I grew up on the central coast of NSW cooking with my nan and my father nearly every week. The family moved to QLD when I was about 13. I started as an apprentice at Pescatories fine dining in Airlie Beach with my long time mentor Jason Kildare, who really took me under his wing and groomed me for years to come. I purchased my own restaurant back on the Gold Coast, which I owned and operated for 3 years, before moving back into the fine dining arena at Glass Restaurant. After working and travelling a few states in Australia, I was fortunate enough to be a part of the opening team for the first QT Hotel on the Gold Coast after 18 months, I then moved to Port Douglas to open the second of the QT family at QT Resort and had the chance to also establish for the first time a 0.3 hectare fully organic kitchen garden. After 3 years, I had a great urge to get back again to the fine dining arena which lead me to the Hunter Valley and Circa 1876 (Roscrea Estate) and this move also allowed me to be involved again in a working organic kitchen garden. The paddock to plate philosophy is very close to my heart and continuing to stay in touch with natures offerings has lead to our own bee hives, quail farm and free range chickens, here at Circa.
Have you always wanted to be a Chef?
Yes, I have always wanted to be a chef, the inspiration started from the time I was about seven whilst baking apple tea cakes with my grandmother, picking fresh strawberries from nan’s strawberry patch and helping turn these into some beautifully tasty desserts that are now everlasting childhood memories. Also, my father was a butcher for most of his life and he taught me a great deal of respect for different meats so I grew up eating beautiful cuts of meat cooked in a lot of different ways from great roast dinners to the best chicken wings I have eaten, still to this day. I have always had a passion for vegetable gardens from an early age, so this was also an inspiration into my love today for picking fresh produce and making a meal from it within hours.
How would you define your style?
I love to combine great colours, textures and flavours from what nature provides us. Growing as much of this produce as possible and sourcing the rest from local areas while I experiment with new and old school techniques with a Modern Australian twist.
What is your feature flavour these days?
Fresh seasonal produce from the garden, native herbs and fruits.
Obsessive compulsive about?
Truffles, treating produce correctly, looking after nature in any way possible and cleanliness.
Your greatest culinary inspirations/influences:
Jason Kildare, who first introduced me to a commercial kitchen and mentored me for quite a few years. Heston Blumenthal is a major inspiration as to how great a chef can be from self-education and passion. Marco Pierre White, Peter Gilmore, Rene Redzepi, Brent Savage, Grant Achatz, Shaun Presland and Andrew McConnell, to name just a few.
What do you love about this business?
I love making everlasting happy memories for people from my food. The ability to never stop learning new things and constantly staying in touch with natures gifts makes me happy each day.
An ingredient you can’t live without?
I am constantly looking for what’s in season from our own garden to seeking out various native offerings, foraged vegetables, herbs and wild mushrooms.
Most ‘eyebrow raising’ menu item?
1.6-1.8kg 5+ Wagyu Ribe Eye On The Bone with all the trimmings.
Three Parts Duck – Crispy skin duck breast, slow cooked duck egg, Braised duck tongue, Saltbush, fresh black and white truffle, potato truffle foam, jamon & asparagus.
An iconic destination restaurant in Pokolbin, Circa 1876 captures the wonder and essence of the Hunter Valley. Housed within Peppers Convent and surrounded by lush greenery, this popular establishment is complemented by a spectacular 1.5 acre organic kitchen garden and a cosy modern fit-out, to provide an idyllic backdrop for diners to enjoy a paddock-to-plate philosophy, showcased in two, three, five and seven-course menus. With a custom made miniature beehive alongside a team curing their own bacon and baking bread, Executive Chef Trent Barrett focuses on timeless ingredients with dishes that showcase diverse flavour profiles, as seen in such choices as cherry glazed duck breast, caramelised celeriac, foie gras, baby leeks, raspberries, madeira glaze, balsamic cherries and port jus.