The Hungry Expat Chef’s Spotlight: James Kidman

The Hungry Expat shares her interview with chef James Kidman, who recently joined Sydney’s Doltone House catering group as group executive chef after eight years as executive chef at Otto Ristorante and time as executive chef at the National Gallery of Australia and the Sculpture Garden Restaurant in Canberra.  


The Hungry Expat (THE): What has been the focus in the first few months in your new role? What can people expect from Doltone House’s food going forward?  

James Kidman: My focus has been to build a team that has a number of key staff who can deliver on production and administrative areas of the business so that we have as much flexibility as possible. The food in the future will focus on seasonality and be represented in a more à la carte fashion.

THE: How do Doltone House’s kitchens differ from previous kitchens in which you’ve worked?

JK: The DH kitchens differ primarily in that the staff is really event-focused. Since the bulk of the business is events, everyone is well-organised, and they’ve been really fantastic to work with.

THE: Because Doltone House is known for hosting events, and now you’re directing much of the food for such events, what are some of your favourite dishes to feed a crowd?

JK: I really like the simple dishes that have a comfort feel to them, like braised beef cheeks with a creamed potato puree, or canapés that have a sense of style.

THE: What’s your favourite culinary destination within Australia?

JK: [My favourite] food destination has to be wine regions, like the Barossa, [and my favourite] restaurant has to be Sepia in Sydney.

THE: What’s your favourite culinary destination internationally?

JK: My favourite culinary destination has to be Italy.

THE: You spent several years in Canberra as executive chef at the National Gallery of Australia and the Sculpture Garden Restaurant. How do you think the dining scene differs from Canberra to Sydney?

JK: The difference between Sydney and Canberra is quite marked. Sydney is an international city that has a huge variety of eateries and competition. What Canberra has that Sydney doesn’t is an amazing array of local produce: berry growers, lamb and cattle farmers, truffles 10 minutes from the city centre, and a really unique small wine industry. Both have their positives and are incomparable.

THE: You’re known for your affinity for (and cooking of) Italian cuisine. In my experience, Italian cooking in Australia is quite different from Italian cooking in Italy. Do you agree? 

JK: The differences in Italian cooking between Australia and Italy are huge. Both have amazing positives. What is important to remember is that Australian Italian food has almost its own regionality to it. The quality of produce in Australia is fantastic across the spectrum. To say one is better is not fair. Australian Italian food probably has a little more flair, and I think sometimes a bit more technique.

THE: If tonight was your last meal, what would you like to eat?

JK: Caprese salad, veal wrapped in prosciutto with figs, and chocolate ice cream.

THE: First George Clooney, now you! A PR friend told me that you’ve recently teamed up with ubiquitous coffee powerhouse Nespresso to create a few recipes using the company’s new limited-edition coffees. How did that partnership come about?

JK: It’s nice to be put into the same sentence as George Clooney! We hosted the launch for Nespresso’s new limited-edition Napoli and Trieste grand cru coffees at Signorelli Gastronomia [one of the Doltone House venues] and a few other events with the company, for which I created some bespoke recipes.

THE: With your love of Italian cooking, do you enjoy thinking outside the mug and using coffee as an ingredient?

JK: Yes I do. Tiramisu is a perennial favourite and is heavily flavoured with coffee. Also, chocolate desserts with a slight coffee flavour are great. [James shares his tiramisu recipe below.]

THE: What do you like to do when you’re not in the kitchen?

JK: When I’m not in the kitchen, I love to spend time with my partner and daughter. Family is the most important thing in the world. Apart from spending time with my family, I love football. I used to play until my late 30s. Injury prevents me from playing now, but I follow all football (soccer) heavily.

James Kidman’s Tiramisu

5 egg yolks
1 egg
150 ml Tia Maria
100 ml Kahlua
5 egg whites, whipped to stiff peaks
9 gelatine leaves, soaked in water
400g mascarpone
500g cream, lightly whipped
500 ml espresso
200 ml sugar syrup
24 Savoiardi biscuits (ladyfingers)
Cocoa, for dusting

Make tiramisu cream: Whisk egg yolks, egg, Tia Maria, Kahlua, and sugar over a water bath until light and extremely fluffy. Melt softened gelatine in a little water and add to egg mixture. Fold in mascarpone, cream, and egg whites. Refrigerate until ready to make the final tiramisu.

Make tiramisu: Combine espresso and sugar syrup in a bowl. Dunk each biscuit in coffee mixture and line the bottom of a ceramic dish with 12 biscuits. Cover liberally with tiramisu cream. Repeat, making sure the top layer of tiramisu cream is smooth. Dust with cocoa powder, and serve.


Thanks James!


Around the World in 10 Olive Oils

Eliunt took The Hungry Expat’s tastebuds on an international trip.

Thanks to a PR friend, I recently attended an olive-oil tasting at the temporary pop-up Eliunt shop at Westfield Bondi Junction. Eliunt produces high-quality extra-virgin olive oils (EVOOs) and has only lately launched in Australia.

While I waited for the tasting to begin, I did a loop around the kiosk, admiring the sleek, colourful, and sophisticated packaging and teasing my nose with each of the oils’ aromas. Eliunt produces 10 oils, each representing a different country: Sonoma (the US), Vitality (Australia), Oasis (Tunisia), Tradição (Portugal), Olivar (Spain), Anfora (Italy), Athena (Greece), Monte Ida (Turkey), Holy Oil (Jordan), and Ahiram (Lebanon).


Eliunt’s chef, caterer Carlos Pancorbo of Casa Pancorbo, who originally hails from Spain, led us through the tasting, pointing out the subtle but important differences between the oils, which range in colour from pale to bright yellow and in flavour from subtle and soft to strong and bitter. Everything at the tasting was delicious, such as the Manchego with just a drop of the Lebanese EVOO to the carpaccio with the Anfora oil. I also tried a number of the oils drizzled atop hummus and flatbread or simply with fresh baquette and a pinch of salt.

