The Melbourne-born, Los Angeles-based celebrity chef on sausage sizzles, eating outdoors and his mum’s pork roast.
What does summer mean to you?
Summer means family. It’s one of the few times of the year that I take time to unplug and head out of town with Lindsay and the boys. The restaurants and my partnerships keep me really busy. This year had its own obvious challenges but we rented an RV and hit the road, travelling to Wyoming, Montana and Utah. We camped, went to a rodeo, visited Yellowstone. It was a great escape and really recuperative. I saw some parts of the country that my American friends hadn’t seen.
What is your most enduring memory of the Victorian summers of your childhood?
When I was about seven or eight, our family – my dad, brother, stepmum and stepsister – started going to Apollo Bay for holidays. We went nearly every summer for about 10 years and had an absolute ball. It was a typical Aussie holiday spot, with the main drag right on the ocean. The beach was stunning and the foreshore is where I had my first kiss, which is a special memory. I also spent a lot of time in the pinball arcade. Every year we stayed at the same little motel behind a pub. The motel was one of those iconic places where rooms face a square surrounding the car park, pool and barbecue area. Dad would always burn the sausages and I used to give him a hard time about his cooking skills. The pool was the centre of the action and we made friends and got to know everyone staying there.
Is there one thing that is instantly evocative of an Australian summer?
I remember walking around the neighbourhood as a kid during the hot summer and smelling sausages and thinking, ‘Someone is having a barbecue. Where’s my invite?’
How do your summers in Los Angeles (another destination that revels in the sun) differ from Australia?
They’re quite similar actually. Lots of time at the beach, tons of barbecuing. My oldest son got up on a surfboard this summer so I’m quite a proud dad about that.
What do you miss about summers in Australia, or do you manage to get the ex-pat ‘best of both worlds’ by chasing the sun and visiting here during US winters?
It’s so true. When I get back for the holidays, my American friends find it hilarious that I start off Christmas morning with an ocean swim after presents are opened. But yeah, I miss the holiday spread with exceptional seafood and a seasonal pavlova, and of course my mum’s pork roast with crackling. I try to incorporate as much of those traditional Aussie dishes into our holiday spread here when I can’t make it back.
Eating al fresco is so quintessentially summer and so necessary in the current reality (Curtis Stone Events Australia is offering Gourmet Boxes for Victorians to enjoy during special occasions at home to bring a bit of joy back after a long lockdown) – what are the elements to perfect outdoor entertaining?
Making sure there is something for everyone is key when dining and entertaining. Lots of cheeses, charcuterie, nuts, berries, marinated olives, and a nice bottle of rosé are my go-tos. Americans really love their fried chicken and it even tastes great cold, so that’s something I’ve discovered here. You can really elevate your picnics too with caviar and Champagne. The key to any successful gathering though is the guests and good company.
Where is your favourite place to picnic/eat outdoors?
In Australia, my favourite places to picnic are the Royal Botanic Gardens in Melbourne, Fitzroy Gardens, St Kilda Beach and literally every picturesque spot along the Mornington Peninsula. Times are different right now and, at least for the moment, the world is your restaurant.
With two young sons, how important is it for you to be in nature and sunshine in summer?
So important, not only being out in nature but protecting the environment as well. Between hiking, gardening, bicycling, and swimming, we probably spend more time outdoors than in during the summer months.
Do you have a go-to summer meal that you always return to when the weather warms up?
I love a good steak off the grill – a nicely marbled steak with grilled summer veg like zucchini, eggplant and capsicum. It’s simple and delicious every time.
Visit our Reclaim Summer hub to read our collection of essays by notable Australians on what summer means to them and many more great reads.