Simon Duff, the executive chef at Darwin & Wallace, is passionate about creating tasty, scratch-cooked dishes using fresh, quality ingredients. Previously executive chef at the acclaimed restaurant and café Peyton and Byrne, Simon’s menus reflect the all-day nature of the venues – from sociable snacks to share over creative cocktails, to hearty roasts, as well as vibrant brunch dishes which draw on his Australian background.
How would you describe your cooking philosophy? Keep it simple, fresh, seasonal and tasty – and know where it came from.
When did you first become interested in ethical, sustainable cooking? I have always been interested and actively involved in it, from growing up on a property in Australia where we had gardens, chickens, bees etc., to my first chef job where we went out mushroom hunting before work, set up gardens, raised pigs for sausages, specials, etc., to now when I can really influence every detail of what we use and where it comes from.
In Darwin & Wallace’s TL&CC restaurant profile, it is described as “redefining what a pub can be.” Can you elaborate on this? From a food side of things, pub food does not need to be boring or a side offering. Making great tasting, fresh, house-made and interesting food in equal offering to amazing drinks in an environment with great design and comfort for all.
Your menu focuses on the seasons. Can you explain the reason behind this and why seasonal eating is important to you? Seasonal eating is when food is naturally growing and at its best, so it provides the best tasting products for dishes, as well as using local products and not using forced farming methods. The only way to ensure this is to change menus seasonally, use the best local products available to us and celebrate them.
Darwin & Wallace has a 3-star rating from the Sustainable Restaurant Association (SRA). Why is sourcing fish sustainably so important? Over-fishing or not using environmental practices has a huge impact on us all. By making sure we source all our fish sustainably, at all times, we can promote underused species to reduce pressure on the over-fished stocks, limit our impact on the environment and promote better farming practices so that hopefully there is a future for all.
What is your favourite dish to cook or ingredient to work with, and why? I was always told not to have favourites, but I really enjoy making a good curry. The amazing levels of flavour you can build in such a simple dish always amazes me. Also taking lesser-used ingredients and trying new ways to use them, until a beautiful dish is created.
Lastly, what are your top tips for home cooks wanting to be more sustainable and environmentally-friendly? Take time to really pick products according to the seasons (why eat tasteless imported strawberries in October when there are really amazing local plums, for example?) and let supermarkets know how you feel about the gross overuse of packaging and the need to provide loose products and eco-friendly options. Every little bit you can do makes a difference to drive them to stop this really crazy and unnecessary waste.
View Darwin & Wallace’s TL&CC profile here.
Orphans Kitchen (Auckland, New Zealand): Root-To-Petal Week was created by the team at Orphans Kitchen to educate diners about the benefits of plant-based eating. For a week each year, the restaurant introduces a completely plant-based menu.
Farm to Table (Phnom Penh, Cambodia): Farm to Table collaborates with sustainable seafood restaurant Knai Bang Chatt, taking its guests to observe the resort’s composting program before serving a degustation menu featuring food they have just seen grown.
A Rake’s Progress (Washington DC, USA): A Rake’s Progress holds a monthly speaker series called ORIGNS, which aims to elevate the conversation about food, its origins and what the restaurant is doing with food and food systems on the planet. This is complemented by a podcast which tells the story of the restaurant’s food by those who grow, make, process, preserve and cook it.
Amass (Copenhagen, Denmark): Copenhagen restaurant Amass hosts a programme called Amass Green Kids, where school children learn how to plant seeds, weed garden beds, compost, harvest vegetables and cook.
Flock Eatery (Brisbane, Australia): Flock Eatery juices its own homegrown fruit to create household juices, rather than stocking bottled juice. They then compost the pulp.
OXO Tower on British cuisine
WHERE: Barge House Street, London SE1 9PH, UK
“We love to celebrate and get people to celebrate – what we mean by that is we celebrate the very best of British ingredients and give it a twist whenever possible to surprise diners. When guests come to celebrate we want them to make it an experience to remember, whether that means excellent food, rare wines, cocktails from our cutting-edge menu or just an opportunity to take in the stunning London skylines while enjoying a truly British afternoon tea.”
To read more about OXO Tower visit their Truth, Love & Clean Cutlery profile here.
Potager on why they choose local
“Our menu changes with what's in season locally, and we're very strict about that. We use local produce and local meat. We have an on-site garden and I also have one at home, but it's a network of people that grow food for us. I mostly go and pick it up – I have to be close enough to go and get it and come back. A lot of people I meet at the farmers' market. I want to know who they are – I want to have a relationship with them. We spend years becoming friends.”
To read more about Potager, visit their Truth, Love & Clean Cutlery profile here. Chef Paul Warthen answers the TL&CC Q&A, below.
Potager, Colorado, USA
Paringa Estate on two dishes they love
“Flinders Island wallaby tartare with caper emulsion, crispy quail egg, and rye: this is a truly Australian dish of pasture-fed wallaby who are virtually carbon neutral thanks to their unique digestive system and are at harmony with their natural environment with very little impact upon the land compared to domesticated livestock. Their water consumption per kilo of edible meat is 70 per cent less than sheep, and almost 90 per cent less than beef. The gathering of wallabies are restricted on a quota basis that is reviewed annually and is independent of market demand. These quotas are based on population size observations, trends, and long term climate forecasts.
“Grass Whiting with pommes anna, grenobloise, garlic puree, and sea parsley: with this dish we incorporate foraged sea herbs, which really define a lot of our cooking. Early morning foraging along the coast for sea herbs is a normal routine for us – we find pig face, samphire, sea parsley and sea mustard.”
To read more about Paringa Estate visit their Truth, Love & Clean Cutlery profile here.
