Monday, February 22, 2010

Luke Burgess - Uber Chef

The closest thing to a poet laureate Australia has - our beloved Les Murray - was once asked what his greatest ambition had been. His answer, after a typical pause and splutter, was that he had wanted to be recognised as a world class poet without having to leave his own country to achieve that recognition. Tasmania has some great chefs but make no mistake Luke Burgess is of world class and I for one hope he gains the recognition he deserves without the necessity to leave our State.

Luke (pictured above) is a 33 year old chef, Tetsuya Wakuda trained and world travelled. He briefly ran a stellar restaurant with his partner Katrina Birchmeier at Birch's Bay. For those of you who didn't make it to Pecora (now closed) or to a private dinner at Islington you may have experienced Luke's unique approach to food recently when he did a short residency at Chado in Hobart. Since returning from a stint at Noma in Copenhagen - recently touted by international food critic AA Gill as the best restaurant in the world - Luke has been looking around for a venue to establish a Hobart restaurant and Mary and I are hoping he and Kat do so soon. ( Mary and Kat are seen here drinking to that)

Luke is also an extremely talented and sought after food photographer and before leaving last Saturday for a month in Sydney shooting the food for a new cook book he cooked a dinner for 10 in our kitchen. It was a 9 course meal with matched wines from our cellar and it was of a standard that would be recognized internationally. To better the food on last Friday's table you could travel to Spain or France.

The first course, not pictured, was house made salumi made from pork from Rodney and Severine Dunn's Agrarian Kitchen, infused by Luke with porcini and aged for 1o months. It complimented the pre-dinner Gosset 1999 Grand Millisime wonderfully well with its primal pungency.

The second course pictured below was a mind blowing take on jellied eel - stunningly subtle yet unctuous smoked eel in a custard with jelly pieces covered with a delicate smoked eel foam. It was matched with a 2006 Raveneau Chablis 1st Cru.

Next came a sensational sashimi of local deep sea flathead and gurnard with Momofuku style zucchini pickles and Detroit beetroot and heirloom yellow tomatoes topped off with a tomato vinaigrette (poured at the table after I had taken the photograph below). It was a super mouth melting but zingy dish and was complimented well by a 2001 Salomon Pfaffenberg Riesling.

The third course was unashamedly Noma inspired and was a single Purple Dragon carrot braised to a red hue on the outside and a brilliant yellow within. It was served with purslane, a delicate succulent grown by Rodney Dunn and a malt "soil". The dish was a brain teasing palate pleaser served on a flat dish of earthy slate. It was accompanied by one of Tasmania's leading organic and biodynamic wine makers - Dirk Meure's - 2008 Pinot Gris from Birch's Bay.

Dirk, who is a close friend of Luke and Kat was was my old criminal law tutor in 1970. He later taught at universities in England and in Sydney. This brilliant legal academic turned wine maker grows his grapes in a non irrigated environment and makes his wines with wild yeast from the vineyard. He is also a world class exponent of his craft.

Then there came the most tender and moist Tasmanian rock lobster I have ever experienced. The tails, vacuum sealed and poached at 90C were served atop stewed onions and peas braised in Luke's hand churned butter and were crowned with brilliant chive flowers. The wine was a Bouchard 2005 Mersault 1st Cru Les Gouttes D'Or. An amazing wine for an amazing dish.

This dish can be seen below being plated by Luke (right of picture) and Kat and commis Thomas.
The calm and order in the kitchen mid way through a 9 course meal are evident and are reflected in the food.

The fifth course was truly staggering. A 30 day dry aged eye fillet from Cape Grim was used as the base for a beef tartare topped with dill pollen and mustard flowers and leaves. This piercingly beautiful dish was also served on slate and was balanced with a broad smear of chive emulsion. The dish was served with no cutlery but was instead eaten with the fingers, picking up a portion and wiping it through the chive sauce.

We drank another of Dirk's wines with this dish, an as yet unreleased 2008 d'Meure Sarabande. This wine had special significance as the vinification of this blend of 1/3 Cabernet Franc, 1/3 Malbec and 1/3 Merlot was overseen by Luke and Kat.

The next course was from a shoulder of Wessex Saddleback pork bred and raised by another amazing young Tasmanian couple - Guy Robertson and Eliza Wood from Mt Gnomon Farm nestled under the Dial Range near Penguin on the North West Coast.

Luke scored this beautifully fat and marbled shoulder and rubbed it with fennel pollen before cooking it slowly for 7 hours with heirloom red onions from the Agrarian Kitchen garden.

The dish was then served on a puree of potato with the onions and wilted Treviso. With this course we started out with an Armand Rosseau 1998 Charmes Chambertin Grand Cru. After 2 bottles food and wine writer Sue Dyson declared that Dirk Meure's 2006 Pinot Noir could match this great wine with the pork and to Dirk's great pleasure Kat went to the cellar with our blessing and brought in 2 bottles of his fabulous pinot. Sue's point was of course about a "live wine" versus a "dead wine" but the match was in fact made in heaven!

The penultimate course was of 2 types of local plum served as a palate cleanser with an amazing blackberry granita. I missed photographing the dish, as did my back up photographer Sue Dyson - we were engrossed in a conversation about which vintage of Greg Melick's Pressing Matters R139 Riesling was to accompany the dessert courses.

The final plate was an ice cream of Kyobancha smoked green tea (from guest Varuni Kulasekera and Brian Ritchie's Chado teahouse) accompanied by wild blackberries, cocoa and chocolate and walnuts. It was paired, as I have said, with Greg and Michelle Melick's gold medal winning R139 Riesling made by Paul Smart at Ti Tree in the Coal River Valley region.

So that was it, 10 guests, 5 hours, 9 courses and 10 wines. A table of which Hobart and Tasmania can be justifiably proud - the product of a truly international talent that will never be subjected to Les Murray's feared "cultural cringe" but a talent I truly hope will stay in Tasmania. We anxiously await the announcement of Luke's restaurant plans.


  1. Can I just say wow? Looks delicious.

  2. Thanks Stephen & Mary, it sounds like a trully remarkable meal. I, like you said in your intro, hope Luke & Kat stay in Tas & do their own thing 'cause if they do , it'll be a standard bearer.

  3. Stunning! Best vicarious gorge ever.

    I think Pear Ridge still awaits a rebirth . . .

  4. Inspiring, showcase of Tasmanian produce. My only other comment is could these "dishes" be matched with all Tasmanian wines?
    I look forward to following Luke's permanent entre into the Tasmanian restaurant scene.

  5. looks amazing. Wonderful description.

  6. I still miss Pecora and seeing this reminds me why!

  7. Absolutely, thank you so much for sharing this.
    It looks amazing!!
    I literally am at a loss for words, and that never happens.

  8. Oh my, what an incredible feast!

    I hope Luke and Kat find a place soon so I get a chance to eat his wonderful food again.

  9. Wow....Wonderful.. Thanks for sharing this to us. :)


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