Who is Kurt Neumann? I’m the chef and owner at Grazing in Gundaroo, 30 minutes’ drive from Canberra.
Best recent dining experience: Ottoman Cuisine in Barton. It’s always a great experience with friends and family at this Turkish restaurant. Most recently I dined with my wife Tanya and a group of friends. We ate a lot and had a lot of laughs while enjoying the great environment and perfectly executed food.
Most embarrassing pantry item: Cottee’s Ice Magic Chocolate topping. I know, but ice-cream and hard chocolate topping … why not?!
Must-buy ingredient: That’s a tough question, but a good sea salt like Murray River pink salt or a flaked sea salt would be my ‘must-buy ingredient’. Salt will add texture, flavour and can be used at any stage of the cooking process. You can use it to cure raw foods and extract bitterness from vegetables or add it to fruit to lift its depth of flavour.
Next big thing: I see barbecue as the next thing that could take off in Australia. We like to think of ourselves as the barbecue masters, but with more venues and chefs investing money and time in the use of charcoal and wood-fired cooking techniques, I feel it could be a trending area of cookery in the years to come.
Favourite place for breakfast in the ACT: Unfortunately, as a family, we don’t get the opportunity to dine out for breakfast all that often. But I do enjoy making breakfast for the restaurant crew some Sunday mornings when I have the time. Plain and simple – a piece of good-quality toasted sourdough (local), free-range eggs (scrambled) and a wedge of bacon – happy Sunday staff!
My Canberra food secret: A sentimental favourite is Abell’s Kopi Tiam in Manuka. My wife and I used to go there all the time before marriage and kids, and now we just love going there for a family meal. The Bali chicken – a tamarind and coconut curry with aubergine and French beans – is hard to resist!
Biggest culinary influence: Definitely my family are my biggest culinary influences. My kids will always offer a no-BS assessment of their meal. However, when it comes to influences on my career, I really enjoy reading as many cookbooks as I can, from both Australian and internationally renowned chefs. There is always something to learn.
Favourite cookbook: As a staple, Stephanie Alexander’s The Cook’s Companion. I think you’ll find this book in most chefs’ libraries. Most recently, though, would be Eleven Madison Park from New York chef Daniel Humm, Brae: Recipes and Stories from the Restaurant by Victorian chef and restaurateur Dan Hunter and The Whole Fish Cookbook by Josh Niland of Saint Peter restaurant in Sydney.
Who I admire on the Canberra food and wine scene: All the local winemakers. They really have had a tough 12 months, yet they keep producing some of the country’s best wine. We only stock Canberra District wines at Grazing, and we are proud to support them where we can.
What’s on the menu this week: Ocean trout rillettes – a dish with perfect harmony. It’s lightly cured with horseradish, shredded and mixed with eschalots, cucumber, dill, chervil and sourdough crisps.
Where I’m going next: A Sydney trip, dependent on COVID-19 restrictions! I’ll be eating at Quay on Sydney Harbour, Saint Peter in Paddington and Continental Deli in the CBD (they’ve also got a deli, bar and bistro in Newtown).
Death row meal: My death row meal would have to be something my Oma (German grandmother) would cook, which was kassler (pork chops), noodles and sauerkraut. It’s just one of those childhood memories that makes me happy when I eat it. The aroma when it’s being prepared takes me back to their home on the south coast, birthdays and school holidays.
My COVID-19 response: We thankfully haven’t had to implement too many changes at Grazing. We introduced a takeaway menu and reduced seating capacity through the venue, but we’ve been able to use our function space for medium-sized groups, as weddings and larger group bookings have been unavailable up until recently.
My really simple recipe tip: A simple pasta. You can make the ingredients from practically anything, but a simple one I love is spaghetti with ham, eschalots, garlic and parsley. I emulsify the olive oil and butter with the cooking stock from the pasta to coat the spaghetti, lightly sauté the eschalots and garlic, bind it all together with the ham, and then finish with parsley and parmesan. It always pleases family and friends.
Grazing is located in the historic Royal Hotel in Gundaroo, 30 minutes’ drive from the Canberra CBD, and draws on exceptional regional produce for its lunch and dinner menus. Grazing’s wine list features an extensive selection from both established and emerging local winemakers. The restaurant is open for lunch Thursday to Sunday and for dinner from Thursday to Saturday.