My kitchen rules
11:32AM, Oct 21, 2011
In the kitchens of their respective restaurants, chefs Matt Moran, Frank Camorra, Guy Grossi, Greg Malouf and Philippe Mouchel are used to working with complex, industrial-sized appliances, vast spaces and armies of assistants. At home, though, mostly they opt for simplicity over gadgetry, function over fashion. Here’s what they have to say (check out our gallery for images of the chefs' kitchens).
The scent of cured ham permeates Frank Camorra’s kitchen in Melbourne’s Williamstown. On a bench sits a tanned leg of jamón which has been cured by his father, Juan, who each year presses, salts and hangs about a dozen legs in his Geelong carport. Camorra and his wife Vanessa sit around their island bench on white Tolix stools carving slices to accompany an evening tipple of La Goya manzanilla Sherry.
Camorra, owner-chef of Melbourne’s MoVida group of restaurants and a former architecture student, moved to this bayside suburb two years ago. There were two run-down kitchens in the house; both were tiny. So the couple sketched plans for one central kitchen, had a draughtsman draw up their ideas, then in July last year kicked off the renovation, which only took six weeks.
Just as Camorra’s restaurants are rustic, understated and full of soul, so is his kitchen. It’s compact, with a three-metre back bench, splashback of glinting gold-patterned tiles he picked up in Seville (they also adorn the bar at MoVida Terraza), an island with a double sink, lots of open overhead storage, and a large Liebherr fridge papered with a painting by one of his sons. “It makes no sense for domestic kitchens to be huge, flashy showpieces,” he says. “Being big just makes them hard to clean down.”
The space doesn’t house a cavalcade of expensive gadgetry either. Its two key items are a pressure cooker and a large stovetop burner. People get carried away with having a multitude of stovetop burners, Camorra says; three is enough for a domestic kitchen (his are Miele), as long as one is large and powerful “so you can properly caramelise and brown food”. Two ovens are crucial, though: his are Blanco and were part of the two original kitchens.
Propped up on a little stand sits a Women’s Weekly book on pressure cooking. “My mum used a pressure cooker, it reminds me of her and being in Spain where just before lunch you will hear the hiss of them being opened in many houses.” Camorra and his wife cook everything from stews to congee in theirs.
At least eight large kitchen knives cling menacingly to a magnetic strip. His favourite brand? Victorinox, “because they are light and cheap”.
Why it works Everything is within reach. Shelving is arranged as you may find it in a restaurant: overhead open shelves mean easy access to oils, spices and crockery.
Lust-worthy feature A Cuisinart pressure cooker.
Essential for every kitchen A high-powered stovetop burner.
Wish list? A big walk-in pantry for non-perishables such as canned tomatoes and tuna.
It took Guy Grossi and his wife Melissa eight years to finalise plans for a new kitchen in their Federation home in Melbourne’s Kew. Their vision for it ebbed and flowed; at one stage, it included a ballroom-sized deck extending over the backyard. A modest kitchen renovation “became a monster”, says Grossi. They tethered the wild ideas and in February last year, with the help of architect Nicholas Murray, began remodelling the 1980s-style kitchen. The project wasn’t completed until November, and although reined in, it is certainly not modest. The centrepiece is a 5.5-metre Corian island bench. “Bench space is a luxury for a chef, so the island had to be big; I need room to make my gnocchi,” says Grossi. It was originally to be made from marble but this was deemed too porous. “This is not a show kitchen, it has to be functional. I don’t want to worry about red wine stains,” he says.
Grossi wanted an industrial-style kitchen – though with a glamorous bent – which would allow him to be as creative at home as he is at work, and play with ideas for his flagship, Grossi Florentino. He bought a Lacanche cooker with six burners, a grill, and three ovens – one gas, one electric and a slim one for warming. Grossi explains the gas oven is for the “grunt work” of roasting something like pork, while the electric is more precise and better for baking. Marble lines the splashback – “I’m a wog, I had to get marble in somewhere” – and under the stainless-steel back bench and the island are banks of drawers concealing the well-organised tools of his trade, including a metre-long knife drawer with about 30 knives.
A butler’s pantry opens off one end of the kitchen, while at the other is the family dining area warmed by an Ecosmart fireplace built into the end of the island bench. And Grossi, who cooks and entertains most weekends, considers the woodfired pizza oven – nestled next to a built-in barbecue and a parsley-dominated herb patch in the garden – an essential part of the kitchen.
Why it works “It’s seamless – everything has its place and everything gets put away in its place, so I always know where something is when I want it. There is never any rubbish cluttering the benches.”
Lust-worthy feature The Lacanche cooker, made in Burgundy, France.
Essential for every kitchen Two knives – a cook’s knife and a boning knife. Grossi prefers Wüsthof Trident.
Wish list? A second Miele dishwasher to cater for the crowds they often entertain.
Matt Moran has a penchant for slow-roasting an entire pig when he entertains at home. Or half a Moran Family lamb. So a bog-standard domestic kitchen was just not going to wash at his house. Two years ago he designed a part-commercial, part-domestic kitchen to enjoy when cooking at home, which he still manages to do in between television shoots and shifts at Aria. The cool, concrete-clad space is anchored by a five-metre island bench fringed by five stools from where his family and friends can sit and watch the action. The bench is made from lacquered concrete and was formed on site. Overhead hangs the gleaming canopy of a custom-made commercial extraction unit, with downlights to illuminate the breadth of the bench. Dropped squarely into the centre is a Lacanche cooker. This industrial beast has five gas burners including a wok ring and a char-grill. Underneath are two electric ovens and a warming oven. Moran has a total of six ovens to play with. There is an outdoor wood oven (“it’s not a pizza oven, I don’t do pizzas, I do joints of meat in it”) as part of the built-in barbecue area, and inside there are two wall-mounted ovens: one steam, the other convection. Amazingly, he says they all get a work-out.
