The best cookbooks by Australian chefs to buy to support Australian restaurants during these challenging times include Dan Hunter’s Brae: Recipes and Stories from the Restaurant, Igni: A Restaurant’s First Year by Aaron Turner, and Smith and Daughters: A Cookbook (That Happens To Be Vegan) by Shannon Martinez and Mo Wyse.
As cities and towns in Australia come out of lockdown and government restrictions ease in most states, Australian restaurants have been reopening to diners after months offering gourmet takeaway and home delivery, pre-prepared meals to cook or finish at home, produce boxes and baked goods, private dinner parties, merchandising, and virtual cooking classes to keep their businesses afloat and pay their staff.
In May, the Australian federal government announced a three-stage plan for easing restrictions, however, it’s been up to each Australian state and territory to determine when their restaurants (and bistros, bars, pubs, and cafes) can open, how many diners they can seat, how far tables need to be separated (typically 1.5 to 2 metres), and whether they need to collect customers’ personal information for contact tracing.
Many of the best Australian restaurants have reopened, such as Sydney restaurants Quay, Rockpool Bar & Grill and Firedoor, and Dan Hunter’s Brae, 136km southwest of Melbourne, which opened on 25 June after focusing on selling produce boxes and takeaway in recent months. However, some restaurants, such as Attica and IGNI are choosing to keeping their dining rooms closed for the moment as it doesn’t yet make financial sense to reopen.
A few months ago we suggested ways to help save your favourite restaurants during the pandemic. Buying restaurant cookbooks is one way to help. This is the first of a series on the best cookbooks by chefs you can buy to support your favourite restaurants, starting with Australia.
Best Cookbooks by Australian Chefs to Buy to Support Australian Restaurants
As chefs earn royalties from cookbook sales, purchasing a cookbook or two by the chefs of your favourite restaurants provides them with additional income. We’ve compiled a selection of some of the best cookbooks by Australian chefs that you can purchase to support Australian restaurants during these challenging times.
We’ve only chosen cookbooks that are available to buy online as many of our readers aren’t in Australia and those who are in Australia are in places that remain in lockdown or are choosing to stay at home. But if you are able to get out, head to your nearest independent bookseller and ask them for their tips on the best cookbooks by Australian chefs to buy.
You’ll also find more of the best cookbooks by Australian chefs in these posts: Josh Niland’s Whole Fish Cookbook is amongst these James Beard 2020 Award Winning Cookbooks, while David Thompson’s Thai Food and Neil Perry’s Rockpool are on Terence’s list of Cookbooks for Serious Cooks (AKA his Desert Island Cookbooks).
Best Cookbooks by Australian Chefs to Buy to Support Australian Restaurants
Brae, Recipes and Stories from the Restaurant by Dan Hunter
Farm to table destination restaurants in the Australian countryside such as Dan Hunter’s award-winning Brae, a couple of hour’s drive southwest of Melbourne, found the coronavirus closure more challenging than city restaurants with a larger customer base, even an award-winning destination restaurant such as Brae, which has featured on world’s best restaurants lists and been voted best Australian regional restaurant. Yet the community of nearby Birregurra, population 828, has supported the pioneering contemporary Australian restaurant, buying heat-at-home meals and boxes filled with the beautiful organic produce that the chefs ordinarily pick each morning and afternoon before service. In his first cookbook Brae, Recipes and Stories from the Restaurant, easily one of the best cookbooks by Australian chefs, Dan Hunter reflects on his journey (which took him from celebrated Mugaritz in Spain where he was head chef to The Royal Mail in Dunkeld in the Grampians before he opened Brae), explores the concept of place and how it has influenced his idiosyncratic cooking style and hyper-local cuisine and shares his vision for Brae and his experience developing the intensive organic kitchen garden. The exquisite 256-page book is crammed with recipes from the restaurant, diary extracts and cooking tips. When you’re able to travel again, do book a table at Brae – we recommend a noon reservation for a long leisurely lunch – as well as one of the luxury suites on site or a room at a charming B&B in nearby Birregurra, such as Harvest or Birregurra 1865, so you can take time to slow down and absorb the bucolic surroundings.
IGNI, A Restaurant’s First Year by Aaron Turner
Another restaurant that warrants a midday reservation when it re-opens so you can while away a whole afternoon savouring Aaron Turner’s sublime contemporary Australian cuisine is IGNI, pictured above. It’s just an easy hour-long journey south on the train from Melbourne in Geelong, although the seaside city is also worth an overnight stay for its fab wine bars, cafés and restaurants. Even better, stay a weekend and explore the nearby Bellarine food and wine region. Aaron Turner’s book IGNI, A Restaurant’s First Year is another one of the best cookbooks by Australian chefs. It charts the chef’s journey (Turner’s resume includes stints at Rene Redzepi’s Noma and the Roca brothers’ El Celler de Can Roca) as much as that of his degustation-only restaurant in the backstreets of Geelong, from IGNI’s 2016 opening and first six months through to a mid-year break of camping and cooking in the bush through to the tough winter months. Alongside the recipes are Turner’s dated diary entries that document not only the development of recipes, but the challenges that Turner faced, from financial strains to fear and stress, and the pressure of success and failure. This is a book that we recommend reading right through the first time before you start cooking It’s a must-read for anyone considering opening a restaurant. And if you get to Geelong, we loved the Vue Apartments, which were midway between the beach and restaurants and had fab kitchens.
