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Food and beverage stories

Cup win for our food brand

Edition 178 James Viles

The Tasmanian brand had a Melbourne Cup win when James Boags engaged celebrity chef James Viles to whip up a Tasmanian feast at Flemington.

Viles, who has cemented his reputation as one of Australia's top young chefs at his two-hatted Biota Dining & Rooms in the NSW southern highlands town of Bowral, doesn't do things by half-measures.

He travelled to Tasmania with writer Callan Boys of GoodFood.com.au and photographer Lean Timms to source the ingredients for his 01 November feast and to meet each of the suppliers.

"Bloody hell, I love it down here," Viles was quoted in Boys's story "You would be so inspired to cook, waking up to this landscape every day."

They visited:

  • Tasmanian Butter Co. "Butter whisperer Olivia Morrison inoculates Tasmanian cream with lactic cultures and leaves it to ferment for 12-18 hours before churning. The result is a soft, light and nutty butter you can almost slice and eat like cheese."
  • Beef farmer John Bruce, one of Cape Grim Beef's suppliers. "The beef is world-class gear that tastes of green pastures and cows that have lived a peaceful life ... spent a night eating barbecued southern squid and Cape Grim rib-eyes as big as your head before retiring to our cabins happy and fat."
  • Shima Wasabi: "Top bloke Simon Welsh runs an impressive hydroponic set-up at Shima Wasabi ... a punnet of kinome makes its way into Robbins Island wagyu tartare for dinner that night. It's a properly brilliant dish."
  • James Boag's brewery. "I discovered this 100-year-old gem [James Boags XXX Ale]. It's crisp and refreshing, with the right amount of bitterness to make it super smashable on a hot day. Just make sure you ask for a Boags "red" not a Boags "triple x", otherwise you'll look like a right wombat."
  • Freycinet Marine Farm. "Viles shucks bivalves on deck (I can't do it because I can't feel my hands). They taste buttery and primordial and it's about as good as an oyster-eating experience gets."
  • Tasman Sea Salt, where a flat tyre flattened the crew's plans. "Big props to Alice Laing for meeting us at a Swansea fish and chippery while we tracked down new tyres, and supplying us with Tasmanian pepper berry-infused salt. It made some ordinary battered hake taste much better."
  • Kai Ho. "The wakame tastes unbelievable ... especially when eaten on the beach and wrapped around delicate sea urchin tongue from the cold, dark depths of Tasmanian waters. Tassie sea urchin is the best in the country and I won't be argued on this."
  • Wellington Apiary. "Why can't all honey taste like this pure, raw, coarse-filtered bee goodness produced by Robin and Antonia O'Brien?"
  • Tongola Goat Products. "The world needs more champions like Iain and Kate Field ... It's a place to make you smile thanks to incredible views and happy animals."

"Iain and Kate are bloody legends," Boys said as the team headed for the airport, their boots caked in biodynamic mud.

"Everyone we've met on this trip has been a legend," Viles answered.

Their trip provided the ingredients for a Harnessed by James Boag Culinary Experience within Flemington's Birdcage on Cup Day.

The menu included Southern Calamari with Wild Sea Lettuce, Toasted Grain Broth and Samphire, Tongola Goats Cheese with Leeks Cooked in Brown Butter and Fried Saltbush and Beer and Parsnip Ice Cream.

Viles told the magazine GQ: “The trip was a great meet-and-greet with Tassie producers – to harness whatever ingredients I could from the season we’re in now and develop a menu from it.

“Tasmania is somewhere you could spend a couple of weeks getting lost and really immerse yourself in nature – it’s full-on adventure cooking.”

Viles’ culinary career began as a teenage chef at The Schoolhouse in the southern highlands where he had grown up.

He was awarded a Sydney Morning Herald Chef’s Hat at the tender age of 23.

During a stint overseas, Viles was involved with the openings of several acclaimed restaurants and hotels in the Middle East and Europe, and worked alongside some leading chefs, including two-star Michelin Chef Hans Haas of Tantris in Munich and Alain Ducasse at Spoon in Hong Kong.

Viles co-hosted Channel Nine’s cooking show Fresh and has made many other media appearances.

He did an exceptional job for the Tasmanian food brand in early November.

 Image courtesy of Lean Timms 

30 November 2016, Edition 178

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