Despite having teachers for parents, chef Danny Rossi hated school. Luckily, his childhood home was located 10 minutes away from the only two-hatted restaurant at the time – Lochiel House – in the Blue Mountains. “After doing some work experience there and washing dishes at age 14, I fell in love with cooking and saw it as a rare career where, through nothing but grit, determination, and hard work, I could make something of myself,” he says. At 15, he packed his bags and relocated to Sydney to begin his apprenticeship, and in the years since has worked in some of Australia’s most prestigious kitchens, including Momofuku, Hugos, Ananas and Icebergs Bar and Restaurant.
Here, Rossi sat down with T Australia to talk about how he unwinds after service, his current obsession with cooking over fire, and his recipe for Belongil Beach Italian Food’s Pavlova, Preserved Cherries and Rosemary Cream.
On his path to Belongil Beach Italian Food…
There [were first] a number of incredible restaurants, Momofuku, Hugos, Ananas, too many to name. I came to Icebergs Dining Room and Bar to help over the summer for three months before moving to Paris. It’s been eight years, and I have opened five other venues with Maurice, including Belongil Beach Italian Food. Who would have guessed!
On maintaining drive…
I truly love every aspect of it. Creativity is huge; the goal is to always be original and do what others are not doing. I love that there is always something to learn; you can never know it all. It’s humbling to constantly be able to get that feeling of being an apprentice again, where you have to seek out what you don’t know and apply yourself to perfecting it. Also, I truly believe it’s one of the few professions where, with nothing but pure determination and a humble attitude, you can be the best.
On unwinding after service…
In a number of different ways, cooking a very simple meal and eating afterwards is always relaxing. Also just that 30 seconds to have a joke or a laugh with someone. To remember, no matter the stresses, we are all humans.
On his current obsessions…
I am loving cooking over fire currently and really stripping things back a little bit. We have all gone through the pretty flower and leaf stage. The complex sauces have 40 ingredients. These all have their place in the world, and I still do them when needed, but I love stripping things back with the idea of “what does this add? Does it need it?” In a world where things are getting more and more expensive, I think we need to question the impact ingredients have. A beautiful fillet of Imperador fish from New Zealand needs nothing more than beautiful olive oil, salt, and lemon. Delicious preserved cherries in syrup that remind you of a childhood treat just need a bit of crunch, pillowy pavlova, and some rosemary cream to cut through the sweetness. I could add 30 more things to it, but the flavour profile would still end up the same.
On what he cooks at home …
My wife and I are renovating currently, so I’m a little ashamed to say our stove has been delayed, so we have no stove at home until December. Pretty much everything is cooked outside in a wood-fired pizza oven. It’s fun; the flames from wood have a remarkable way to turn humble ingredients into incredible things when treated properly. Lately, when people come over, we sit outside and roast a whole chicken with salt, olive oil, and some herbs on a bed of fennel in the wood oven. Then we roast some baby peppers until they are almost burnt, then throw on olive oil, oregano, salt, and Merlot vinegar. Simple and delicious.
On what he’s most excited about at the moment …
Venues are great, but people make them. People excite me. Josh Niland anywhere he cooks will always be beautiful. Darren Robertson does some of the most honest home cooking you will ever see, Maggie Beer will always be my hero, and Victor Churchill in Melbourne is the most beautiful butcher’s shop in the world, where you can also dine. Dan Hunter at Brae will always be the finest chef in the country. Few walk the walk like Dan does; it isn’t easy having a restaurant that incredible that also grows its own produce, but he does it so damn well and is fiercely passionate about being a man of his word! Cantina OK, for a casual drink, you will be hard-pressed to find a more fun bar to be in.
Pavlova, Preserved Cherries and Rosemary Cream
This is our coastal Italian take on an Australian staple. It’s super simple with three components on the plate, delivering big impact.
If you don’t love the preserved cherries as much as I do, you can use some beautiful ripe peaches, or, in the winter, it is just as good with some blood orange segments. The rosemary Chantilly adds a fragrant, savoury note to the dish.
The piping looks technical, but it really isn’t. Simply cut the end of a piping bag on a 45-degree angle and pipe away, zigzagging back and forth.
Pro tip: if you are feeling like stretching a little extra for your guests, mix some of the cherry syrup 2:1 with lemonade and put in the freezer overnight. The next day, scrape the cherry ice with a fork; it makes an incredible granita for the top on a hot summer day!
240g egg whites
¼ tsp salt
1 tbsp lemon
½ tsp cream of tartar
Place your egg whites and the cream of tartar in a mixing bowl.
Start to whip your egg whites and rain in your sugar until it is all in and the mix is glossy and almost stiff.
Whisk in the lemon juice.
Put the meringue in a piping bag and make nests of 10 cm diameter.
Bake at 110 degrees Celsius for 80 minutes.
2L thickened cream
100g rosemary sprigs
Place a saucepan on the stove and warm the thickened cream and honey.
Add the rosemary sprigs and mix through. Remove it from the stove and let it infuse for 20 minutes, then strain and cool down.
When it’s cold, whip it to a soft peak.
To assemble, move the whipped cream into a piping bag and cut the tip at a 45 degree angle.
On a plate pipe a little dot of cream, then lay the pavlova nest on top of it.
Pipe the cream on top of the nest zigzagging back and forth.
Place preserved cherries and their syrup on top of the cream and enjoy!