Food festivals are a chance for punters to get up, close and personal with their favourite chefs, but it’s often the chefs who are most excited about cooking beside their heroes. From August 5 to 18, the inaugural Curated Plate will unfold on the Sunshine Coast. Good Food is presenting the headline event, Wild Forage Dining. In this one-off dinner Zaiyu Hasegawa from Den in Tokyo – recently awarded number 11 on The World’s 50 Best Restaurants list – will cook a six-course, foraged feast on Mooloolaba Beach alongside Chase Kojima (Sokyo and Kiyomi at The Star and newly-opened Chuuka in Sydney) and Matt Stone (Oakridge, Yarra Valley).
Zaiyu Hasegawa – owner of the no. 1 restaurant in Japan.
Kojima and Hasegawa have met, but the former remains star struck. “He absolutely makes the best dashi, and dashi is the key thing to marry everything in Japanese cooking,” says Kojima. Although there’s a focus on foraging at the event, Kojima closely guards his recipes for sushi rice and sauces and plans to pack them on the plane over from Sydney. “We have a lot of secret recipes. It’s something that we really worked hard to develop.” Kojima and Hasegawa adopt a similar customer focus in their restaurants. “A lot of chefs I know focus only on food and themselves, but at the end of the day they are guests, and I want them to have the best time. I think that’s an approach that Zaiyu takes as well,” says Kojima.
DFC – Dentucky Fried Chicken
Along with bringing “Japanese heart” to the The Curated Plate and sharing a taste of Tokyo, Hasegawa looks forward to learning, too. “There is a lot of Australian produce that is local and special to the land. I am excited to learn not just about Australian cuisine, but the chefs’ approach to food, culture and their way of life,” he says. Hasegawa has gained a reputation for his playful food, whether a smiley carved into a slice of daikon or his elevated DFC (Den Fried Chicken), which arrives in a custom box. “In Japan, ‘don’t play with your food’ means don’t waste food. We create a fun environment, but we don’t play with our food. Having fun and playing are different,” he says.
Den’s Signature Garden Salad
When we spoke to Stone – who makes miso, garums and cooks on a hibachi grill – he was planning to forage for saltbush in Point Lonsdale to prepare a kimchi for his local ‘roo dish at the festival. When he and Jo Barrett cook at Oakridge, it’s tricky to pigeonhole what they call “Yarra Valley cuisine”. “Our cuisine isn’t defined by anything – or if anything it’s by ethos,” says Stone. That ethos includes working closely with farmers – the focus of the food festival – and involves asking producers what they need instead of telling them what to provide. Home cooks can do the same. Stone suggests visiting farmer’s markets and asking what’s good, about their crop rotation and if there are any seconds hidden away because of how they look. “Having those kind of relationships is really the next step up from cooking locally and sustainably,” says Stone.
Words by Sofia Levin