Father & Chef
BYRON BAY, AUSTRALIA
David and his son Archie
I was born into a very normal but very loving family where food was fuel, not fancy. I fell into the industry that I now love very much by accident and after a ten year stint in Sydney working for and with many wonderful people including Maurizio Terzini of icebergs and then north Bondi Italian, John Wilson and Peter Lin of John and Peter and then onto the juggernaut that is Merivale heading the kitchen of Uccello.
I now find myself taking a much more relaxed approach to work with 100 Mile Table up on the northern rivers just outside Byron bay allowing me to spend more quality time with my family. Sarah my girlfriend whom I met whilst at Uccello, my son Archie who just turned 12 and our newest addition Lennox who is only 4 weeks old. Oh and of course Franklin our excitable pooch!
What is your food ethos?
Food is a happy thing to me, simple and happy.
I’m very much a Nonna in the kitchen, it’s all done by hand, no fancy gadgets or methods, just simple honest food. A beautifully roasted bird with polenta in the cooler months, grilling a whole fish or fresh mussels outside over an open fire with a huge bowl of rocket picked from my garden dressed with lemon and oil. Perhaps some Ortiz anchovies and butter on grilled bread with a little parsley as a snack.
Cooking for loved ones is my favourite thing to do, be it a quick bowl of pasta during the week, or something more elaborate at the weekend like an old fashioned french feast with steak tartare and coq au vin or a couple of chooks slowly roasting over the coals and some potatoes and leeks buried beneath them. Oh and wine, plenty of wine.
What is your favourite dish to cook?
That’s a tough one... Peposo, slow cooking beef shin in Chianti and lots of black pepper is a pleasure, the smell once opening it 12 hours later in particular is rather delightful. Fresh pasta is certainly up there also, long, short, twisted or filled. But I think cooking outside and over a fire is my favourite. Some beautiful local squid and cavolo nero just grilled, chopped and dressed in parsley, garlic and olive oil.
How does family and food cross-over in your world?
It is our world! We very much live food! Nights out at restaurants, markets or meals at home or friends places, most days seem to be ruled by food! We’ll be eating breakfast and taking about what’s happening for dinner. Sarah and Archie are both good eaters so going out is not an issue. Archie will get rather indignant if he’s given the children’s menu.
Post Saturday morning rugby league match is generally followed by a trip to the closest ramen joint that Sarah had researched the week leading up.
Archie is also a really good little cook, baking is his forte but he can turn his hand to most things. He was lucky enough learnt the art of making pasta from Antonio Carluccio, and can roll dough with the best of them. He also worked alongside me for the Il Tavolo pop up we did for 21 weeks, he’d go to school for the day, head to football training then come into do a 3-4 hour shift every Thursday. He’d do the antipasti & dolce and from time to time do himself a little plate of pasta. I really enjoy being in the kitchen with Archie and being able to share one of my loves with one of my loves.
We’ll have to wait and see if Lennox has the same love of food and cooking, but hanging around with Sarah, Archie and I I don’t know that he’ll have a choice.
What is your ultimate entertaining scenario?
A big relatively unadorned table in someone’s backyard, I like eating outside on a nice day. I also like the colour of the food on beautiful plates, linen napkins and water jugs, no need for superfluous bits and bobs on the table taking up valuable real estate that can be filled with food and wine. The table it self would need to be large enough to fit at least a dozen of my closest family and friends, that’s nice and easy to cater for. The menu would need to be simple and delicious but not time consuming as I’d like to spend as much time with my guests as possible.
It would be a long lunch, a grazing affair. Oysters and sea urchins, a big plate of anchovies in salsa verde, fresh mozzarella or burrata with olive oil, some prosciutto and maybe a little zucchini trifoliate. I’d bake focaccia too.
A large bowl of steaming spaghetti with mussels would most likely follow, with much bread for mopping up the juices.
Then grilled whole quails to be eaten with hands and big mounds of watercress or peppery flat leaf rocket.
Sweets could be strawberries with rose and creme fraîche or perhaps just some overly ripe soft cheese.
Many glasses of Sicilian frappato would also be poured.
Music would be there in the background and it would certainly be Italian and even more certainly it would be Jovanotti, I love him and his style, it ranges from 80’s rap to rock, pop and beautiful ballads, perfect for a long lunch. It sounds great and is enjoyable to listen to but won’t distract from the conversation around the table.
I love the sound of laughter and clinking glasses around the table, plates being passed and pasta being slurped.
A recipe from David:
Grilled squid, cavolo nero, chilli, garlic & parsley
4 x 200gm local and fresh squid cleaned
1 bunch cavolo nero, tough stalks removed and leafy bits torn into rough pieces
Small bunch parsley, chopped
2 cloves garlic, chopped
1 pinch of dried chilli flakes
Good quality extra virgin olive oil
You’ll need a wood burning chargrill for this recipe to achieve the wonderful charred and smoky flavours.
Make sure your chargrill is nice and hot and the coals are glowing red with not too much flame.
On a chopping board carefully slice down one side of the body of each squid to open them out flat, leave tentacles in one piece.
In a bowl, season your arrow squid with salt and a splash of olive oil.
Lay your squid bodies (open side down)and tentacles onto the hot grill and leave them for about 2 minutes, don’t touch them, allow them to cook and colour nicely
While this is happening in the same bowl season the torn cavolo nero with salt and oil, give a good mix to coat evenly.
After 2 minutes turn all the squid and let cook for another minute.
At this point add your cavolo nero to the grill in a nice even layer and allow to grill and colour slightly.
Take your squid off, and place on a clean chopping board and leave to rest for a minute.
Once your cavolo nero has a little colour, is a bit crispy in places and wilted in others it can also come off, and go into a large metal mixing bowl.
Halve the squid bodies and then cut into ½ centimetre batons, and halve the tentacles too.
Add to the bowl with cavolo nero, the parsley, garlic and chilli, along with two table spoons of olive oil and and a good pinch of salt.
Mix together, taste for seasoning, divide between 4 plates and serve.
To experience David's delicious cooking, visit him at 100 Mile Table, Byron Bay or follow his food adventures @davidelovett. Pictured here are his infamous sweet and savoury focaccia's pictured on the ALEX AND TRAHANAS Apulian Face Plate
View the full Apulian ceramic collection here