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Aussie Meat Trends

Featured Chef: Miles Vaden

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Miles VadenIn this month’s edition of the Meat Mail, we talk to Executive Chef Miles Vaden of DC Coast. Miles recently took home first prize in a menu contest during DC restaurant week for his Braised Lamb Schwarma with Black Tahini, Pomegranate Tzatziki, Mint Chermoula, and Pickled Beets on Grilled Lavash. Chef Miles will now go to the Aspen Food & Wine Festival as Aussie Lamb’s honoured chef!

We asked the Chef about the inspiration for the dish, and he told us he was looking to create something with lamb for the lunch menu and knew he wanted to use the shank. “Especially when the weather’s cold, a slow-cooked, braised meat is hard to beat,” said Miles. As he is often found on his days off in one of the many excellent authentic Eastern Mediterranean restaurants the DC-area is blessed with, schwarma was a natural choice. Chef Miles’ dish takes all of the traditional elements of a classic schwarma and gives them his own creative and often colourful touch. Thus tahini became a housemade black sesame tahini, tzatziki got a lift of color and flavour pop from pomegranate seeds, fresh herb notes come from a mint chermoula, and pickled beets add acidity and vibrant color. “I love colors on the plate, and as a chef I try to match the color with a flavorful purpose,” explains Chef Miles. “The pomegranate seeds and pickled beets both do that, and they keep the dish from getting one-dimensional. Every bite will be a little different than the last.” All of those elements work to complement the main attraction, which is of course the braised Aussie lamb shanks, which bring plenty of flavour of their own to the plate. For full cross-utilization, DC Coast is also featuring a dinner version of the shank with cauliflower couscous and crispy chick peas.

When we asked Chef what he liked best about working with Australian Lamb, he said “The flavor first of all is so mild, sweet and clean; it’s not at all the gamey, heavy flavor that a lot of Americans might remember from their childhood. When I learned that Aussie lamb is so well raised and taken care of – grass-fed, hormone-free and humanely treated – it was an even better match for what I want to serve my guests.”

And for a final word from Chef Miles, echoing what we’ve heard a lot from chefs and trend researchers alike recently - “Consumers are slowly changing their minds about lamb – it’s not just racks at fine-dining places anymore. People are really warming up to it, especially when it’s done in a Mediterranean flavor profile.”

Featured Chef: Josh Elliott

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Josh Elliott Headshot 1In this month’s edition of the Meat Mail, we talk to Hilton Cabana Miami chef Josh Elliott. Josh has worked his way up through some top restaurants in Miami, including db Bistro and almost the complete set of concepts in the Pubbelly empire, of which the Hilton Cabana’s L’Echon Brasserie is the newest member.

Josh recently took part in a day-long immersion in Aussie beef and lamb, connecting with a group of fellow chefs from Miami restaurants and hotels to “bone up” on meat from down under. “Lamb is my favourite protein to eat and to cook – I love every part of it.” said Josh. “And I never pass up an opportunity to learn the how and why about food and ingredients.” Like many of the chefs at the immersion, Josh raved about the chance to break out of the daily routine, connect with colleagues and just spend a day cooking for its own sake.

During the hands-on cooking part of the immersion, the chefs were put into teams and given a “mystery box” of ingredients to work with, cooking-show-style. Josh was paired up with Timon Balloo from Sugarcane and another hotel chef from the Four Seasons, and given a mix of Spanish & Portuguese ingredients to work with.

Josh Elliott DishJosh’s team made Spanish meatballs, albondigas, using lamb hind shank. The shanks were ground, then mixed with cream, manchego and piquillo peppers to make the meatballs. Then they served it up on a chickpea puree with a yogurt-quince vinaigrette.

“We also did a little take on the classic prosciutto and melon, first compressing the melon under vacuum-pressure for that concentrated flavour burst, and searing strips of a grass-fed beef top blade [flat iron] so they were nearly raw.” said Josh. A little bit of manchego over the top for savoriness provided the final accent.

