By Andrea Louise Thomas Photos Yanni & Supplied
Joel Alderson, head chef at Paringa Estate’s fine dining restaurant exudes a quiet confidence. He has built his career working in some of the best kitchens in Australia so he knows what he and his team are bringing to the table is worth coming back for. He’s happy to be at the helm in a relaxed setting surrounded by spectacular beauty.
Being in the kitchen wasn’t where Joel originally saw himself. He went to university in his native Tasmania, to become a teacher, but realised it wasn’t for him. He feels his personality is better suited working in a kitchen. He loves being part of a team.
From childhood, Joel had always been interested in cooking so the transition to study commercial cookery was an easy one. He did the first half of his coursework at Drysdale TAFE in Hobart and then moved to Sydney’s Ultimo TAFE to finish his studies. It gave him the opportunity to gain valuable work experience in a big city.
From the beginning, Joel was very ambitious. He only wanted to work in the best kitchens with the best chefs. He started his apprenticeship at Restaurant Balzac in Sydney’s Randwick under owner and executive chef Matthew Kemp, helping to prepare nine-course degustation menus among other things.
Switching gears, he moved to Canberra to work at Water’s Edge, another high level best of the best team environment. He spent two years there, which he feels is the perfect tenure. It gives enough time to gain wisdom from a chef, but not so much as to become too much like that mentor chef.
Tiny Dunkeld in Northern Victoria was his next destination to work as sous chef at The Royal Mail Hotel with chef Dan Hunter. Hunter’s philosophy was eating natural and let the ingredients speak for themselves. The Royal Mail was voted best regional restaurant consecutively.
Next stop was Attica in Melbourne, one of the world’s top 100 restaurants. He worked as senior chef de partie under owner/head chef Ben Shewry with a team of chefs cooking truly innovative food.
His first role as head chef was at The Brix in Fitzroy where he had the opportunity to build the restaurant from the ground up. He stayed on for a year before another great opportunity came along.
Melbourne’s iconic Windsor Hotel was undergoing redevelopment. Joel was hired as a consultant, but he ended up as full time executive chef managing 30 chefs, learning the whole business of running a restaurant. “Success is based on guests coming through the door and leaving happy,” he says. He managed that at The Windsor for five years.
Joel moved to the Mornington Peninsula for a rare opportunity to work as head chef at Pt. Leo Estate under culinary director Phil Wood at the very beginning of its development. He left that role to take up an executive chef position at Stellar at the Continental Hotel in Sorrento.
When it was time for a change, Joel saw the role open up at Paringa. He wanted to be more hands-on; to create his own small close knit team and work in a small family dining room. Paringa was the perfect fit.
There he knows everyone from the vineyards to the kitchen.
At Paringa, Joel characterises his cooking as ‘refined bistro’. Designing the menu gives a chance for his personality to shine through. Presentation is very important to him. The food needs to capture the imagination and take diners on a journey from the wording on the menu to discovering the flavours on the plate.
He likes to reference the Peninsula environment by sourcing from local producers. For instance, he gets his veggies from Mary Loucas in Main Ridge who grows organic herbs and vegetables. All ingredients are sourced locally or nearby in Victoria.
Joel likes to keep the flavours on his menu light, to focus on textures, herbs and layering of flavours. “I like to marry flavours that are comfortable together. I like to focus on simple, fresh sustenance,”he says. Comfort is top of the order. His aim is to have a user-friendly dining room where people are comfortable and want to return time and again.
When the restaurant was closed during lockdowns, Joel moved from the kitchen to the vineyards to work on vineyard maintenance. He loved being outdoors, seeing how the grapes were cared for, witnessing vintage harvest and seeing how Paringa wine was made. In fact, if he could do something completely different, he’d be a winemaker. He feels wine is an important complement to dining.
Come to Paringa for a holistic dining experience featuring some of the very best food and wine on the Peninsula. It won’t disappoint.
Frozen Mt Zero olive oil, Local fig, cultured goat milk and pistachio
Olive oil parfait
Makes 1x 20cm x 5cm loaf tin
- 400g thickened cream
- 1 whole egg
- 6 yolks
- 125g caster sugar
- 400g olive oil – something light/fruity in flavour works best
Cultured goat milk
- 110g thickened cream
- 100g caster sugar
- 1 vanilla bean
- 3 sheets titanium strength gelatine
- 250g goat milk yoghurt
- 200g goat milk
- 400g thickened cream – semi-whipped
- 100g pistachio nuts
- 50g candied olives
- Chocolate mint leaves to garnish
- Few drops of olive oil to garnish
- Semi whip to soft peaks the thickened cream and refrigerate.
- Combine whole egg, yolks, sugar and warm over a Bain Marie of simmering water whilst whisking until the sugar is dissolved.
- Once dissolved and yolks have started to thicken, transfer to a stand mixer with a whisk attachment. Whisk on high until yolks are light pale in colour and doubled in volume.
- Slowly add the cold olive oil in a steady stream until all is emulsified.
- Gently combine the yolk mix and the semi whipped cream folding softly.
- Set in a tin or mould lined with cling wrap so that it can easily be removed.
- Place in freezer until frozen, at least 3 hours but best overnight if possible.
- Bloom the gelatine in enough water to cover with the addition of 2 ice blocks.
- Warm the cream, sugar and the scraped vanilla bean over a low heat until its at roughly body temperature.
- Once gelatine has softened squeeze out all water and add to the cream mixture. Set aside at room temperature until required.
- Combine the yoghurt and goat milk then add the gelatine mix.
- Add the semi whipped cream to the yoghurt and gelatine small amounts at a time, folding gently until combined.
- Let set in the fridge for at least 2 hours prior to using.
- Remove the olive oil mould from the freezer onto a cutting board and unwrap.
- Using a sharp knife that has been warmed slightly in warm water cut 2cm slices.
- Place olive oil parfait on plates, arrange sliced figs over the top.
- Pipe cultured goat milk over the top and sprinkle with pistachio nuts, candied olives and a few drops of olive oil.
- Finally add some small leaves of chocolate mint to garnish.