Our Head Chef, Naomi Bulner, shares her insights for creating inspiring dishes.
When I’m writing menus or even planning dinner for friends and family, I usually start with 3 questions; What’s available? Is it in my budget? Is it practical? Then once we have the basics out of the way, I am able to start think creatively about how I intend to design the dish.”
Any great dish starts with fresh, tasty produce and the key to this is building relationships with suppliers and producers to ensure I get the best on offer. WA consistently delivers amazing produce, so I’m fortunate that I don’t have to look far to find inspiration.
Once I have the produce, it’s time to look at cost as it can often make or break a dish. A menu has to have balance, not just with the dishes, but also with price. Sometimes people want a cost-effective, but delicious lunch meal that doesn’t break the bank and other times we want to splash out and take our tastebuds on a journey.
Being creative with secondary cuts of meats and less mainstream seafood lines is a great way to keep the costs down for our regular diners, so we can splash out whenever something a little pricey comes along (Fridays and Saturdays usually have something a little extra special on our specials board).
Menu writing doesn’t always go to plan, sometimes I have to evolve a good idea because it just isn’t practical. Being able to produce quality food 7 days a week, breakfast, lunch and dinner is what our team strives for and sometimes time, space or execution can hold a dish back. Functions, private wine events and custom menus are a great way to use a product or dish that we can’t use on the a la carte menu.
Now, time for the fun part – the creativity that you’ve all come to know and love from Steves. I find that inspiration can come from pretty much anywhere. My team are a great source of inspiration as we bounce ideas off each other and once we find that starting point, everything just flows.
An ingredient will lead to flavours, which leads to textures, then to colours and other finishes. Nothing is set in stone until the menu is printed, which is usually 10 minutes before the first service, and even then I end up making last minute changes before the first plate leaves the pass. A creative mind can never be sure, they say.
There is one simple rule that I always follow when developing menu items or a dish for dinner party guests, and that is; taste always come first and the rest will follow.