One one-bite entrée stood out for me, however, and has now entered my entertaining repertoire: a white anchovy perched atop a sea-salt potato chip, drizzled with just a touch of Eliunt’s Sonoma olive oil. What a brilliant, easy party starter! I am a huge anchovy fan, but my love doesn’t really extend to the higher-end white variety – I prefer the saltier, less vinegary, more plebeian little fishy. But this combination – the crunch of the potato chip, the texture of the fish, the pop of the vinegar, and just the right amount of salt – snacktastic! For those who completely shy away from anchovies, try this! It may bring you into the fold. (I converted my anchovyless brother-in-law and skittish 10-year-old niece.)

Eliunt is quick to point out that you don’t cook with these olive oils. They aim to enhance other foods and to be a finishing touch – a great last-minute drizzle for salads, pastas, grilled meats, grilled fish, veggies, fruits, cheese, and desserts.

(Hey … if your mum’s a gourmand and if you’ve been a bit slack leading up to Mother’s Day, these 60-ml EVOOs would make a nice addition to her kitchen. Maybe you can’t take her on a trip to Athens, but you can give her the Athena EVOO.)

The Eliunt pop-up kiosk has since popped back down, but you can still order Eliunt’s EVOOs online at They come in packs of three, five, and 10. I got a three-pack: The American in me chose the Sonoma olive oil; my new Aussie roots grabbed the Vitality oil; and, because the Spanish tasting chef was so passionate about his country’s oil (it really was tasty), I opted for that one, too.

What’s Cookin’? Williams-Sonoma Inc Hits Aussie Shores!

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Last night, The Hungry Expat attended the prelaunch of American homeware retailer Williams-Sonoma Inc’s four new Sydney-based stores: West Elm (modern furnishings), Pottery Barn (furniture, home décor, and gift registry), Pottery Barn Kids (kids furniture and baby registry), and Williams-Sonoma (cookware, cooking school, and gift registry). The foursome of shops have all taken up residence in Bondi Junction’s Exchange Building—just across from the Westfield, on the corner of Oxford and Grosvenor streets. The launch marks the first time this fabulous foursome have come together under one roof, and it also marks the opening of the company’s first retail locations outside North America.

The shops officially open their doors this morning at 10 am (right about now!), following a ribbon-cutting ceremony by New South Wales Premier Barry O’Farrell. Though the retailers seem excited and ready (the shops and shelves looked perfect!), I’m not sure they know what they’re in for with the enthusiastic Aussie shopping audience (remember the queues when Gap and Zara opened in Sydney’s Pitt Street Mall?). I suspect eager customers will empty those perfectly presented shelves in no time. A First World problem for Williams-Sonoma, no doubt.

Attendees to last night’s prelaunch were treated to a tour of all four stores, followed by a casual, stand-up-and-wander dinner in the Williams-Sonoma space and cooking school. For me, what was fun about the tour was not the stores themselves. I’m already a frequenter of Pottery Barn and Willams-Sonoma every time I return to the US and have seen the flawless way they present beautiful bedding, stunning table settings, and other inspirational décor. Instead, it was the joy of feeling that a familiar piece of home has followed me here and of seeing the stores through the eyes of the clearly impressed, excited, and ready-to-shop Aussies. (And on a bonus nostalgic note, one children’s bed at Pottery Barn Kids featured Star Wars sheets that I confess to sleeping on more than 30 years ago!)

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A Pottery Barn Kids display you just want to hug!

2013-05-01 19.08.48Love a monogram! 2013-05-01 19.08.30My Star Wars sheets were dark blue!

2013-05-01 19.08.22Anyone for afternoon tea?


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A sampling for Williams-Sonoma cookware

2013-05-01 19.00.54Beautiful bedding! 2013-05-01 19.00.03Stunning table settings

The dinner hinted at the quality of what you can expect to taste when stepping into a Williams-Sonoma, what you can attempt to cook up yourself with the store’s cookware, and what’s on the horizon for the Williams-Sonoma cooking school. To start, there was a fantastic cheese table (the stuff of The Hungry Expat’s dreams!). Next, we sampled polenta with wild mushrooms, laid out like an enormous metre-wide pizza on a round table (sorry, but my blurry picture doesn’t do it justice), salted-caramel soufflés (the salted-caramel craze continues, with amazing results—and a reason to sign up for Williams-Sonoma’s upcoming soufflé class). If only I’d left room for the crushed-meringue dessert!

2013-05-01 19.15.08Say cheese!

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The night’s delights (from left to right): crushed meringues, salted-caramel souffles, and wild-mushroom polenta

Williams-Sonoma’s cooking school teaches tools and techniques as well as such recipes as sparkling drinks for the whole family, perfect panini sandwiches, soufflés (see above), and first autumn soup. I’m hoping to sharpen my own knife skills at a complimentary class next Tuesday. Check out the schedule for Williams-Sonoma’s May cooking classes.

Another albeit brief highlight of the night for me was the chance to meet the esteemed Maggie Beer. When I left the US, I was addicted to The Food Network. I didn’t yet know what the Aussie equivalent would be and which food folks I would be keen to follow. Beer was the first Aussie food professional and personality to fill that void for me. I quickly came to admire her and feel connected to her. Plus, I love her Pheasant Farm pate!

For you Aussies outside Sydney, don’t fret. Williams-Sonoma aims to open numerous other stores in the coming months.

For those of you who are close by: Happy shopping! Happy cooking! Happy eating! And let me know what you think once you’ve had a chance to visit the shops.