There are a couple of things you instantly notice when you first meet Justin North.
Firstly there are his looks. He’s tall, ruggedly handsome and well built, with a gentle almost shy smile. He certainly does not fit the look of your stereotypical chef whom we tend to think of as being portly, round middle aged men with a big jolly smile. Hold up, I think I just described Santa Claus.
Well Santa Claus, Justin is not. But, he is the giver of wonderful gifts. And for myself and 88 on a mid winter escape to Hamilton Island, Justin North could have suited up in fireman red with a woolly hat and white beard because he was very generous of heart and spirit as we joined in on a dining experience of his creating.
The second thing you notice about Justin, is this passionate yet humble man is a genius behind the stoves and on this particular day, Justin masterfully took us on a providores journey of his favourite local suppliers and producers during a 2 hour masterclass session.
Justin, with the help of our MC and hostess for the weekend, Sarah Wilson, regaled us with stories and tales of what has made and sustained him as one of the tops chefs in Australia.
Coming to Sydney in 1992 by way of Blenheim in New Zealand and via the UK, saw him open his extremely popular fine dining restaurant Becasse in 2001. He now owns four restaurants along with wife Georgia, with the fifth establishment, a gourmet burger joint due to open its doors in a couple of months.
Justin is well known throughout the industry as running an ethical kitchen and most mornings you will find him down at the markets buying sustainable produce direct from local growers. “It’s not just cost saving, its inspirational,” Justin says.
Once the “GFC” hit, Justin mentioned he began to see a lot more chefs shopping at the early morning stalls where he also finds it to be an invaluable time to catch up with peers. He gains much inspiration from talking to the growers or chatting with the fishermen about their catch and writes his menus according to local supply. “If they don’t have it, It doesn’t go on the menu” Justin says.
Justin’s love and belief in shopping locally was evident as he described visiting tomato farmers that grow 15 varieties of heirloom tomatoes, or watching his favorite chocolate being made directly from fair-trade grown cocoa beans.
Holding up some of his favorite ingredients, he was able to describe in intimate detail the procedures that his suppliers go through to deliver his restaurants the best seasonal produce for maximum flavor and effect.
Other cost cutting and inspirational measures that have seen Justin expand his culinary offerings is that he procures whole cows, specifically grass fed organic wagyu cattle.
Because he purchases the whole beast, the kitchen teams are able to break-down and use what would normally be the forgotten cuts of meat, in- house curing them creating culinary sensations.
Plan B, Justin’s hole in the wall daytime quick fix cafe, uses one such under-utilized cut of beef, the bolar, wet-cures or immersion cures the meat, adds wagyu fat for its low melting point quality and makes what some describe as the ‘best damn burger in Australia’.
My mini version of Plan B Wagyu Burger
This seriously popular wagyu burger with pickled beetroot, vintage cheddar and onion marmalade is served up hot from the kitchen on a purpose built brioche bun. Recipe link here via Gourmet Traveller.
With only two tables and ‘not enough room to swing a cat’, you will generally find a selection of suits sitting in the gutter out front of ‘Plan B’ enjoying one of Justin North’s famous burger creations. Inspiration for which Justin claims came from a trip back home to New Zealand, where he and wife Georgia sampled “The Kaikoura Burger” with plenty of beetroot and a tasty patty.
Justin’s fame stretches significantly well past burgers as it’s his attention to modern French cuisine that has him firmly entrenched in the minds and hearts of local and visiting foodies.
Becasse restaurant has won multiple industry and hospitality awards including restaurant of the year, best European restaurant in Australia and Justin himself is the holder of the prestigious Chef of the year 2009.
His take on modern French was beautifully displayed in the 3 dishes that he prepared for the masterclass which consisted of a selection of his favourite local growers and suppliers with emphasis on his approach to being a locavore.
Confit miso Blue eye with cuttlefish and cauliflower
Forgotten vegetables baked with smoking cedar, prosciutto, pork scratchings and roasting juices
Apple and rhubarb cheesecake crumble, rhubarb sorbet and lemon balm
The Recipes for the above dishes can be found on Justin Norths newsletter ~ Subscribe here!
Rosemary scented bread rolls were served with this lip smacking butter emulsified with pork fat
and accompanied by a glass of Moët et Chandon Imperial
Salad of Winter Heirloom vegetables roasted marron tail, pea mousseline and dried olive
matched with Moët et Chandon Grand Vintage 2003 Blanc
The main course of Roast loin of Kurobota Pork & Crackling parsnip puree, roast parsnips
and confit potatoes which was served with a Moët et Chandon Grand Vintage 2003 Rose
Justin spoils us with an extra helping of pork scratchings!
The ala carte version of Justin’s Apple cheescake Crumble was accompanied by my
favorite champagne of the day ~ Moët et Chandon Nectar Imperial
For more coverage of our amazing weekend at the Great Barrier Feast read We Came. We Ate. We tweeted.