Leah Cohen speaks with the genius mind and unabashed guilty palate of noted food writer Jill Dupleix to serve us a banquet of her culinary experience. In eight courses.
We broke bread with respected food writer, restaurant critic, editor and mother of 16 cookbooks, Jill Dupleix, to discuss the vibrant, shifting landscape of Sydney’s up-and-coming food scene, her most unforgettable culinary experience, and the current trend she wishes would be placed in the nearest bin. Bon appétit!
1) Favourite up-and-coming restaurant?
The next one! I love being in on the early stages of a restaurant when things are all fresh and a bit unformed and wobbly, yet you can see the talent and the potential.
It’s very exciting at the moment, because there are so many highly skilled, well-trained young chefs going out and doing their own thing. There are two I am dying to get back to: Captain Moonlite in Anglesea on the Great Ocean Road in Victoria (chef Matt Germanchis) and Yan in Wolli Creek, a southern suburb of Sydney (chef Raymond Lim). Both have what it takes in spades.
2) Your number one food capital in the world?
Has to be Paris. I try not to let it seduce me, I try to play hard-to-get, but it gets me every time. I love shopping for food in the patisseries and bakeries, hunting down interesting bistros, sitting on the street with a glass of wine, and hitting the hot spots for a high-end blow-out. Paris keeps surprising me every time, the minx.
3) The dish that changed your life and why?
It was a salad, believe it or not, made for me at the table at the late Alain Chapel’s restaurant at Mionnay in France, sometime in the 1980’s. There was such care and focus in the tossing of the perfect little leaves so that every single one was coated; so much acidity from the vinegar; so much attention paid to the seasoning; the touch of mustard, the spoonful of pan juices from the roast chicken with which it was served. I now make every salad with exactly that same concentration.
4) One ingredient you can’t stand?
Getting very tired of gratuitous use of mayonnaise.
5) Trend you wish chefs stop following in 2017?
Liquid nitrogen. You’re a chef, not David Copperfield. Or Brian Cox.
6) Most unforgettable dining experience you’ve had?
Orana in Adelaide, where a Scottish/Italian chef called Jock Zonfrillo works with Indigenous and wild ingredients to create something that feels completely natural, and always makes me dissolve into tears of happiness. It’s another step closer to my dream of Australia developing its own unique cuisine, with Indigenous and imported chefs working side-by-side.
7) Three people alive or dead you’d invite to your last supper and what dish you’d make for them?
George Harrison, David Bowie and Prince, so I could say thanks for all the good times. I think I’d just put out heaps of greens and grains, heirloom tomatoes, vegetable curries, dal, and Indian flatbreads, pour a beautiful Pinot Noir and finish with a flourless chocolate cake.
8) Your guilty pleasure?
I have this thing about good, old-fashioned scones – it comes from growing up on a sheep farm in country Victoria – and I would go a long way out of my way for a good scone. Or a lamington. Or fruitcake. Not that I feel guilty about any of my pleasures!