An Evening Of Acclaim – Penfolds x Mirazur
Take you seat for an indulgent dinner boasting Australia’s finest winery and one of the world’s greatest restaurants.
Mauro Colagreco, the Argentinian born chef whose restaurant Mirazaur in the South of France is considered by many to be the best in the world, recently spent several months in Australia, bringing a full kitchen brigade for a two month pop-up at Sydney’s Pier One.
In the midst of all that, he found the briefest of windows to head toAdelaide and an exclusive, one-off dinner at Penfolds’ Magill Estate.
He was kind enough to take a moment out of a hectic preparation session in the kitchen to chat with Robb Report Australia and New Zealand.
Robb Report: How does being a stranger in a strange land inspire creativity? Why is it good to put yourself in a different place, a different headspace?
Mauro Colagreco: It’s an interesting question because it was the starting point for choosing Australia. We came here because Australia totally different to anywhere else. Totally unique products endemic to this place. It’s a very special environment because the people love food. The people here know food because what they have here is such high quality.
For me, it’s my eighth time here, but for most of my team it’s the first and they’re all incredibly excited and inspired – they learn every day. As chef it’s always inspiring to work with totally new ingredients. Just today, while wandering the property here at Magill Estate, I found this little berry – I think you call it a lillipilly? It’s delicious and it will go on the menu tonight. I’ve also kept the seeds and will take them back to plant in the five hectares of kitchen garden we’ve got back at Mirazaur.
RR: This continent is a kind of ark — so isolated and so old. How do you feel that shapes the ingredients you’re working with?
MC: This place produces very strong flavours. In many places in the world it’s very difficult to find truly wild flavours. But here you have so many unique things. And Australia is huge. You have such variety, from the tropics to the dessert. For a chef, it’s incredibly interesting to work with such things.
Are there examples of something that didn’t work the way you thought it might? And things that have surprised you that worked perhaps better than you envisaged they would?
MC: My team came three months in advance of opening the pop in Sydney and met with many farmers and fishermen and to learn as much as they could about Australian produce. It’s always interesting to work with ingredients that are totally new to you, but they also have to incorporate these things into a cuisine that is Mirazaur. I’ll give you an example – we found a kind of native mint. Tiny leaves but super strong. It was far too strong for the dish we originally thought we could use it, but we keep working to find a way that might work. That’s the joy working somewhere so different and new.
RR: It’s interesting that we’re here at Penfolds. In the last couple of years I’ve been in the Napa Valley, tasting Penfolds wines from the Napa Valley, then Bordeaux tasting Penfolds wines from Bordeaux. It’s intriguing to see these classic regions refracted through a Penfolds lens. It seems, to me, you’re doing something similar here.
So with the food that you’re doing here in Australia, what is fundamentally Mirazur and what is Australia?
MC: Mirazur is the approach, the style, the vision. We keep the fundamental structure of what we do at Mirazur, four menus operating concurrently to the Bio-dynamic calendar. One for the leaf days, one for the roots, one for the fruit days and another four the flowers. So we do the same thing here, but of course the ingredients will be very different. It’s Mirazur fundamentals with Australian flavours. I see the similarity with Penfolds. Of course the wines will be Napa wines or Bordeaux wines, but there is something in the approach that puts a Penfolds mark on them too. It’s the same with us. We can’t just come here and do just what we do back in the restaurant. We have to have open eyes, open minds. We have to tap directly in to the place we have come to, otherwise what’s the point?
RR: Many would say dining at Mirazur is the peak of contemporary fine dining, the true luxury gastronomic experience. But where will we be in ten years?
What will true luxury be then?
MC: That’s a difficult question, but I’ll answer like this. I often think about my grandparents, perhaps that ate in a restaurant ten times in their whole lives. No people can eat in a restaurant every day of the week. But they lose something through that. That lose a connection to real food. But my grandmother taught me to cook, but she wasn’t just teaching me recipes. She was teaching me a culture, she was teaching me about seasons, she was teaching me respect for nature. And that’s in danger of being lost. Without out that, fine dining just becomes marketing.
The great restaurants in ten years will be run by a younger generation who have worked hard to learn the truth of great food, to learn the traditions, to understand what makes great produce and to present it in a truly authentic way.
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