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10 Minutes with Dan Hunter

By Sam Forsdick

Dan Hunter is not looking to emulate anyone else. He’s on his own path at Brae to serve quintessential Australian cuisine. In his quest to deliver the very best his native country has to offer, Hunter grows ingredients on-site, presenting them simply and elegantly. A fine-dining experience that’s based on seasonality and sustainability, the food served here makes the trip out to rural Birregurra more than worthwhile.

Dan Hunter, courtesy of Colin Page

What is the concept behind Brae?
The concept is to focus on producing interesting and tasty food with ingredients that are grown organically on our farm. We have a strong emphasis on sustainability and cook food that’s an expression of any individual day in this region of Australia. It’s a restaurant for the current mind-set.

Your career has taken you all over the world. Which places stood out for you?
If you’re interested in cuisine, travel is of the upmost importance. I worked in Spain, in San Sebastián, for two years and I have very fond memories of that time. Japan’s a bit closer to Australia than Europe, and I love going there. I have always admired the care, attention to detail and craftsmanship in Japanese cuisine.

Did you always intend to return to Australia?
I’m Australian, so it’s where I feel most at home. It’s where I feel I can best produce cuisine that’s interesting for our guests because it’s something that’s true to me. To be able to cook what’s on the inside and what I feel connected to, I had to be in Australia.

Why did you decide to locate Brae out in the countryside?
The style of cuisine I want to cook means being immersed in the natural environment. During a meal here we encourage people to connect with the outdoors. We serve a portion of the meal and then give people a chance to walk around the property and explore the garden to see the ingredients growing. It’s a chance for guests to slow down and feel relaxed.

Brae is famous for its iced oyster, but which dish are you most proud of?
Sometimes the ones I’m most proud of are only served for two or three services, so they’re a snapshot of the moment. When I’m out in the garden before service, there might be a certain aroma or ingredients that are ripening together. Quite often you can make a dish that’s electric based on that vibe. Of course not every dish is like that. The iced oyster, for example, is quite a polarizing dish. It’s one that’s very unique to Brae but it’s one that’s based more on technique and idea than product and place. These conceptual dishes help to lighten the mood and keep everyone excited about what’s coming next.

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