Executive chef Simon Bryant fill us in on what fair trade coffee is all about and how he became a chef.
Thai Oriental Richmond, Bala’s St Kilda, Hilton Adelaide (Executive Chef)
Where did you grow up?
Exeter (UK), Devon (UK), Adelaide (AUS)
When did you realise you wanted to be a chef?
When they brought Hex Fees in and I was at Melb Uni, needed a job and ended up in the University Union Kitchen and loved it more than my degree.
How did you become an Oxfam Fair Taste champion?
I have a favourite supplier who supports fair trade Indigenous Australian spices and supplies Oxfam (Outback Pride), one thing led to another I guess.
Why are ‘Fair’ products important to you?
We don’t have the right to live in relative luxury buying underpriced products off the backs of workers in country’s not as fortunate as ours.
Is there one dish you still struggle to get right?
Anything to do with baking and dessert, I am the world’s worst pastry chef.
What does it take to be a successful chef?
The main thing people don’t realise is that cooking is 1 part natural ability, 1 part a curious mind (food science etc) and a GREAT DEAL of repetition. If you do anything long enough you will get better, but the main thing is sourcing the right ingredients, without good produce you have to fight very hard to get a good result.
Worst job you have ever had?
There is no such thing as a bad job, you can learn something even in the worst conditions and use it later.
What is your signature dish?
I really don’t believe in them, everything I have ever learnt is down to someone’s generosity / patience and teaching. Chefs are part of an accumulated and shared knowledge base that we all dip into since the first cookbook was scribbled down. I think my cooking is just an accumulated mish mash of influences with, of course, my own twists and turns.
What can people expect from your restaurant?
I am not in a restaurant at the moment but always for me it is about using the best local and ethically sourced sustainable ingredients you can find and honouring them by putting them on the plate with the least fuss possible.
What is the chef serving in heaven?
I don’t mind so long as it’s ethical & seasonal...
What is the most bizarre dish you have ever tried?
I have eaten some bizarre things but I think Alvin Leung of Bo innovation in Hong Kong (‘The Demon Chef’) and Grant Chat’s Alinea in Chicago have been the most interesting menus I have eaten. Very, very clever food.
What is one question people are always asking you?
Are you vegetarian?
What is your biggest food indulgence?
Really, really fresh fruit and veg, you just can’t beat a good farmers market to remind you of how good simple food can taste if it is grown with care and patience.
What flavours/ingredients are your favourite to work with?
Good oils, good salts and good herbs and spices, they are absolutely essential to your cooking.
Which three people would to invite to a dinner party?
January Jones from Madman but in character (as Betty Draper!) Nick Cave and Paul Keating.
What is your best tip for home cooks?
Source the best ingredients you can afford, cook in season, and cook simply but with care.
Simon's Best Oxfam Fair Bread Recipe
(makes 2 small loaves )
2 cups bread flour
1 tbls dried yeast
2 teaspoon sugar
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup espresso Oxfam coffee
1 cup water
1 cup olive oil
1cup dried wild figs chopped stalk removed
1 tablespoon aniseeds
(Optional) sesame seeds or aniseed to sprinkle on top extra
1. Heat a baking stone in the oven at 200 C
2. Macerate the chopped figs in the coffee and allow to absorb as much moisture as they will take in. Strain and squeeze out excess moisture and set aside both the figs and the liquid.
3. Make the dough by combining most of the flour, yeast, salt, sugar, ∏ tbls aniseed and warm water with the strained coffee liquid. Add the olive oil and then knead together to make a smooth dough. (You may need a little more water, or a little more flour. The dough needs to have resistance and just spring back at you, but it shouldn’t be hard) Rest in a bowl in a warm spot (covered with cling wrap), until doubled in size.
4. Shape dough to an oval and sprinkle with figs. Fold over half way and shape into an oval, and then flatten with a rolling pin into an oval/rectangle about 21/2 cm thick.
5. Cut 6-8 slashes in the dough and brush with olive oil slightly pulling part the slashes. Sprinkle with more aniseed and or white sesame seeds
6. Allow to rest for 15 minutes. Then place on the preheated pizza stone and bake in oven for 15- 20mins until it sounds hollow when tapped on the bottom.
**You may omit the olive oil and brush with egg yolk mixed with a little water for a darker crust.
Great served as it is as a morning tea , or with butter or with soft cheeses such as blue, brie or fetta
For premium coffee with a conscience, drink Oxfam fair – Australia’s newest organic Fairtrade coffee range. Available now from $8.95 at Oxfam Shops, selected Coles and Woolworths
supermarkets, independent supermarkets and online at www.oxfamshop.org.au,