As a part of the Noosa International Food and Wine Festival held this weekend, I was invited to “An intimate event with Tetsuya Wakuda” by the Tasmanian company Petuna. Now if you were me, you would have assumed that this ‘intimate’ event would be Tetsuya and 250 of his closest friends.
Imagine my surprise when I arrived and it was Tetsuya, the Petuna people and 3 others. When the Petuna company says intimate, they aren’t kidding.
The interview was conversational and chef Tetsuya couldn’t have been more accomodating in both answering questions or posing for as many photographs as we wanted. He said it was part of the job but one he enjoyed because he always got a hug.
He’s very down to earth and he couches all his recipes with the phrase, “or whatever you like, if you don’t like too much wasabi, use less, if you like more ginger, use more.”
For those of you who don’t have a clue who Tetsuya Wakuda is, he’s a Japanese born Australian chef and is considered one of the most creative culinary talents in the country. He has a restaurant in Sydney called Tetsuya’s and one in Singapore called Waku Ghin. From 2002 to 2010 his restaurant in Sydney was consistently voted one of the World’s Best Restaurants by ‘The S.Pellegrino Worlds 50 Best Restaurants’ voted by critics and chefs. So with that background, imagine having him to talk to for over an hour?
Arriving in Australia in 1982 at 22 years of age with little more than his personal belongings and a love of food, he began working as a sushi chef at Kinsela’s and he stayed there long enough to learn classical French techniques which he has married with his Japanese philosophy of using natural flavours. He started his first restaurant with a partner and a few years later, opened Tetsuya’s as his first restaurant all on his own.
Apart from all the accolades about how good his food is, what struck me was the man. He’s courted by the rich and famous daily but he couldn’t have been kinder to me. You know how some fancypants talk down to you because they can? Tetsuya treated all four of us as equals and that’s what sets the man apart for me. He’s a great cook, a very good manager and a clever businessman but he doesn’t profess to know everything. I got the impression that he feels he can learn something from everyone.
Tetsuya has partnered with the Petuna company to develop smoked ocean trout in a similar fashion to the smoked salmon we’re all used to. We were given samples of the ocean trout and it was soft and creamy and left my mouth wanting more.
The switch from salmon to ocean trout came about when the supply of salmon was between seasons and he was invited to Tasmania to see how the ocean trout were raised. The south-west coast of Tasmania where the Franklin and Gordon rivers meet the Great Southern Ocean is the perfect environment to farm ocean trout. The clean water from the river floats on top of the cold salt water and that is the ideal situation to raise ocean trout which need the pure water to prevent gill disease.
When asked why he chose Petuna to partner with, Tetsuya answered:
“The Petuna Ocean Trout by Peter and Una Rockliff has been the key ingredient in my signature dish, Confit of Ocean Trout. Its vibrant colour, purity of flavour and luscious marbled texture continues to shine and delight my patrons and guests. Neville Rockliff is the son of Peter and Una and a very dear friend. Neville started Ceas Spanner Crab in 2005, with the sole purpose of providing quality spanner crab meat to the Australian and overseas markets.”
I had a quick chat with Neville Rockliff who lives not far from me on the Sunshine Coast and I asked how Ceas could get the crab meat out of the shells without cooking it first. He laughed and said that in the beginning his wife used to cover everything in the kitchen when he’d work on the crabs. They did master the art of retrieving the meat and the trick is to put the crabs in the freezer at 0 degrees for about 15 minutes and then pop them in a centrifuge and whisk the meat out. Once that’s done, workers retrieve whatever meat is left.
I came home with a package of the ocean trout and the spanner crab meat. The trout went into appetisers and the crabmeat went into the most delicious fried rice. It’s available all over Australia in good seafood shops and will be available around the world once they get enough crabs. Queensland is serious about sustainable fishing.
For the Noosa International Food and Wine Festival Tetsuya prepared a Bon Bon of Ocean Trout that could easily fit into a traditional truffle chocolate box. It is a miniature of his tian of ocean trout which is available at Tetsuya’s Restaurant in Sydney.
If you’d like to make some yourself, here’s his recipe.
- 12 thinly sliced Petuna Ocean Trout™ portions of sashimi grade quality
- 60g finely diced end of belly Petuna Ocean Trout™ portions of sashimi grade quality
- 2 tsp extra virgin olive oil
- 1 tsp chives, finely chopped
- ½ tsp soya sauce
- ½ tsp mirin
- 2 tsp wasabi stalk, finely chopped
- 3 tsp goat’s curd
- 1 pinch salt
- 1 pinch cayenne pepper
- 12 pieces of cling wrap larger than Petuna Ocean Trout™ slices
- Mix all ingredients together, except for the sliced Petuna Ocean Trout™.
- On each piece of cut cling wrap, place Ocean Trout slice and a small amount of trout mix on the sliced trout.
- Pick up the 4 corners of the wrap and lift to make a round shape.
- Tie the wrap and place Bon Bons in the refrigerator for 3-5 hours.
- Drop little olive oil and grained black pepper then serve.