Can Dan Hunter do no wrong? Fame and fortune seem to follow him wherever he goes!
His move to Birregurra from his Head Chef position at Dunkeld was seen by some to be a risky move – what if the fans don’t follow? But it was all smiles last week when Dan Hunter’s Brae was named Restaurant of the Year by the Good Food Guide.
Dan’s culinary leadership is the keystone of the venue’s continual success. The 2012 and 2016 Chef of the Year has spent years building his culinary skills, travelling around the globe and completing stints in some of the world’s best kitchens, including an appointment as Head Chef at Mugaritz, Spain.
Prior to opening his first solo venture, Dan spent six years as Head Chef at Dunkeld’s Royal Mail Hotel. Here, he developed his first organic kitchen-garden program and elevated the restaurant to three-hat status. Not shy of an accolade, Dan has also been named the Australian Financial Review 2017 Chef of the Year, with Brae being hailed as the number one restaurant in Australia.
At the end of 2013, Brae opened its doors to the public. It was the realisation of Dan’s vision to offer unique and contemporary cuisine built around an immense respect for nature and seasonality. The restaurant is set on 30 acres of land, dominated by vegetable gardens and orchards, where seasonal vegetables, olives, stone fruits, citrus, nuts and berries all grow. Around 30 chickens supply fresh eggs while bees produce honey and assist with pollination.
Whatever grows on this land inspires Dan’s daily menus, as well as the available produce from local farmers and producers, ensuring that each meal is truly Victorian. Every ingredient is managed using organic principles, with no herbicides or pesticides to be seen.
Each day, a range of ingredients are sourced and selected for the day’s menu. This means no dining experience is the same. When autumn rolls around, strawberries and squash start to appear, as do a variety of radish and basils. Tomatoes carry over from the hot summer, while turnips start to flourish.
No matter the ingredients, a consistent factor across every Dan Hunter dish is that you will enjoy it on various levels. First and foremost, it must taste delicious. Each plate is designed to stand on its own, but must also fit into a meal of around 10-12 offerings. From there, it’s a delicate balance between technique, texture and ingredients, capturing the diner’s attention through all of their senses. The sound of a cracking shell, the smell of a broth or sight of a complex culinary method will entice you before you engage with taste, touch and umami.