On The Pass: Kenny McHardy, Manuka Woodfire Kitchen

Author: Max Veenhuyzen
Photography: Jody D’Arcy

Tell us about Manuka Woodfire Kitchen, Kenny.

We're all about working with the seasons. We like taking underdog and side-dish ingredients and making them the stars. The wood-fired oven gets used some way in every dish on the menu.

You've worked in a number of really big kitchens. How did it feel to downsize to a one-man brigade?

It's probably been the scariest thing I've done. You only have yourself to depend on, so your skill set has to change and your mindset has to adapt to cooking on your own during service. It taught me to change my techniques to really simplify the cooking and to focus more on the quality of the ingredients.

What ingredients are you most excited about?

I'm tapping into a new producer from Pemberton that's doing baby leeks. We're doing them woodroasted with beurre blanc. It's a really traditional technique, but because the leeks are freshly harvested, they've got a beautiful sweetness you can't replicate when you buy from the market.

And what about on the protein side?

We have some sausages fermenting and we're ageing our own chorizo - we're taking the semi-cured approach and cooking them on the coals. We've also been able to turn the hind leg into ham - it's a seven-day brining process and we then glaze it with wild honey in the oven. Breaking down the animal ourselves forces us to keep coming up with new ideas and cooking dishes that really suit the season.

Has working with the wood-fired oven made you want to get one at home?

Oh yeah, I want to build one wherever I go.

Manuka Woodfire Kitchen, 134 High St, Fremantle, WA, (08) 9335 3527,  manukawoodfire.com.au

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