Coming out of the immersion, Josh was inspired to take part in a special dinner featuring Aussie lamb alongside some of the other chefs in attendance. Hosted by chef Conor Hanlon at The Dutch, the five chefs served up an array of lamb dishes and accompaniments to a ticketed crowd.

Josh’s dish was a “Curry braised Aussie lamb shank with pumpkin spiced fregola, cranberry, green olive, candied pumpkin seed.” First Australian lamb hind shanks were cured in red curry, sugar and salt, then braised in a yellow curry. In the classic French “presse” style, the meat was then cooked off the bone, pressed flat and cut into cubes. For service, it’s plated with fregola (Israeli couscous) w/dried cranberries, castelvetrano olives, diced pumpkin & pumpkin puree. “After the event, we took that same dish and ran it as a special at the restaurant, it did really well.” says Josh.

We asked Josh what the secret is to getting Americans to order lamb, and he told us “It’s true Americans are very beef-centric and can have what you might call comfortable palates.” He said. “The key is to educate your team and the guest, getting your service team excited about it and arming them with a story to tell. If they taste it and like it, they’ll sell it!”

He went on to add that having a high-quality and consistent product helps too. “I am really impressed by the care, consideration, and craft that goes into the Australian lamb.” he told us. “You can see the results in the quality, and the clean, natural flavor with less overall richness in Aussie Lamb.”

Featured Chefs: Jeff McInnis and Janine Booth

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Jeff McInnis and Janine BoothExecutive Chef Jeff McInnis and Janine Booth, Chef de Cuisine, Root & Bone, NYC 

Having made their names in fried chicken at Yardbird in Miami and on Top Chef, it’s no surprise that the duo of Executive Chef Jeff McInnis and Chef de Cuisine Janine Booth have already been rated the best fried chicken in New York City. But there’s a lot more going on at Root & Bone than just fried free-range birds – as the name suggests, Root & Bone has a strong theme of on-the-bone meats and root vegetables, and the kind of “rural American” cuisine that corresponds to it.

One of those on-the-bone meats is an Australian rack of lamb, which the chefs cook sous vide from a raw state to 130° with butter and aromatic herbs, then season and sear quickly on the grill for service. “We keep the flavoring simple, letting that pure, natural, pastured lamb flavor shine through.” says Janine. “We’ve had a number of guests tell us that they usually don’t like lamb, but they love ours. I think it has a lot to do with the mild, sweet flavor of Aussie lamb, and the even, consistent marbling.”

On the menu right now at Root & Bone is an Aussie grass-fed beef short rib meatloaf, served with parsnip root mash, tomato jam, horseradish and a “rainbow” of root veggies. The shortribs are braised in red wine and veal stock until spoon-tender, then shredded and pressed into a hotel pan. The reserved jus is poured over it, and when chilled, all that rich collagen binds it together. It’s then cut into squares and seared for service. At brunch service – soon to be offered every day of the week – you can get the shortrib meatloaf with a poached egg on top. Because, why not!

According to Janine“New York is a brunch city, and we think people love the opportunity to indulge a bit in the kinds of soul-satisfying dishes that work so well at brunch, and fit our concept at Root & Bone.”

We at Aussie Lamb can’t wait to try it!

Featured Chef: Conor Hanlon

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Chef Conor HanlonAussie Lamb lovers, meet Conor Hanlon, Chef de Cuisine of The Dutch at W South Beach. Conor’s dish, Australian Lamb Saddle with Goat Cheese Polenta and Romesco, has won the Miami Spring Fling menu competition. As the grand prize winner, Chef Hanlon will now be flown to Australia to visit the continent’s beef and lamb production regions, and visit Sydney to sample some of Australia’s multi-cultural dining scene.  For a look at last year’s trip, click here.

“I'm incredibly humbled to be included in this excursion to Australia; seeing where my ingredients come from is a huge priority for me.” says Conor. “I look forward to seeing how the climate and terroir effect the quality and flavor.”

The winning dish was developed as an item for The Dutch Miami’s summer menu, and a way to use a red meat alternative to increasingly pricey beef.  “We wanted something that would look vibrant on the plate, and taste bright and flavorful on the palate as well.”  explains Conor. The combination of the rich and rustic polenta sticks with the bold, smoky romesco, and the sweetness of the roasted summer veggies and confit’d tomatoes, brings out the best in the lamb saddle.

