10 Questions with Matthew Kemp

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Matthew Kemp is the Executive Chef at The Charing Cross Hotel and the Ambassador Chef for Q Station & Boilerhouse Restaurant. He was  recently asked by Sydney Markets to create the menu for the launch of their 2016 Fresh Awards. After enjoying his feast of the finest fruit and vegetables currently available in this fair city, we spoke to Matthew about the awards and the importance of fresh produce for all of us.

  1. What are the Sydney Markets Fresh Awards all about?

The Fresh Awards are Sydney Markets’ new and improved awards that recognise various sectors of the fresh produce industry in NSW and the ACT. The Fresh Awards brings together Sydney Markets’ long running retail excellence programs – the Greengrocer and Florist of the Year Awards, the Fruit and Vegetable and Flower Grower of the Year Awards, as well as a number of new categories.

Whilst I am not an official ambassador for Sydney Markets, I certainly endorse the refreshed program. It will be a great platform for encouraging and recognising best practice and innovations in fresh produce, flower growing and retailing, as well as showcasing the broader industry.

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2. How did you go about planning the menu?

I was excited to receive the brief for the launch of the awards. The aim of the menu was to create a seasonal banquet to showcase the best produce and reflect the multicultural community that the Sydney Markets serve. The shared platted presentation was to impact a sense of community.

I created four dishes. Each one incorporated ingredients that you wouldn’t typically pair together. I thought this would be a great way to get the guests excited about the dishes and encourage them to discover new flavour combinations.

The dishes I created were:

  • Salad of English cucumber, pickled fennel, baby gem, dill and rice wine vinegar, served with Fraser Island Spanner Crab
  • Warm cracked wheat, dates, ras el hannout, spiced carrots, Sicilian olives, herbs and lemon vinaigrette
  • Slow baked kabocha (Japanese) pumpkin with cumin and caraway seeds, spiced eggplant and goats yoghurt, charred chillies
  • Palmers Island Mulloway with silverbeet, globe artichokes, confit kipfler potatoes and orange gremolata

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3. What do you think constitutes “excellence” in fruit and vegetables?

Excellent fruit and vegetables are fresh, good quality, value for money and when the seasons are championed. The fruit and vegetables available direct from your greengrocer can be picked yesterday and be in the store, or in my case in the kitchen, in less than 24 hours. This guarantees freshness and ensures maximum longevity.

4. Which fruit and vegetables are featuring on your menus at The Charing Cross Hotel and Q Station & Boilerhouse Restaurant at the moment?

As we move from winter to spring, it’s a challenging but fun time. We are seeing the last of some of my favourite vegetables like celeriac, savoy cabbages, Jerusalem artichokes and quinces, which feature on both menus. We are starting to see blood oranges, asparagus, strawberries and old-fashioned rocket coming through, as well as some amazing zucchini flowers.

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5. As a chef, why is it important for you to have access to local growers and the best possible produce?

Having access to local growers is so important. They are the best source of inspiration and advice on the best seasonal produce. Some growers have been in the industry for decades so they really know their stuff.

To get the best results in every dish, you really need the best seasonal produce. I take great pride in the food served at my restaurants. It’s important to me that the standard is consistently excellent and this starts with the highest quality produce.

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6. What’s your top tip for picking the best fruit from the local grower or greengrocer?

Ask the grower or greengrocer for their advice. They always steer me in the right direction to choosing the best in season, fresh fruit. Because these guys are always across what comes in and out of their stall or store, you’re guaranteed to make the right choice.

7. What’s your top tip for picking the best vegetables from the local grower or greengrocer?

Again, always ask for advice from your grower or greengrocer when choosing fresh produce. When it comes to vegetables, always look for in-season produce. This means you will always get the best quality for the best value.

Visit your green grocer regularly. It’s so important to do this. It will really influence the way you eat and shop…and it’s good for the soul!11992646_10152964602291627_301351821_n

8. Where is your favourite place to EAT in Sydney right now? 

Apart from Charing Cross, I’m really enjoying the Colin Fassnidge’s food at Four in Hand at the moment.

9. Where is the best place to have a DRINK in Sydney? 

I am a man that does love a good pub and The Bellevue has recently opened a great small front bar. That said, I did enjoy an amazing meal at Jonah’s in Whale Beach the other week… having a glass of champagne on the balcony overlooking the beach on a sunny afternoon takes a bit of beating.

10. What do you do for PLAY in Sydney?

What do I do for play…ha!!! I have 4 beautiful young children. Playtime for me is spending quality time with them. Whether it is at the beach, park or all cooking together at home.

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