What inspires the menus on board? We craft all our menus from scratch, seeking inspiration from the places we travel through. That means selecting native ingredients, foraged produce, local wines … all the things that are distinctive about a particular region. We dig deep into the lore of a place to find out what sort of produce thrives. We look at produce that’s been introduced and what’s been growing on the land for thousands of years.
What are a few of your favourite native ingredients? I love to cook with kutjera, a type of bush tomato found in the centre of Australia where it’s quite arid. Kutjera won’t grow in areas with more rainfall, so it’s a bit rare. I’m also a fan of the aniseed myrtle bush: its leaves have an almost fennel-like flavour. It’s vibrant and super-fragrant, and we chop it up like you would kaffir lime leaves. Another one is the Geraldton wax plant from WA: it’s a shrub with spikey-looking leaves that have a really interesting zesty citrus note.
Aside from picking things up along the way, how do you ensure freshness and quality? We use the equipment you’d expect, like advanced cool rooms. But the most important consideration is seasonality. Ingredients last longest and taste best when they’re in season, so we make sure our menus are based on seasonal availability.
Are there limits to what you can cook on board, given the movement of the trains? There are surprisingly few, actually. We even serve soup! We’ve found ways to adapt most recipes to make them achievable. One of the trickiest is poached eggs: it’s customary to poach eggs in a low-sided pot, so they can be scooped out easily, but on a train that’s the equivalent of filling a bathtub on a boat.
How do you manage in situations like that? Training staff is a very important part of what I do. We use techniques that you don’t learn in an ordinary restaurant, or we’ll cook in vessels that prevent splashing. It’s about gaining a working knowledge of all those things. In the same way sailors get their ‘sea legs’, our chefs get their ‘railway legs’ as they go on.
What about more fundamental safety considerations? We don’t have naked flames in the kitchen – it’s all electric. We have grab handles in case things get rocky. The chefs become intuitive about jolts or sharp movements, and they learn to listen for those disruptions travelling through the carriages like a domino effect.
You’re a veteran now, but is there any aspect of cooking on board a train that you still find devilishly difficult? You can never be too careful plating a dish. Plating requires finesse; you really have to choose your moment when you’re plating on a train that’s hurtling along. I’m much better than I used to be, but I can’t avoid the occasional slip-up.
What led you to your current position and how long have you worked with Journey Beyond? I am a trained chef, having worked with high-profile chefs in Sydney and then many years in new product development with Qantas. I felt that the role in Food and Beverage at Journey Beyond was a logical career progression for me, working closer with passionate
chefs to craft amazing culinary experiences inspired by the places we travel through. This has given me the opportunity to further develop my industry wine knowledge, too.
What do you love most about your role? There are many things! The challenge of delivering a high-quality product on a moving train keeps me very busy. It’s very
hard to explain but almost like solving a Rubik’s cube everyday. Being part of a team that delivers unique memorable experiences to our guests is very satisfying.
What’s one thing you’re passionate about? Great quality fresh produce, cooked with care.
What are you most looking forward to? Being fully operational again. We have suffered greatly from the border closures. Having consistent work again for our passionate staff is very exciting. And testing new recipes for our trains over the next few months.
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