By Andrea Louise Thomas Photos Yanni
Shane Burke is a man on fire, a perfect disposition as head chef at Stumpy Gully Restaurant. He cooks with such joy and exuberance, it’s exciting to watch. Because the kitchen has no door, patrons can see the whole culinary adventure unfold. And that’s just the way Shane and restaurant owner, Daniel Broadbent, like it.
Shane’s culinary history started in boyhood, cooking and baking alongside his Mum on their vast Goulburn Valley sheep farm. He wasn’t interested in high school, so his mother suggested he go to TAFE to get cooking qualifications. At fifteen, he got his first job as an apprentice baker and pastry chef at Murchison Bakery.
Meanwhile, Shane was travelling to Melbourne every other weekend to visit his older brother, who worked as a chef at The Stokehouse. Inspired by his brother’s success and heady lifestyle, Shane then moved to the big smoke to work as an apprentice pastry chef. He also worked at another Melbourne icon, Circa.
While the move from country to city was a culture shock, working in vibrant kitchens during the pinnacle of Melbourne’s food scene more than made up for it. The experience was both terrifying and exciting. He worked 80 to 90 hours a week, always pushing to do better. Despite the pressure, he loved it.
Then he took a break from this hectic life to travel. In New Zealand he met his future wife, Julia from Norwich, England. She had just come back from working as chief stewardess on luxury yachts in the Mediterranean. Shane had always wanted to work as a private yacht chef, so he convinced her to go back.
They worked side by side as a seamless team, but when Julia fell pregnant with their first child, she returned to the UK while Shane continued working on yachts with the proviso that he could fly in and fly out to have optimum time with his wife and baby.
Working ship-to-shore from one breathtaking port to another between France and Turkey was a charmed life for a chef because, in addition to the spectacular scenery, his research included dining at the finest restaurants on the Mediterranean.
However, when their second child was on the horizon, Shane and Julia decided to leave Europe for Australia. They chose Mornington for its lifestyle balance of city for Julia and country for Shane. whilst providing the best of both for their children. Even better, working in Peninsula vineyard restaurants meant no late nights and more family time.
At Stumpy Gully, what Shane brings to the table is his own brand of modern Australian cuisine.
Drawing from his extensive experience using traditional cooking methods and using the finest local ingredients (predominantly), he is able to create exceptional and innovative dishes that are delicious to taste and beautiful to behold.
Despite thousands of recipes at his fingertips, what Shane likes best is trying new things. Great cooking involves a lot of experimentation. “I’m not trying to reinvent the wheel. I focus on flavour. I just want to make food taste the best it possibly can,” he says.
The menu is sophisticated enough to appeal to the epicure, but unfussy enough to please any and every diner. “We don’t want to have stars on the menu; we want them all to be stars,” he says. (The menu changes seasonally.)
Even after two decades in the food industry, Shane still loves his work. “I like to have fun, be energetic and involved and have the staff enjoy what they do. I’m a happy chef. I love what I do. The passion is still there,” he says. What more could you ask for in a dining experience?
Lightly cured Hiramasa kingfish / avocado / mandarin / cashew & coriander pesto
Kingfish Curing Mixture
- 600g-800g Hiramasa Kingfish, skinned, boned and blood line taken out (ask your local fish monger to do this for you if you don’t feel confident to do it yourself)
- 500g sea salt
- 500g castor sugar
- 1 tsp fennel seeds (roughly ground)
- 1 tsp coriander seeds (roughly ground)
- 1 tsp juniper
- 1 tsp fresh thyme
- Zest of 2 mandarins
Combine all dry ingredients – mix well. Place 4 layers of glad wrap on a flat tray, ensuring there is enough to wrap the Kingfish twice. Create a bed using half of the curing mix in the centre of the cling wrap and sit the Kingfish on top. Cover the Kingfish completely with the remaining curing mix and wrap tightly using excess cling wrap. Place in refrigerator for 6 hours.
Once ready, wash the salt mixture off the Kingfish using cold water. Wrap the fish in a fresh Chux cloth and refrigerate until ready to serve.
Cashew & Coriander Pesto
- 100g toasted unsalted cashews
- 1 bunch coriander (washed)
- 1 bunch mint (washed)
- 1 garlic clove
- 2 tbs mandarin juice
- 2 tbp lemon juice
- 100ml vegetable oil
- 50ml extra virgin olive oil
Chop herbs roughly. Place cashews, herbs, garlic, mandarin & lemon juice in a blender. Blend on high until combined to a rough paste consistency. Turn the blender to low and add oils slowly. Season with salt.
Toasted Nori Powder
- 2 nori sheets
Place the nori in a hot, dry pan, quickly turning from side to side to toast. Once cold, blend or grind to a fine powder.
- 2 ripe avocado
- half tsp wasabi powder
- pinch citric acid
- juice of 2 lemons
Spoon the flesh from the avocados and place in blender. Add wasabi, lemon juice and citric acid and blend until smooth. Season with salt.
Peel and segment the zested mandarins, removing as much pith as possible. Slice each segment into small pieces removing any seeds in the process.
Slice the Kingfish as thinly as possible and arrange evenly over 6 plates.
Place the avocado puree in piping bag or use a spoon to place 6 small dots over the king fish. Repeat same process with the pesto.
Arrange 7 mandarin pieces on top of the Kingfish.
Dust each plate lightly with the toasted nori powder using a sieve.
Garnish with finely shaved radish and micro coriander (or normal coriander if micro not available).