand, the blade’s precision exhibits his acumen and prowess in the kitchen. Barry “Baz” Gardner appreciates a chef’s weapon of choice gave Curtis and Chris a lesson in forging their own knife.
With a legacy dating back to 1851, Seppeltsfield is known for their Centennial Collection, an unbroken lineage of tawny of every vintage from 1878 to the current year. The estate remains the only winery in the world to release a 100-year-old single vintage wine every year and where winemaker Fiona Donald gave Curtis and the team tastes of their birth years along with their oldest vintage.
The penultimate afternoon of our stay in Barossa was at Hutton Vale among grapes and merino sheep and where Curtis and Chris raced motorbikes through lush, green countryside herding the flocks before a lesson the Angas family’s sheep shearer. A farmhouse gathering for supper was the most generous and perfect evening to end our time in South Australia before a final morning with the grand dame of the Barossa herself.
Maggie Beer is a legend in Australia, a self-taught chef whose career spans over five decades. Among peacocks, olive groves, a quince orchard, and lake, Maggie runs a cooking school and farm shop where Chris was able to catch a pheasant with his bare hands and joined Maggie and Curtis in preparing a Seville orange marmalade and pheasant panzanella for our departure lunch.