Producers Lunch Forum at Quarter Twenty One with Justin North

After a year long absence, Justin North‘s Producers Lunch Forum made a return to new premises at Quarter Twenty One. The bi-monthly event which celebrates the relationship between chef and producer highlights the parallels between their passions for their work.

Justin North Producers Lunch
Justin North Producers Lunch Forum

Hosted by Simon Thomsen, Restaurant Critic at the Daily Telegraph, fifty guests including print and social media attended the lunch forum.

Justin North Producers Lunch
Simon Thomsen (L) with Robyn and Norm from Highland Gourmet Potatoes

Justin North teamed up with Quarter Twenty One Head Chef Michael Robinson and Bécasse Head Chef Monty Koludrovic to create a seasonal menu using produce from Koolang Wagyu, Darling Mills, Highland Gourmet Potatoes and Pepe Saya.

Justin North Producers Lunch
Justin North

In his role as Ambassador for Australian Year of the Farmer, Justin explained that he was approached to become involved with the initiative that encourages chefs to connect with Australian producers.

Justin North Producers Lunch
Philip Bruem AM (L) and Simon Thomsen (R)

Guest speaker Philip Bruem AM, Chairman of Australian Year of the Farmer stated that agriculture needs to be refocussed amongst the community. The aim of the initiative is to portray innovative and modern ways of farmers in a year that celebrates what they do, where the produce comes from and where it will come from in the future.

Simon Thomsen led the forum with the producers explaining the passions behind their work and some of the hardships they face on the land. The dishes were introduced by their respective chefs and were paired with wine from Scarborough in the Hunter Valley.

Justin North Producers LunchJustin North Producers Lunch
Bécasse Artisan bread: Brioche with black olive and Pepe Saya butter

A warm black and green olive brioche from Bécasse Bakery was served with Pepe Saya garden butter pot. The butter has been gently whipped, then topped with a fine crumb made from sesame seed, walnut and black olive with sorrel and elderflower.

Justin North Producers Lunch
Warm local radishes in lavender and miso butter

An amuse bouche of warm local radishes in lavender and miso butter set the tone of the menu, a marriage of the best of the kitchen and the land presented on a plate. Fresh produce grown by Steve Adey from Darling Mills Farm was used in this dish.

Darling Mills is a specialist grower of salad produce including lettuce, herbs, micro-herbs and edible flowers. Located at Berrilee near Berowra Waters, one hour from Sydney’s CBD, the farm has a mixture of greenhouse, hydroponic and organically grown produce, including over 100 varieties of herbs and salad plants. When asked what motivates Steve Adey and gets him up in the morning, he simply answers that it is the love of salads and growing up on a farm.

Justin North Producers Lunch
Cured Kingfish, kohl rabi, horseradish, watercress and shiso

The cured kingfish with kohl rabi, horseradish, watercress and shiso is a celebration of the freshness of flavours. The kingfish is lightly cured in aromatic citrus salt, made by grinding citrus into mortar and pestle. After marinating the fish, it is rinsed then sliced and presented with watercress, shizo , horseradish for a mild kick and kohl rabi.

Justin North Producers Lunch
Bécasse Head Chef Monty Koludrovic at the microphone

Chef Monty Koludrovic, who had spent six years at Bécasse including four as head chef, introduced the next course of purple sapphire and cranberry red potatoes from Highland Gourmet Potatoes. The inspiration for his dish was simply the passion for the quality product.

The potatoes are cleaned and baked in their skin. Once cooked, the skin is removed and the flesh is mixed with Pepe Saya butter, olive oil and salt. The skin is then deep fried the skin, a little beurre blanc is added, and the dish is served with cured jowl.

Justin North Producers Lunch
Purple sapphire and cranberry red potatoes baked with crisp skins and cured jowel

To producers Norman and Robyn Gair,  their Highland Gourmet Potatoes are more like children. They produce 33 varieties of potatoes, so their is no point in asking them to pick favourites. Norm explained that the secret of growing a good spud is plenty of water, good fertiliser and good volcanic soil. Their potatoes are sold at the Eveleigh Markets in Darlington and the Growers Markets at Pyrmont.

The first courses were paired with a 2008 Scarborough Yellow Label Chardonnay from the Hunter Valley in NSW.

Justin North Producers Lunch
Michael Katz, Koolang Wagyu (L) and Pierre Issa, Pepe Saya (R)

The next dish was by Chef Michael Robertson, former head chef at Bécasse, who then established Quarter Twenty One.  Justin North introduced the beef dish as he was unable to attend on the day.

Justin North Producers Lunch
Koolang wagyu sirloin and brisket, pine mushrooms, confit garlic and parsley

Beef from Koolang Wagyu, in the Southern Highlands of NSW, is hung for five to six weeks to allow the natural enzymes to tenderise the meat and for moisture to evaporate which intensifies the flavour. Two cuts of meat are used, the aged sirloin and the brisket, marinated in red wine and slow cooked for about 3 hours making it very tender. Brisket, which has a natural tendency to dry when cooked is helped by the marbling of the wagyu to keep it juicy. The dish is served with potato puree, parsnip puree and sautéed pine mushrooms.

Michael Katz of Koolang Wagyu explained that his operation delivers a quality and sustainable product which is grass fed and retains a natural beef flavour. He credited Justin and the Bécasse team for the finishing process that makes his beef spectacular.

The dish was well paired with 2008 Scarborough Shiraz from the Hunter Valley.

Justin North Producers Lunch
Pierre Issa (middle) of Pepe Saya

The talented Pierre Issa of Pepe Saya has risen to recent fame for providing Australia with hand-churned fresh butter, yoghurt and mascarpone. His small factory in Tempe produces dairy products that are all made from 100% Australian cream which comes in daily, fresh from the Country Valley Dairy in Picton.

Justin North Producers Lunch
Chocolate mousse, pink grapefruit, creme fraiche sorbet and basil

Justin introduced dessert, referring to the dish as a “humble, delightful and refreshing chocolate mousse”. The crumb was made with oatmeal biscuits and burnt butter, giving the dish earthy flavours. The grapefruit curd component of the dish was made from grapefruit juice that has been emulsified with eggs and Pepe Saya butter. Crème fraiche, also by Pepe Saya was turned into a sorbet. The dish contrasts the bitterness and richness of the chocolate and is a delightful one with which to end the lunch.

Dessert was paired with  2011 Scarborough Late Harvest Semillon, Hunter Valley, perhaps a little too young with prominent to acid to match the richness of the chocolate.

Justin North Producers Lunch
The Producers Lunch Forum

The Producers Lunch Forum is an opportunity to bring chefs, producers and diners together, to become acquainted with the people behind the fabulous produce and restaurant dishes we enjoy. The experience is one that inspires and educates, and you leave with a renewed appreciation for quality Australian produce and the creative talents of the chefs who treat ingredients with respect.

The Producers Lunch Forum was held at Quarter 21 on Tuesday 6 March 2012. A retail store operated a Quarter Twenty One Farmgate Market to allow guests and shoppers to purchase the produce on the day. The next Producers Lunch will be held on Tuesday 1st May 2012. More information from the website below.

Quarter Twenty One

See also the Autumn Producers Lunch Forum.


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About the author

Corinne Mossati

Corinne Mossati is the Founder/Editor of popular online magazine Gourmantic and Cocktails & Bars, a website dedicated to cocktail culture and the discerning drinker. She is named in Australian Bartender Magazine’s Top 100 Most Influential List since 2013, is a member of The Academy responsible for judging the World’s 50 Best Bars. She has also judged the inaugural Australasian Whisky Awards and various national cocktail competitions.