The Hot Chicken Project: Words + Recipes – Obsession + Salvation – Spice + Fire by Aaron Turner
IGNI wasn’t Aaron Turner’s first restaurant. In fact, a now-legendary restaurant set amongst olive groves called Loam was, however, we first met the chef at his boisterous natural wine bar cum spicy chicken joint called The Hot Chicken Project in the heart of Geelong’s eating and drinking precinct. After Turner closed Loam, a personal crisis took him to the USA to Nashville, not only the capital of country music, but also of chicken, fiery fried chicken. Turner became obsessed and for two years immersed himself in learning how to create the finest renditions of the city’s famously spicy wings and drumsticks, before returning to Geelong. Turner’s book, The Hot Chicken Project is easily another one of the best cookbooks by Australian chefs. The book is as much an exploration and celebration of the American South’s iconic food, culture and history, and “the power hot chicken holds over the city of Nashville – and beyond”. Along with 40 hot chicken recipes – from sandwiches and salads through to mains, sides and sauces – Turner tells the stories of the people, families and communities in Nashville who have cooked and eaten hot chicken over several generations. At the time of publishing this, The Hot Chicken Project (now in Anglesea as well as Geelong) is currently offering takeaway only. Turner recently opened Tacos y Liquor in Geelong (also takeaway only for now), his homage to Mexico’s neighbourhood taquerias and LA’s taco trucks. Let’s hope he’s keeping a diary.
Origin: The Food of Ben Shewry by Ben Shewry
Up in Melbourne, Ben Shewry, owner-chef of award-winning Attica, long considered one of the country’s best contemporary Australian restaurants, didn’t waste any time after closing the doors to his fine diner where an inventive degustation menu of thoughtful dishes made with native Australian ingredients costs around A$300 per person. Shewry, who grew up on a New Zealand farm and used to forage in the back lanes around his Ripponlea restaurant, has long been known to be resilient and resourceful. After he was forced to close Attica, Shewry launched an ‘Attica at Home’ ready-to-eat delivery menu that featured some of the most loved dishes, including a couple of our favourites, a Potato Cooked in the Earth it Was Grown and the Plight of the Bees, a dessert of honey curd and fennel ice. You’ll find detailed recipes for those dishes and many more in Origin: The Food of Ben Shewry, another one of the best cookbooks by Australian chefs. As you can guess from the dish titles, Shewry is a storyteller. Each dish has a rich narrative behind it inspired by vivid memories and significant moments in his life and Origin features these along with reflections on food, produce, place, time, and memory. Shewry is also selling t-shirts and tableware created in Attica’s on-site ceramics studio.
Smith and Daughters: A Cookbook (That Happens To Be Vegan) by Shannon Martinez and Mo Wyse
Across the city in the hipster neighbourhood of Fitzroy, chef Shannon Martinez and her business partner Mo Wyse run Smith and Daughters, a plant-based restaurant that if you’re not already a devoted follower will destroy any preconceptions you had of vegan food being bland and boring. When Martinez and Wyse opened Smith and Daughters, they set out to change the perception of what vegan food is and succeeded. Around 70% of diners aren’t vegan and the flavours are big and bold – perhaps because Martinez approaches vegan food as a meat-eating chef might, creating rich, hearty, well-seasoned dishes that appeal to vegans and carnivores alike. In their first cookbook Smith and Daughters: A Cookbook (That Happens to be Vegan) Martinez and Wyse offer more than 80 delicious vegan recipes with a Spanish cum Mexican twist. Organised across seven chapters – small plates, big plates, salads, dressings, sweets, and drinks – there are recipes for chipotle cashew ‘cheese’, ‘tuna’ and green pea croquettes, ‘chorizo’ made from potato, ‘meatballs’ in a saffron almond sauce, Spanish doughnuts, and spiced Mexican flan.
Their second cookbook, Smith & Deli-cious: Food From Our Deli (That Happens to be Vegan) features recipes for some of the hundreds of dishes they sell from what fans claim to be the world’s best vegan deli – there were lines around the block, even before social distancing. Expect recipes for spanakopita, mac and cheese, mince pies, doughnuts, and more. Look out for a third soon-to-be-published cookbook, Vegan with Bite. As you’d expect from two women like Martinez and Wyse, they reacted quickly to the pandemic and back in March had already implemented rigorous hygiene measures and social distancing, before focusing on takeaway and delivery, produce pop-ups to support suppliers and provide food as supermarkets were running out, and selling cocktails in hand-painted bottles and cool merchandise. Smith and Daughters is now open for dining in again.
