Sunday, 27 April 2014

'Recipes That Rock': Oz chef Matt Stone's new show on sustainable foods

Tattooed Aussie chef Matt Stone and ex-Brit pop star-turned-cheesemaker Alex James would like to rock your kitchen with sustainable recipes and ethical dining.

Take a 26-year-old bloke from Down Under, rock some tattoos on him, and hand him a crank-handle spatula, and that's Matt Stone. He's not your average boy-next-door chef, but he's a looker and he's got a passion for the environment and for working with ethical producers. “I let the environment and the world of sustainability dictate the food that I cook,” Stone says, in a phone interview from Australia.

Stone is one-half of the duo starring in Recipes that Rock, a TLC cooking show premièring tomorrow on Astro Channel 707. His partner in the six-part series is 45-year-old cheesemaker Alex James, formerly of the massive Brit-pop band Blur in the 1990s. 

Stone is the executive chef of Greenhouse Perth, an eco-friendly restaurant that won the 2011 Good Food Guides award for Best Restaurant, while Stone was named Best Young Chef. He was also crowned Gourmet Traveller's Best New Talent that year. It's an achievement that's quite a feat for a man who didn’t finish high school, but who's now gained the respect of his peers.

At age 15, he started working in the kitchen of the Leeuwin Estate Winery in his hometown of Margaret River. After two years as an apprentice, he moved to one of Perth’s most highly regarded restaurants, Star Anise, where he developed his craft under head chef David Coomer. At age 20, Stone was appointed sous chef of Star Anise. Two years later, he was approached to lead the kitchen at Greenhouse Perth.

Greenhouse Perth was started by Joost Bakker, a self-taught, discipline-crossing, boundary-pushing artist, florist, furniture and lighting designer, and environmentalist who works with recycled materials and plants, and who's been making headlines since the 1990s. Stone, now in his element, embraced the Greenhouse by Joost philosophy of preparing fresh, sustainable, locally-sourced whole foods.

Matt Stone and Alex James.

Stone didn't consider himself a qualified chef, but that didn't stop him from championing sustainable dining. He made a name for himself as a progressive cook and put Greenhouse at the forefront of Perth’s dining culture. “Australia has a massive amount of fruits, spices and herbs that we’re only just discovering,” Stone says.

Using this as his chance for a cooking experiment, he intends to cook exotic dishes like crickets, green tree ants, and try native Australian meats like wallaby and kangaroo. It sounds shocking, but Stone says it’s all in the name of sustainability.

“In Australia, there are three (wild) kangaroos for every person. They don’t take up man’s space. We don’t have to grow and produce grains and feed for them. So in my eyes, it’s a no-brainer to be eating them," he says. As for the bugs, “Consuming insects is definitely common in Asia. It’s really an ethical way of consuming protein, vitamins and nutrients,” Stone adds.

Don't let his tattoo of a pizza slice fool you, either. Stone is a superb wine connoisseur. He recommends the Leeuwin Estate chardonnay, which he says is really delicious; the Picardy pinot noir, because Picardy is a great producer in the south-west of Western Australia and they consistently make really lovely pinot noir wines which lend to a lot of his food pairings; and Dom Perignon, because he loves champagne.

As for the rest of his body art, Stone says it's all from being a skater and a punk rock fan. “If I could spend a heap of money buying artwork and putting them on my wall at home, why not get them and put them on myself?” he asks. 

Recipes That Rock

Now, on to the show. In each 30-minute episode of Recipes that Rock, Stone and James dive into the culinary delights and fresh produce offerings of Margaret River, a region of Western Australia known for its chilled-out surfing town and for its wines. Alongside outstanding microbreweries, producers of artisan cheese, chocolate and olive oil have also made this their home.

Inspired by the high-quality Asian dishes and Pacific Rim cuisine, Stone and James cook up feasts like sticky Vietnamese pork, Mexican spiced abalone with avocado and mango salad, barbecued marron with grilled asparagus and beach herbs, and delicious desserts like a liquid-centred chocolate cake and sheep milk ice-cream with fruits, pistachios and rose petal syrup.

Not only do the boys cook up a storm in the kitchen, they get down and dirty hive-hunting for gooey golden honey, scouring the aqua-blue beaches to pick abalone and play catch with piglets stuck on an island off the mainland of a free-range pig farm.

The boys continue ticking off their food lover’s must-do list: hunting for black truffles, touring the local wineries, catching their own dinner and meeting with experts who share special tricks of the trade while rubbing shoulders with renowned chefs from around the globe – Alex Atala, Alvin Leung, Heston Blumenthal, Rene Redzepi and Tetsuya Wakuda to name a few – as the gourmet world descends on the region for Margaret River’s Gourmet Escape.

"Recipes that Rock" airs Mondays at 7pm on TLC (Astro Channel 707) from April 28. Repeats are Tuesdays at 10am.

Tags / Keywords: Matt Stone , Margaret River , Recipes that rock


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