Culinary advice imparted by his grandmother, “always make sure you have enough food to feed everyone,” influenced the installation of a coolroom. Dutifully, Moran keeps the 1.5m x 2.5m area full at all times. The seven-metre expanse of bench space behind the island is topped with stainless steel and the splashback consists of sliding glass windows framing views of the garden. “I love it. It’s a relaxing and therapeutic space but I have everything I need to cook for my family, shoot my cookbooks or cook for hordes.”
Why it works “It flows well. It is a large area but it is arranged so things are in proximity. For example, the Smeg dishwasher is right next to the sink so dishes can be rinsed.”
Lust-worthy feature The coolroom: it stores food at a lower temperature than a domestic fridge so it lasts longer and stays fresher.
Essential in every kitchen Lots of drawer space. “It’s so much better to keep everything in drawers so nothing is lost at the back of a cupboard.”
Wish list? None. He nailed it.
In the past year, the roast chickens tumbling from the rotisserie at Philippe Mouchel’s newish restaurant, PM24, have become one of the most salivated-over dishes in Melbourne. So what does the man who spends the vast majority of his week at this restaurant do in his free time? He roasts chicken. Or sometimes lamb. Mouchel and his wife Tomoko moved into their new apartment five months ago, downsizing from the one they previously shared with their two now-grown children. They searched for months to find an apartment with a kitchen large enough to meet their requirements. This place, looking across to Albert Park Lake, has an open-plan kitchen so the couple can make the most of some rare time together: Tomoko cooks Japanese food while Mouchel kicks back on the couch, or Mouchel cooks the food of his native France.
The single extravagance in this kitchen is a Gaggenau floor oven and cooktop. To relax on his Mondays off, he likes to prepare a simple dinner of cured salmon, slow-roasted lamb or chicken (“people cook chicken on much too high a temperature: 130C-150C is fine”) and then make a tart, whether for just the two of them or for a few friends. To save time, he’ll bring pastry from work and roll it on his three-metre polished marble bench top, which is cool and perfect for working pastry.
This is not an austere designer kitchen with everything rigorously in its place – a roll of Glad Wrap sits on top of the rangehood along with a “Happy New Year” card from chef Paul Bocuse. But it is a kitchen that reflects the life of a chef still in the grind of building up a new business. Mouchel hopes to take more time off next year, although Tomoko is not convinced. “I don’t think he will ever work less,” she says.
Why it works It’s a no-fuss kitchen, perfect for a man who spends his life at work but still cooks for relaxation. One bench overlooks the dining area so cooking is social, not hidden away.
Lust-worthy feature His Le Creuset and Staub pot collection. “There is no point buying cheap pots,” Mouchel says, “you will throw them out in a few years. Buy the best pots you can afford – your food will taste much better.”
Essential in every kitchen “The best oven you can afford.”
Wish list? “I need more cupboard space. We have three boxes in the garage full of crockery and Riedel glassware.”
Greg Malouf’s city pad has seen more late-night dinners than most. When Malouf finishes at his MoMo restaurant late on Thursday, Friday and Saturday nights, he heads around the corner to his Russell Street apartment. He has another home in North Melbourne that he shares with his wife Chalice and her two children, but it’s on Russell Street that he sometimes finds himself entertaining chef mates who arrive pumped up from the evening’s service and starving. In this small black-tiled kitchen he’ll place a pasta pot on the Smeg stove (all the appliances are Smeg) and start chopping garlic and chilli on the butcher’s block while the conversation flows.
This butcher’s block, Malouf says, is the most important piece of furniture he owns. It came from O’Connell’s Hotel, where he first started experimenting with the modern style of finely crafted Middle Eastern cuisine that has become his signature.
The L-shaped kitchen is full of mementos from his travels: a camel-bone tagine; a solid silver camel teapot he bought in Beirut; a Moroccan lantern swinging over the bench top. The cupboards above and below the bench, however, are not always full of food. When the impromptu dinner parties happen, he shoots down to a 7-Eleven to grab eggs and bacon to make a carbonara.
His knives are his most treasured utensils, crammed into a drawer alongside other essentials such as a falafel maker. Many are engraved and have been given to him by apprentices; several have been used for so long the steel has worn to less than the width of a nail file. “I don’t have any need for any gadgets here, not a blender or anything to make coffee with. I just go down to the café downstairs for my morning coffee, often in my pyjamas.”
Why it works “I don’t need to take more than one or two steps to get everything I need.”
Lust-worthy feature The butcher’s block where he chops, plates and stands around talking to his mates.
Essential for every kitchen A large mortar and pestle. “It’s better than a blender: just throw garlic, spices and oil in and you have an instant marinade.”
Wish list? “No, I have everything I need here.”
PHOTOGRAPHY ANTHONY GEERNAERT AND JULIAN KINGMA
This article is from the November 2011 issue of Australian Gourmet Traveller.