Food banter with Michael Hoare | Gourmand and Gourmet

Food banter with Michael Hoare

Working with Michael Hoare for 3 years, I felt like I got to know the man behind the carrot jam pretty well. A lover of fresh, local produce, wit sharper than his chefs knife, and so committed to his love of food that the word tarator (an almond based bread sauce) is inked forever on his knuckles. From Sydney, to London, to Plaza Deli Bistro, on to Au Cirque and The Chelsea Bistro, then finally residing at Plenty’s West End – this talented man has been curating the Brisbane food scene for the past decade. When we decided to spend a month showcasing Brisbane’s game changing chefs, we couldn’t look past the guy that’s supporting farmers and filling our bellies (with all the pulled pork). Describe what it is you do so well in a sentence, you’re allowed to be modest: My strength in the kitchen comes down to my ability to bring service together. I empower others around me to help me achieve these goals on a day-to-day basis. And I’m pretty good at taking the piss. Tell us a little about your Brisbane food journey and how you came to end up at Plenty: Close to nine years ago I moved from London to Brisbane to take up a position as opening exec chef alongside a chef I used to work with in Sydney (pre London). The establishment was called Plaza Deli Bistro (then Boardwalk Bar and Bistro). From there I took the position of head chef at Cirque where I stayed for 2 1/2 years and fell in love with cooking great breakfast dishes. From there I opened the kitchen at The Chelsea Bistro in The Barracks complex and was there for 5 years changing the menus seasonally. This is where I believe I truly found myself as a head chef. However after 5 years and no gold watch I thought it was time for a change! I caught wind of a new place opening in West End through the markets I was doing for my side business (Sarmic Artisan Provisions). I followed the trail, walked in to a massive warehouse, felt awesome about what I saw, met Kaz the owner who described what she wanted to acheive, felt even more awesome about that and the rest is a beautiful part of history. Give us a quick run down about what Plenty is all about: Plenty is about knowing your farmer (and your small producer too). The philosophy is the brainchild of Karyn Hodges, the owner/operator, as we like to call her. The theory is, if it hasn’t come from a grower or a farmer then it cannot go in a jar or bottle and its exactly the same with the menus that I am now doing monthly, they have to have a link to a farmer, grower or producer. At the moment we are using some of the best produce I have ever had my tattooed hands on: tomatoes from Fassifern Valley, raspberries from Caboolture, heirloom strawberries, carrots, beetroot and sebagos from Kalbar – and the list is growing. Also we are using our own free-range pigs (British large blacks), our own cattle (Square Meaters – descendants of Murray greys). These come from Jess Hodges (Karyn’s daughter) property in Merrivale. Tell us about your food style: My food style is seasonal (as all chefs should be). It is also about letting products speak for themselves without too much trickery. If you have great produce on hand why change it too much? Because if it is in season it is at its best and this theory really works for me at Plenty. I have so much to play with it’s quite entertaining really.  Plenty is famous for ‘loving local’. Why is Queensland produce so important to you?  Queensland produce is so important because it is here for us all, it supports the local community, keeps it thriving and it keeps the farmer going. The rate of suicide in this country statistically is highest amongst farmers, this really saddens me, I believe the farmer can be forgotten and squeezed out and to be that desperate in life is not fair, nor is it the Australian way. Brisbane’s food scene has changed so much over the past few years, what are some of your favourite changes/what are you looking forward to in the years to come? When I first come to Brisbane, I really struggled with the food scene especially after coming from London, Sydney and Melbourne. I think in the last couple of years it has really started to find it’s own sort of identity. I think there is some real originality coming through in the Brisbane dining scene. I love how many new places are opening with different styles like Gerards, and even the Newstead Brewery. Eat Street Markets is bloody fantastic! My two little monsters keep my grounded, but like father like children they love Eat Street too! I suppose what I’m looking forward to is the evolution of this sort of dining as there always seems to be something new popping up in Brisbane. Something I would really love to see is the pub food scene in Brisbane step up a notch, find the best chef you can, pay them well, still keep it simple but cooked perfectly and look out,  I have great memories of pub food with my grandparents in Melbourne as a kid. What is your proudest achievement to date? My proudest achievement is that I have never lost the passion or love for what I do. I’m not saying it will not happen but I still love to continually learn and push, drive and teach myself and I know that with this industry you will never know everything, which is refreshing. I don’t want to know everything. I’d be bored then. Which Australian producers, suppliers or thinkers are inspiring you at the moment? My Berries from Caboolture who supply our raspberries and strawberries. The most amazing raspberries you will ever taste and/or cook with! Recently we received a consignment of 100kg of strawberries from them. We made close to 130 jars of strawberry jam, 50 of strawberry curd, 50 odd bottles of strawberry vinegar, brandied strawberries for Xmas, and when I go in tomorrow I will be bottling the cordial I have been infusing for 5 days. Bloody hard work but we didn’t lose 1 strawberry, any rougher ones went to the pigs. Another supplier inspiring me is Mr Pepe Saya. Not local but the guy is a genius, his butter is world class, you can eat it like cheese and you should! His buttermilk is real, don’t even get me started on his mascarpone and crème fraiche. Where/what was the last great meal you enjoyed? Last great meal was easily the Wagyu brisket at Gerard’s Bistro, so clever. Ben Williamson (head chef) is a very clever man, his food is amazing and original, cant say the same for his shell suits though. Brisbane’s best kept secret? Mrs. Luu’s in Milton, there are sandwiches and then there are sandwiches. They are crazy good! Also Flour and Chocolate in Morningside have the best baguettes I have eaten outside of Paris, and do yourself a favour, get one of their Palmiers. Plenty | West End | Mon-Sat 630am to 330pm Interviewed by Ashleigh Docherty