“I love Aussie lamb because it has a remarkably clean flavor and is nice and lean. Our guests here in South Florida are pretty conscious about what they’re eating, and want leaner proteins, so the saddle is the perfect cut.”

Tasting the dish, the judges loved the flavor balance and perfectly cooked, moist and tender meat. So what’s the Chef’s secret to using a lean cut like saddle? “People often overcook or slice their leaner meats too quickly,“ says Conor. “With a proper rest and short cooking time, you get a much better result.”

And then there’s the “fat corner” in the walk-in. Not wanting to waste anything, Conor and his team store carefully rendered fat from bacon, duck and lamb, often infusing them with flavors from garlic and rosemary, as he does with the lamb. A little of the infused lamb fat is basted on the saddle in the romesco dish, and it’s the cooking fat that starts his lamb Bolognese, another staple on The Dutch’s menu. “A little goes a long way,” says Conor. “You get that delicious, unctuous flavor and mouthfeel, but you can still use a leaner piece of meat.”

As a chef, Conor feels a responsibility to help his guests discover new flavors and less familiar ingredients, like lamb. “We’re in a position to use our training and skills to make new foods look appealing to the eye, seem approachable, and show how good they can taste.” He explains. “It’s rewarding to see someone’s perceptions change after just one bite.”

Featured Chef: Brad Farmerie, PUBLIC and Saxon + Parole, New York City

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The son of an avid home cook, Pittsburgh native Brad Farmerie grew up with homegrown vegetables and fresh-baked bread (mom’s insistence) on his plate. The influence of his Lebanese grandparents made lamb the weekly meat of choice, and by the time Brad enrolled at Penn State (intended major: mechanical engineering) he had a variety of cuisines on his radar.

Cooking was the tuition-paying gig, but it didn’t take long for Brad’s focus to shift from mechanics to mise en place. After a brief hiatus spent exploring the food and wines of Europe, North Africa, the Middle East, Southeast Asia and the Antipodes, his interest in food took him to the UK, where he earned a Grande Diplome at Le Cordon Bleu in 1996.

After rounding out his education and technique at top English restaurants Coast, Chez Nico and Le Manoir Aux Quat' Saisons, Farmerie worked at London's Sugar Club, where he found a mentor in renowned New Zealand Chef Peter Gordon. He went on to assist Gordon and fellow New Zealand Chef Anna Hansen with the opening of The Providores and Tapa Room in 2001.

In 2003, Brad returned stateside to help Gordon and Hansen conceive PUBLIC, the first self-propelled restaurant by the design and concept firm AvroKO. "The dining room menu swings for the fences with each and every dish," said The New York Times that same year, of the restaurant's eclectic, globally influenced offerings. Then and now, the menu presents many of the rare-for-the-U.S. Australian and New Zealand ingredients that caught Chef Brad’s eye, particularly while he was living in the UK and on his travels.

Ten years, five consecutive Michelin stars and several successful AvroKO ventures later (including the 2011 launch of PUBLIC’s sister restaurant Saxon + Parole), Farmerie’s first U.S. venture is still going strong. Chef Brad is proud of what he sees as PUBLIC’s ability to stick to its original intent: "to give people something unexpected, something to talk about and make them think."

While many of the conversation pieces have changed over the last decade, this 2005 StarChefs Rising Chef remains grounded in his cooking philosophy and aim: staying true to his ingredients and celebrating his product, while challenging diners to incorporate new and exciting flavors and ingredients into their culinary vocabulary. Brad acknowledges that the latter part of this can be a challenge for him, too. "If you're going to make them try it, it better be good!"

Among a handful of proteins that have stayed on PUBLIC’s menu since opening, Chef Brad considers Australian Lamb to be one of his most successful offerings. There’s a good chance his latest dish, Australian Lamb Loin with Black Baba Ghanoush, Za’atar Roasted Cippolini Onion, Goat’s Milk Feta and Pistachio Vinaigrette, will be making an appearance in Meat & Livestock Australia and Star Chefs’ Australian Lamb Easter promotion in New York City later this month.