Paringa Estate, Victoria, Australia
Roots on a very unique initiative
“We started Eat New Zealand, formerly known as ConversatioNZ to put New Zealand on the world map for food. EatNZ is a collective of New Zealand's chefs, producers, media, tourism and event operators, who have all been inspired to create a national platform to promote and champion our best food, drink, and culinary tourism opportunities. New Zealand is such a beautiful country, with beautiful soil, land, water, air, and people. We have some of the best produce in the world and we want it to be world-renowned. We want culinary tourism to exist right alongside nature tourism. We organise collaborative events where chefs cook together to share ideas and techniques. We have an annual symposium where we continue to have conversations about our food systems. We have created a website which is the landing place for New Zealand food, allowing people to create an itinerary as they move around the country. We hope to keep inspiring people about the quality of New Zealand food and encourage them to come here to experience it.”
To read more about Roots, visit their Truth, Love & Clean Cutlery here.
Roots, Christchurch, New Zealand
Rutenberg on foraging
“We are passionate about local foraging. We forage year-round about sixteen different foods, from wild mustard to capers, which are used in our dish of salt-cured beef strips with foraged capers and cured lemon spread. We also grow fruits, vegetables, and herbs in our garden next to the restaurant.”
To read more about Rutenberg, visit their Truth, Love & Clean Cutlery profile here.
Rutenberg, Old Gesher, Israel
OWL Bakery on their historical ties
“Education is important to us. OWL owners Susannah and Maia met because of a shared interest in oral history and Appalachian foodways, and created a shared vision for OWL to become a space for educational pursuits and discovery. We have used the bakery to teach our community about the history of colonial-era ‘Election Cakes’, for example. After two years of being open, we offer regular workshops that focus on the craft of baking, as well as other topics such as the history of bread and beer.”
To read more about Rutenberg, visit their Truth, Love & Clean Cutlery profile here.
OWL Bakery, North Carolina, USA
Strattons Hotel on thoughtful food
“We believe that food should be fresh, tasty and wholesome as well as absolutely delicious. Care and thought has gone into the preparation of all our food and as well as the screening of fresh produce we use a great amount of wholefoods, organic wherever possible. Fruit and vegetables used in the hotel are partially grown in on-site gardens, and eggs come from nearby free-range chickens who are fed organic local corn supplemented with vegetable scraps from the kitchens. In buying local produce we can save food miles, an important factor in reducing our carbon footprint a basic target of our environmental policy. Food is tastier, fresher and relevant to the landscape in which the hotel is situated.”
To read more about Strattons Hotel, visit their Truth, Love & Clean Cutlery profile here.
Strattons Hotel, Norfolk, UK
Paul Warthen, chef at Denver, Colorado restaurant Potager, grew up on a 500-acre dairy farm in western Maryland. There he helped raise beef cattle, pigs and chickens, while milking 300 cows, twice a day. Days started around 2am and ended when the sun went down. “My granny, an amazing woman, fed us and all the farm hands breakfast, lunch and dinner. It was around these tables that I understood kinship and community. She also ran a kitchen for the biggest restaurant in town. It was in her kitchen that I understood value of food and how it brings people together.” Warthen’s culinary journey has taken him to every coast. As a young cook, he worked for the Patina Group in Los Angeles, travelling from one Joachim Splichal restaurant to another. Later, he worked in Philadelphia with James Beard award-winning chefs including Roy Yamaguchi and Mark Vetri, before landing his first executive chef job. He spent ten years in New York City and two years in the Shenandoah Valley managing the culinary side of an 800-acre organic farm.
What is your idea of perfect happiness? A cold beer after a long run, sleeping in. Perfect happiness is everywhere.
What is the purest thing you have ever tasted? Water.
What is the best thing you can do with your hands? My secret.
What was your first experience with sustainable eating? I grew up on a farm … it was just eating.
What do you love most about what you do? People. We serve them, we make them happy, we teach and inspire them.
What’s the best thing you’ve ever been taught? Believe in yourself.
Is there anything you don’t particularly care to eat? Spoilt food and food from fast food chains.
What do you make from scratch? Everything.
What would you be doing if you weren’t doing what you are doing? A rock star or novelist. I have an amazing singing voice and love to tell stories.
How do you spend your day off? Going for a run, gardening, time with my fiancé and dogs.
What are the qualities you most admire in others? Honesty, grit, toughness, a sense of humor, a plethora of random feats and useless information.
If you could eat only one thing today, what would it be? An omelette and French fries.
What do you see when you think of the cuisine of your own country? A kaleidoscope of horror and beauty. So many bountiful farm fresh ingredients and so much processed garbage.
Which producer or supplier brightens your day? Red Wagon Farm.
Which words or phrases do you most overuse? Respect and appreciate. Respect the space, respect the food, respect the people around you.
What do you think the food of the future will look like? I just hope there is still gravy, real gravy … not clarified or gelled. Just gravy and mashed potatoes.
Do you have a motto or mantra? Rock ‘n roll.
What is your number one sustainability tip or trick? Support local farmers.
If you were to die and come back as a person or a thing, what would it be? A dog – a boxer.
06 November 2018
Be inspired by seven marvellous members of the Truth, Love & Clean Cutlery Collective.
06 November 2018
Mike McEnearney, chef and owner of Sydney, Australia’s No. 1 Bent Street by Mike, tells us about his food journey, seasonal cooking and the ingredients he loves to work with.
06 November 2018
Sharing truth and love each week with the amazing, inspiring initiatives of our restaurants.
06 November 2018
We asked New Normal Bar + Kitchen's Darryl Naidu, to answer the Truth, Love & Clean Cutlery Questionnaire. There are only two rules – you have to tell the Truth, and do it with Love.