HEALTHY AUSTRALIAN FLAVORS.
Interview to Neil Barnett founder of Garden to Gourmet
By Marta Vergés
The healthy and delicious revolution also reaches Australia.
Neil Barnett is a chef trained at Matthew Kenney Culinary (Los Angeles). Neil is in charge of Garden to Gourmet, where he proposes a raw menu full of color and geometric shapes that seduce all senses.
Garden to Gourmet diners can even stay in their beautiful villa to make the experience even more intense and complete. But Neil is not one of those chefs who stays locked up all day in the kitchen. If you want to organize a special dinner at home, Neil takes his knives and his smile, and comes to your kitchen to become his workshop, so that your dining room is an exhibition of healthy and vegan art. Neil Barnett’s garden offer is overwhelming.
raw · vegan · whole food workshops
home dining experiences · products to order
58 Dolphin Crescent
Sydney NSW 2107
All your dishes are fresh, seasonal, organic and planted based. Do you cultivate yourselves?
Yes, we have a small number of veggie beds that we grow some of our ingredients in – kale, lettuce, silver beet, cucumber and all our herbs. It’s not enough to completely sustain us, but it goes a long way towards the key ingredients for green smoothies and salads.
Your simply beautiful food contains no wheat, gluten, dairy, eggs or processed sugar. Is it more difficult to cook with these limitations of ingredients so basic for most common homes?
You certainly have to think about what you’re making, how the dish is constructed: what role each of the ingredients play in the recipe (dry components, wet components, fats, binders, stabilisers) and that is before you are concerned with flavour and taste or texture. Once you understand that virtually every basic ingredient that contains wheat, gluten, dairy, eggs or processed sugar can be substituted with another option, an alternative food world opens up for you. Nuts for example can provide protein and fat in a recipe but can become milk or cream.
You’re a professional chef, but, what advice can you give us to follow a diet planted base at home?
There are two questions to ask when making food – is it for a special occasion (a dinner party for example) or is it just everyday lunch? For most of us, most of our time will be take up wth the day to day food preparation, so its a good idea to keep things simple. Pick fresh ingredients wherever possible. Use organic ingredients as often as you can and seasonal as much as possible. Then it’s a case of understanding what makes a balanced meal (protein, fat, carbs etc) and then which plant based ingredients will fulfil those requirements and how I can combine them to make a well balanced meal in terms of flavour, texture and mouth feel.
You trained at Matthew Kenney’s school, what did you learn there and what did you do in your kitchen?
At Matthew Kenney I learned about the importance of knife skills – how cutting vegetables and fruits in different ways can produce very different textures and flavours. I learned about balancing flavours – how each dish ideally has a combination of fat, acid, salt, sweet, and then as an addition bitter and pungent components. We were exposed to an extensive array of techniques for not only producing beautiful, raw, healthy food but understanding the science behind food and food combinations.
I brought a lot of basic knowledge from my own kitchen to the Matthew Kenney course and since completing the course it has allowed me to experiment widely, using the knowledge and skills I developed in the course to create dishes I never even knew existed!
You offer for a mostly raw cuisine? Why?
All our food is plant based and raw. For me raw, plant based food feels great to eat. It is very nutrient dense. When we cook food (heat it above 48 degrees) it becomes denatured and it looses about 70% of its nutritional value, which is why people feel the need to eat so much cooked food. Raw food can also be easier to digest (but needs to be chewed well or partially broken down prior to ingesting as we have no enzymes to break down cellulose with), which means that you don’t use up so much energy digesting food after you’ve eaten it. Another positive aspect of raw food is that it is alkaline, compared to cooked food which is acidic. For optimum health, our body ecology should be alkaline in nature. We also don’t use any processed sugar, instead we make use of sweet fruits where possible or add maple syrup if necessary. Another reason that we offer raw cuisine is that its such fun to work with. Not only is the food alive and full of energy but it lends itself to experimentation and is a great creative outlet.
What is the home dining experience?
Our home dining experience is called Locate and its where we prepare raw, vegan cuisine for you in your own home. We discuss the style of food you like, for example Italian, Indian etc. and the ingredients or flavours you like – chocolate, chile, orange etc. and we create a bespoke menu for you and your guests. Every home dining experience we create is totally unique and completely personalised.
And the private dining: chef’s table?
This is where clients are invited to our premises to enjoy a two or three course gourmet raw dinner. As with the home dining experience we can create a bespoke food experience for our guests, creating food around a theme (Mexican food, spicy, red fruits) or around an event (25th anniversary lunch or 30th birthday dinner).
In your web announce a stunning salads workshop. Tell me about it.
This is one in a series of fantastic food workshops that we offer during the year. Each has a different theme, for example: salads, chocolate making, fermented foods. We offer a hands on experience to a small group of participants who want to make a range of raw foods. We include knife skills and background nutritional information as well as hints and tips on food substitution and other techniques. Stunning salads includes: tomato and basil (like you’ve never tasted before); fennel, cabbage and apple; mushroom, parsnip, red bell pepper; kale, cucumber, sultana; watermelon & avocado. Dressings include: apple cider vinaigrette; lime, maple, sesame oil; mint, dill mayonnaise and miso dressing.
Do you include traditional Australian ingredients or recipes?
I have worked with a few Australian ingredients, certain squashes, herbs and of course macadamia nuts but I’ve not really spent lots of time with traditional Australian ingredients yet!
How do Australians receive your proposals?
They are generally very open to new ideas and are willing to try new food experiences. Most of the comments I get are about how simple the ingredients are but how complex the flavours and how incredible to food looks.
Yours is not an ordinary restaurant. Diners can live a complete experience sleeping in your chalet. You call it Gourmet overnight retreats, is it so?
Yes, this is a special food experience and accomodation package where clients can not only come and sample our delicious, healthy, raw, vegan food but stay in our beautiful chalet. It’s a perfect weekend get away treat!
I’m thinking of making a gift to someone who loves natural products and raw cuisine. What will he find in your workshop gift voucher?
Our workshop gift vouchers are valid for a year to any of our fantastic food workshops. These run for 3 hours and have a maximum of nine students. Not only is there hands on tuition, a great fun time in the kitchen learning new skills and ideas for raw food preparation but there is a full recipe booklet to take home too. They really are the perfect gift for the foodie in your life!
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