“What is the biggest challenge when it comes to creating your new menu? Do you feel pressured to follow current food trends or do you enjoy experimenting with flavours and seeing what sticks.”
I annoyed Nic – our Head Chef – the other day whilst he was making gnocchi and asked him about his creative process and the influence the culinary landscape has on it.
More than anything Nic emphasised the importance of ingredients in his thought process. It sounds like a cliché from a doe-eyed My Kitchen Rules contestant, but logically there can be no dish without ingredients so it makes sense. The ingredient is the singularity before the culinary Big Bang, creating the dish in a flurry of knives – and unrestrained nuclear fission.
For this reason, a good supply of ingredients is vital and with that in mind, Sage has built up a personal relationship with the best suppliers such as Narooma Seafood Direct on the NSW South Coast. Relationships like this address the natural supply challenges of any inland city, particularly when dealing with fish. This means we can give you monkfish, snapper and swordfish (pictured) fresh out of the Pacific, rather than hoping for a drastic – and frankly concerning – migration into Lake Burley Griffin
If the ingredients are the start of the creative process, they also appear to be the start of the weekend. Nic and his fellow chefs have sent me numerous pictures of their latest finds at the Capital Region Farmers’ Market early on Saturday mornings.
I get the impression a lot of them are intended to ensure I don’t enjoy a sleep-in, but more often than not they are unique and exciting discoveries which will end up on our Chef’s Pick menu the following week as their possibilities are worked through.
As for the impact of food trends, it seems that our team is more likely to be struck by the creative lightning in the shower (ladies) than online. Food trends are not guiding lights in the Sage kitchen and tend to be viewed recreationally once all the hard thinking has been done. Nic and our team read – a lot – and he suggested that this kind of immersion leads to the ideas, but they are rarely taken from one source.
Ultimately, the menu creation process at Sage seems to boil down to doing the most awesome things you can do with the most awesome things you can get. That’s a pretty glib way of saying “Grow it, and we will come” (which is itself fairly glib), but we’re guided by what we find, who can give it to us, and how we’d like to eat it.
Keep in touch as we’d like to make the Q+A a weekly thing. Ask us anything…
How do you come up with dishes at home? What was the last ingredient that set your heart aflutter?