Malabar Hill was the hotspot for a great culinary experience recently. At the Australian Consul General Mumbai Tony Huber’s beautiful home last week, we had a chance to experience modern Australian cuisine with a touch of India, thanks to the fabulous fare served by Australian Masterchef Sebastian Simon. By Latha Sunadh
Chef Sebastian Simon is a Melbourne-based culinary consultant, a Masterchef, and chief instructor at the prestigious Le Cordon Bleu, Melbourne, with over 23 years of “hands on” experience. Known for his bold flavours, ingredient-based cooking, and creativity, Chef Simon’s expertise lies in indigenous cuisine, street food, molecular gastronomy, vegan and French fare.
“This is the first time I am cooking in someone’s kitchen,” said Chef Simon. “The fact that it’s the Consul General’s house makes it very special.” It was also the Consul General’s first time hosting Chef Simon in his home, and the get-together saw some of Mumbai’s best chefs and food lovers in attendance. The premise was food connections between the two countries and the conversations revolved around fusion and tastes. “When I was at the Indian High Commission 20 years ago, there were less than 40,000 people of Indian origin living in Australia. Then everything changed. There’s been an upsurge in migration since about 2006 and now, it’s 800,000 people today,” said Consul General Huber. “1 in 35 people in Australia are of South Asian origin and that has changed the nature of the country in the most positive way. We have foods that we did not know of a few years ago – fusion and tastes have revitalised the community.”
The menu for the evening focused on using great produce and creating authentic Australian fare served with a twist, and paired with premium Australian wines. “I feel like am a tiny bridge between Australia and India, meshing them and bringing my twist. We have Australian lamb, feta, almonds, walnuts, and macadamia nuts – it’s amazing to see all this beautiful produce coming into the Indian market,” said Chef Simon. This is also a result of the way Indians today look at food. “The Australian Masterchef gets its highest viewership from India, and that has actually changed the way Indians view food. When we serve lamb, it always has to be well done. The younger generation now sees it as medium – that’s the difference. We are also about clean, green, and fresh and local food, and that’s also something India has in common. Local chefs are embracing local ingredients and seasonal fare too,” says Chef Simon on the changes that have happened since the last time he came down.
Appetizers and canapes included cucumber bites that came with whipped mascarpone, and bird’s nest paani puri alongside a great prawn Australian saltbush crostini with mango aioli. The spread at the dinner saw dips and bread, and Australian lemony feta with dill, babaganoush, and hummus. The roasted beetroot with Australian honey and toasted almonds was a winner, and the spiced chicken thigh skewers with kimchi and sticky rice were subtle and flavoured beautifully; our favourite however was the Paella croquettes with prawn and chorizo. The cauliflower fritti with Parmesan crunch and sriracha mayo was another wonderful addition. Everything was fresh, punched with local flavours, and easy on the palate.
As we dug into the assorted petit fours and desserts featuring Australian almonds, walnuts, and macadamia nuts, the Consul General explained what people in both countries are looking for when it comes to food. “Authenticity and sustainability. Technology is also allowing people to taste more, try more and visual experiences are becoming important. There are the kinds of food experiences that enrich the country.”