Chef Brad Farmerie

Meat & Livestock Australia and Australian Lamb Easter Contest

In partnership with, Meat & Livestock Australia is conducting an Aussie Lamb Spring Fling promotion in New York City, March 18–31. Conceived to raise the awareness of Australian lamb and to demonstrate that lamb can be a great center-of-the-plate option, the competition will also highlight Australia’s clean and green image, high food safety and pasture-raised lamb products. 

Showcasing their Aussie Lamb Spring Fling dish in their restaurants, ten past rising Star Chefs (below) will compete to win the Past Rising Star Chefs Grand Prize: two round-trip tickets to Sydney, with accommodation and a restaurant voucher (worth $300) to one of the city’s top restaurants. Participating consumers can enter to win the Diner's Choice Prize by voting for their favorite Past Rising Star Chef's lamb dish on the Australian Lamb Facebook page. Voting diners will be entered into a drawing for a chance at a dinner for ten at the winning restaurant, as well as two tickets to the Rising Star Chefs Gala in New York City on April 11, 2013. 

To promote the contest, will film the ten past rising Star Chefs for a NYC Yellow taxi TV advertising campaign, spotlighting each participant's Australian Lamb dish. All of the contest action will also be covered by Australian Lamb on Facebook, Twitter and on the web. 

Past Rising Aussie Lamb Spring Fling Contest Participants

  • Hooni Kim – Hanjan/Danji (Flatiron/Mid-town West) 
  • Brad Farmerie – PUBLIC/Saxon and Parole (NoHo) 
  • Vikas Khanna – Junoon (Flatiron) 
  • Hilary Sterling – The Beatrice Inn (Greenwich Village) 
  • Jesse Schenker – Recette (West Village) 
  • John Fraser – Dovetail (Upper West) 
  • Markus Glocker – Gordon Ramsay at the London (Theatre District) 
  • Jason Hall – Crown (Upper East) 
  • Joe Isidori – Arthur on Smith (Brooklyn) 
  • Chris Santos – The Stanton Social (Lower East Side)

Featured Chef: Craig Hopson, The Brewster, New York City

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Australian-born Craig Hopson got his start at The Grange in Adelaide and in the Sheraton on The Park Hotel in Sydney, before cheffing in Switzerland, at Geneva’s Hotel d’Angleterre, and in France, at Restaurant Troisgros, Restaurant Guy Savoy and Lucas Carton. After arriving stateside in 2000, he worked for The Ritz-Carlton in New Orleans and Philadelphia, then landed in Manhattan, at Artisanal and Picholine, before taking the reins at top-rated One if By Land, Two if By Sea and Le Cirque. Now, this 2007 ‘Rising Star’ award winner’s getting ready to launch his first solo venture, The Brewster.

Chef Craig’s is quite a resume—and one that’s perhaps a little different from what he might have envisioned in his late teens, when his career ambitions leaned more towards competitive surfing. “I just fell into cooking and at the start it was just a job. But I have always wanted to excel at what I’ve chosen to do, so I put my mind to it, worked in the best restaurants I could and traveled ” he says.   

Suffice to say, Chef Craig's passion for the kitchen has taken hold. As an alumnus of noted French restaurants, his style’s rooted in classical technique, combined with a love of experimentation. “My inspiration changes day to day, so I love whatever is fresh, new and exciting,” he says. “I want to make food that’s accessible and recognizable, but also delicious and memorable. It should look like something that you might have seen before, but also not like you’ve tasted before.”   

Exploring different textures, brighter flavors and varied cuisines, from Italian to Asian, is one way Chef Craig likes to keep his food “fresh.” Approachability’s also important. “Over time, I’ve looked to make things simpler,” he says, also citing his appreciation for all-natural ingredients.

