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
150 ml Tia Maria
100 ml Kahlua
5 egg whites, whipped to stiff peaks
9 gelatine leaves, soaked in water
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.