To kick things off, we’re curious to know what prompted you to pursue cooking professionally. Is there a particular memory you can trace your love of food back to?
I can’t pick out one memory, as food was always a huge part of family life for me. My grandma loved cooking and teaching us how to bake cakes using the same double-pan balance scales and hand mixer she had from the 1940s – I thought that was pretty incredible. Nan and Grandad were the true masters of Sunday lunch, regularly cooking delicious food for more than ten people with military precision and timing, whilst making absolutely no mess whatsoever. My parents still have a good laugh about the Fisher-Price play kitchen I had as a two year old, we were inseparable. That was the start of the cooking bug, so cheers Mum and Dad! From there I got myself a job at a local restaurant as soon as I was old enough, washing dishes and furiously peeling vegetables.
What was the first dish you ever nailed? Is it still a recipe you return to from time to time?
Cooking when I was younger was a lesson in bulk catering! With a family of five with three teenage boys I am sure the volume of food the house went through was obscene. Mum showed me her lasagne recipe, that is always a go-to dish now – it’s supreme comfort food full of nostalgia. Dad loves slow cooking, so he showed me a pork-and-pineapple curry a long time ago that he had perfected over the years and is always a regular for family get togethers too.
As head chef at Black Hide by Gambaro you clearly know your way around a cut of beef. What is your personal favourite cut to cook (and eat) and why?
I really enjoy cooking rump cap. It’s very versatile in terms of cooking methods and matches up well with a huge array of flavours. The cap of fat protects the meat well and provides an incredible flavour to the beef.
While many folks understandably connect the name Black Hide by Gambaro with top-tier steaks, the restaurant also boasts a superb selection of seafood dishes. If you had to tempt a diner away from the steaks towards a seafood dish, what would you recommend?
In Australia we are really blessed with some excellent and unique seafood, and we are lucky to have great access to that at the restaurant. I really enjoy share-style meals and that’s one of the things I believe we do well at Black Hide. I couldn’t recommend having something other than steak at a steak restaurant! However, I would say you could start the table with the oysters that we shuck to order as a delicate entree along with the Moreton Bay bugs with lemon butter and grilled broccolini. Sharing those dishes followed by a steak would be a perfect balance showcasing the best of both worlds.
Black Hide by Gambaro prides itself on sourcing some of the finest quality beef in Australia for its dry-ageing program – can you shed some light on what this process entails?
We work closely with the team at Stanbroke Beef to source cuts of beef that will really shine during the dry-ageing process. Simply put, the process entails removing moisture from the cuts of beef over a long period of time, so we use a cabinet that has strict control over both humidity and temperature. Exposing the beef to oxygen in this environment allows the natural enzymes within the beef to begin to break down some of the structures in the meat and this changes the texture and mouthfeel. Moisture loss over time really intensifies the flavour of the meat – it’s a similar process to reducing a stock over a much longer timescale. It’s worth the investment of time for the taste.
You’re gearing up to launch a new menu this October – can you give us any hints as to the direction of the changes and some of the dishes we might see appear?
For the new menu we are looking at lightening things up for the new season – really getting the most out of the ingredients we have on hand by minimising waste and encouraging some creativity from the team. We are working on a mayonnaise made from Moreton Bay bug shell oil to serve with a spanner crab and tarragon arancini.
As amateur grillers, we’d be remiss if we didn’t ask – what are some tips you would give to folks looking to elevate their steak game at home?
Start with the best beef you can afford – your local butcher will always steer you in the right direction. To get a great crust on the steaks it’s always a good idea to open them up and let them dry out in the fridge for a few hours sitting on paper towel to get rid of the surface moisture. Pull your steaks out of the fridge before cooking and let them come up towards room temperature, then season liberally with salt immediately before you are ready to sear. Whatever heat source you prefer to cook on (pan or barbecue), make sure it is as hot as you are comfortable with, you can always reduce heat easily but it’s much harder to increase it when the steaks are cooking. If you are unsure about how well cooked the steak is, pull it off the heat and rest it early – you can always cook it a touch more but not reverse the process!
Finally, when you host a barbecue, what are some must-have items in your ideal spread?
Definitely some local seafood to start, a slathering of good company and some great music. I enjoy being spontaneous with what I cook on the barbecue, however if you have the other items, I’m sure you’re in for a good time!
Has all of this steak chat inflamed your appetite? Black Hide by Gambaro at Treasury Brisbane is open for dinner from Tuesday to Saturday. For bookings and enquiries, please call 07 3306 8420 or email [email protected].