Hopson’s desire to focus on simple-yet-innovative food, fresh ingredients and global flavors is ready to be unleashed at The Brewster. Catering to a “laid-back, downtown crowd,” and housed in a historic brick Carriage House, the New York City restaurant/market will take its inspiration from its historic surroundings, as well as the flavors brought to the U.S. by European, West African, and other influential 19th–century immigrant groups.  

The menu’s still in development, but Chef Craig’s got Australian Meat in his differential (and standouts like Australian Beef Ragout with Foie Gras Sabayon, in his track record). One dish up his sleeve for The Brewster is the Alexandre Dumas, combining Australian Beef tenderloin and tongue with mushrooms. Another is a traditional English-style mixed grill, which would feature Australian Lamb as a focal point.    

Featured Chef: Dirk Flanigan, Il Coniglio, Chicago

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 When he took a job as a dishwasher at age 13, Chef Dirk Flanigan's goal may have been to buy a surfboard, but he quickly decided what he wanted to be when he grew up. By age 16, he was learning classical techniques and the brigade de cuisine as a Chef de Partie at the Ritz-Carlton in Naples. By age 18, he was working full-time in Chicago at the Park Hyatt La Tour, and pondering typical coming-of-age questions, like how to butcher hundreds of quail as fast as possible. 

Chef Dirk continued to sharpen his skills at Chicago’s Blue Water Grill, Blue Plate, Meritage Café and Wine Bar, Echo and Madam B, earning widespread acclaim along the way, including three stars from Chicago Tribune critic Phil Vettel. In 2007, he cemented his place among Chicago’s elite chefs with the opening of The Gage on the city’s famed Michigan Avenue. "The Gage has raised the neighborhood's culinary bar to a remarkable degree," said the Chicago Tribune, of the 300-seat gastropub.
At The Gage, Chef Dirk’s “refined rusticity” cooking style took center stage. The menu centered on classic comfort food with modern touches, inspired by a cornucopia of global cuisine, from Pacific Rim and Pan-Asian to British, American and Italian. One successful dish was his lamb vindaloo, an Indian curry-inspired riff on a traditional English mutton stew. 

The use of cooking technology also drove his success at The Gage, and equally acclaimed, upscale French sister restaurant, Henri, opened in 2010. “It’s great to be a traditionalist, but you also have to be open-minded enough to improve on things,” he says, of his desire to explore molecular and other techniques that can quickly create a high level of flavor. Sous vide has been a part of Chef Dirk’s repertoire since 1988, and its ability to render fat to drive flavor has enabled him to engage diners with less common cuts of lamb and beef, including top sirloin and butt steak. Transcending perceptions and delighting diners with innovative executions of “off-limits” combinations (like shellfish and blue cheese) is another challenge he welcomes. 

A Busy Year   

With the success of Henri and The Gage firmly under his belt, Chef Dirk departed the restaurants in January. In February, he headed Down Under for an Australian red meat paddock-to-plate tour with Meat & Livestock Australia, Plate Magazine and the International Corporate Chefs Association.

“I was blown away by how green it is,” he said, of his tour of the Australian countryside, where one highlight was a stop at Ray Vella’s family-owned, 18,000-acre ranch at Bald Hills, in Marlborough, Queensland. “You hear the term ‘grass-fed,’ and here, it’s like really, really grass-fed.” The time-tested nature of sustainable Australian farming practices aimed at making smart use of farming byproducts and minimizing waste, also left an impression. 

On culinary tours of several Aussie cities, Chef Dirk also had the opportunity to soak up a little inspiration from butchers and fellow chefs, through culinary excursions like a Moroccan-and Indian-meal at Melbourne’s Chin Chin, and a visit to the dry-aging room (complete with Himalayan Rock Salt wall) at Victor Churchill Family Butchers in Sydney.

These days, the StarChefs 2011 “Rising Star” and James Beard Foundation “Best Chefs Great Lakes” semi-finalist is busy getting ready to open Il Coniglio (“the rabbit” in Italian), a fine-casual, 100–150 seat restaurant with a hybrid French-Italian menu. What can diners expect? “Instant nostalgia, with new memories,” says Chef. “Right when they walk in, people will feel like they’ve found something.”