1 May - By Paula Rose Castronova
The focus of Tasting Australia’s Living Library is its intimate chef and winemaker book signing sessions.
Sitting at the long, rustic table and sharing a glass of wine, visitors at the second on the Library’s calendar of sessions on Sunday evening got to speak with Maggie Beer’s Gang, comprising three of her former junior chefs who are now celebrated in their own endeavours.
Sophie Zalokar of Foragers Field Kitchen and Cooking School in Western Australia began her training with Maggie Beer at 17 years, while Steve Flamsteed of Giant Steps Winery in Yarra Valley was with Maggie as a chef before embarking on his award winning winemaking journey. Alex Herbert, head chef at Bird Cow Fish in Sydney, found her initial inspiration working at Maggie’s Pheasant Farm Restaurant, which was honored with the Remy Martin Cognac/Australian Gourmet Traveller Restaurant of the Year in 1991.
These chefs were at the Living Library a day after they had paid homage by presenting the Maggie Beer Tribute Dinner in the Barossa, a four-course menu for which they each selected a dish remembered from their Pheasant Farm years. First course was potted blue swimmer crab with tarragon, mace butter and autumn herbs, by Sophie Zalokar. In the second course, Alex Herbert cooked escabeche of chargrilled Coorong mullet with verjuice-pickled carrots. For the third course, Steve Flamsteed presented Pheasant Farm cassoulet, featuring Berkshire pork belly sausage with baby red onions braised in shiraz and mataro marc from the 2017 vintage. Care was taken to respect Maggie’s influence by using intrinsic Barossa produce and wines.
The intimate gathering of guests at the Living Library left the table satisfied and enriched by their conversations with the chefs, smiling as they wandered off through the charcoal haze from the kitchen fire pits at Town Square.