Marriage of Flavours: Four Seasons of Beautifully Balanced Food by Scott Pickett
The owner-chef of some of Melbourne’s much loved restaurants, include Estelle, Saint Crispin (now Lupo), Matilda, Pickett’s Deli and Rotisserie, and the new Pastore, Scott Pickett was born and raised on a farm in Kangarilla in the McLaren Vale wine growing region of neighbouring South Australia, a state famous for producing some of Australia’s finest wines, fantastic quality produce and brilliant food. Pickett, who trained in London in the Nineties, working in Michelin-starred restaurants, credits his childhood for his connection to the environment, the land and local growers – and his grandma’s Sunday roasts for his love of real food. While Europe gave Pickett a respect for seasonality and classic dishes, returning home to Australia, a country with a cuisine rich in culinary diversity, gave him a taste for sweet, sour, bitter, salty, spicy, umami, temperature and texture, leading to a pursuit of balance between contrasting and complementary flavours and textures, and building Pickett a reputation for creating delicious food based on fantastic flavour combinations. In Marriage of Flavours: Four Seasons of Beautifully Balanced Food, Pickett shares recipes that range from twists on classic combinations to more unusual pairings, along with secrets to creating a perfectly balanced dish or meal. Order home delivery or book a table at any of the chef’s restaurants on his site Pickett and Co.
Quay: Food Inspired By Nature by Peter Gilmore
North of the border in Sydney, Peter Gilmore, executive chef of Quay, one of Sydney’s best restaurants, long regarded as one of Australia’s finest restaurants, and frequently appearing on world’s best restaurants lists, is another cerebral chef and culinary genius considered one of Australia’s greatest chefs. The recently reopened Quay restaurant, owned by father-son restaurateurs Leon Fink and John Fink, is located on the bustling ferry hub of Circular Quay. The gorgeous restaurant has gob-smacking views of Sydney’s glittering harbour, blue skies and the white sails of Sydney Opera House, home to Bennelong, another Fink restaurant that Gilmore oversees. Just beyond are Sydney’s sprawling historic botanic gardens. It should be no surprise then that nature is the chef’s main inspiration and his stunning Quay: Food Inspired By Nature is easily another one of the best cookbooks by Australian chefs. An exploration of the chef’s nature-based philosophy and organic presentation of his dishes, it includes detailed recipes for signature dishes such as the beloved Snow Egg, his iridescent Sea Pearls (seafood set into jellies shaped into lustrous pearls), and his heavenly Eight-Textured Chocolate Cake. Quay has re-opened and if you are in Australia you can make reservations here. Take advantage of the country being closed to book a table that pre-pandemic you’d have to wait months to secure. And if you are dining at Quay, check into one of these Sydney lodgings with spectacular views, everything from five-star luxury to a youth hostel with harbour vistas.
From the Earth: World’s Great, Rare and Almost Forgotten Vegetables by Peter Gilmore
Chef Peter Gilmore’s From the Earth: World’s Great, Rare and Almost Forgotten Vegetables is another one of the best cookbooks by Australian chefs. A 2019 James Beard Award Nominee, it is a fantastic companion book to Quay: Food Inspired By Nature, further illuminating the chef’s passion for nature and its fantastic produce. The book is a celebration of some 50 exotic heirloom vegetables and plants through the seasons, some of which Gilmore grows in his own home garden, while others come from growers he has been collaborating with for over 15 years. There are beautiful botanical illustrations, information on the vegetable or plant’s family group, origin, history, growing conditions, traditional cooking uses, anecdotal stories, and reflections by the chef on why he loves them, along with a recipe inspired by the ingredient. Recipes are a mix of the simple and complex and include everything from Kyoto red carrot salad (with sheep’s milk feta, smoked almond, and sherry caramel), to Slow braised roveja peas (with fermented mushrooms and black garlic purée). Bonus: you’ll get a good look at Gilmore’s home garden and profiles of his favourite seed suppliers and growers.
Finding Fire: Cooking at its Most Elemental by Lennox Hastie
On the other side of Sydney’s city centre in the historic garment district cum creative hub that is Surry Hills, Firedoor is another member of the Fink family of restaurants helmed by co-owner and chef Lennox Hastie, a master of cooking with fire. Hastie worked at Michelin-starred restaurants in Europe before he sought out the legendary asador, Etxebarri, in the Basque country of Spain, renowned for its wood-fired grilling. Working alongside the great Victor Arguinzoniz. Hastie became so transfixed with cooking with fire at Etxebarri, that he spent five years there, pushing the limits as to what could be cooked over a wood fire. After returning to Australia, Hastie partnered with the Finks to open Firedoor in 2015. In his wonderful book Finding Fire: Cooking at its Most Elemental, Hastie introduces the reader to the possibilities when it comes to preparing food using the most ancient method of cooking with fire. The chef covers the history of how fire has been used by so many different cultures and explains the techniques behind creating a great fire, and how using different types of wood enhances the natural flavours of ingredients. There are some 90 recipes, divided by food type – seafood, vegetables, meat, and sweet – that will equip you with the skills to cook with fire at home. See this grilled pipis, garlic and karkalla recipe for a taste of what to expect. When you dine at Firedoor you can pick up some tips by watching the master at work from your table. See our guide to Sydney’s best boutique hotels and apartment rentals with kitchens in the vicinity.