By Leigh O’Connor.
From working as a kitchenhand at a little 60-seater Italian restaurant, Daniel Armon now has the reins as Executive Chef at McLaren Vale dining destination, Serafino Restaurant, where he dishes up classic dishes with an inventive twist.
Executive Chef Daniel Armon.
Nestled among 200-year-old gum trees, lakes and rolling hillsides, Serafino is a winery, restaurant and accommodation venue ideal for weddings, functions and intimate occasions, with an on-site winery and cellar door adding to the experience.
Daniel discovered his passion for food at a young age, first learning to cook from his mother and deciding in his early teenage years to pursue a career as a Chef.
"My mum got me into cooking at a young age. She was always such a great cook, nothing very fancy but her spreads are legendary! What I loved growing up is we always had something different on the table. Mum could literally make anything delicious,” he says.
Sea urchin and truffle spaghetti.
After completing a four-year apprenticeship working around Adelaide gastropubs, Daniel moved to the Fleurieu Peninsula where he worked at Woodstock Wine Estate and Encounter Restaurant, before finding his home in the heart of McLaren Vale at Serafino.
"For me, cooking is like art, it’s a form of expression. The restaurant team at Serafino really take pride in creating a superb dining experience for every guest and I’m excited to be part of such a passionate, dedicated team,” he says.
"Serafino is not just a restaurant, we’re a destination – come, stay and play. We aim to create a unique dining experience, showcasing the Fleurieu Peninsula. We have an amazing new cellar door and deck with casual dining options and a beautiful scenic estate with bike trails.”
Pork fillet with late-season persimmon, quince, apple, fennel cream and pistachio.
While he was born in Tel Aviv, Daniel’s culinary influences take a more Modern Australian-Italian slant, as seen in a new Caesar salad dish coming to the menu at the restaurant.
"We char-grill half a baby cos lettuce, that is grown in our kitchen garden. On top we serve a rye pangrattato, Hahndorf smoked bacon gel, Reggiano Parmesan espuma, white anchovy and local McLaren Flat cured egg yolk.
"I love taking classic dishes and making them into something completely new and inventive. The dish has to be something that resonates with people, or provokes a fond memory, but leaves them with a lasting impression,” Daniel explains.
Beetroot and Chèvre Tortellini with baci soil, beetroot cured eschalot, rhubarb gel and walnut foam.
His confit Ora king salmon has also raised a few eyebrows, served with liquorice, green tea and wakame consommé and bonito nori cannoli.
"We play around with a lot of different cultures in our kitchen; the king salmon is such a clean, beautiful fish that we wanted really clean flavours to go with it, in a Japanese-inspired style.”
Daniel says Serafino aims to be one of the best regional dining and accommodation destinations in Australia and that is the focus for the next five years. With his guiding hands on the pans and fresh local produce on the seasonally changing menu, foodies will be flocking from all around the country for a taste of Serafino.
What are the trending ingredients for 2020 and why?
"Fish butchery, with the release of Josh Niland’s book and him leading the way on seafood sustainability, I think we will see a lot of Chefs following suit.”