Shannon Bennetts Food for Thought

Want to know what mentor Shannon Bennett's loved to eat as a child? Read on to find out...

When you were a child, what was your favourite thing to eat?

Ironically when I was a child I used to hate food, believe it or not, up until about the age of 10. My mum was so worried about me, I actually became anaemic at one stage. All of a sudden my tastebuds just triggered, something triggered in them. And I’ve always got a fond memory of my mum’s apple dumpling cooked in golden syrup and served with vanilla ice cream. It definitely contributed to my love of food, there’s no doubt about it. Still to this day I’m not ever sick of being served that dish.

Describe what you would eat if you could choose your last supper

That’s a tough one. Can I be a bit cheeky and say it has to include some vodka and caviar to start and then a classic roast chicken? I think less is more, you’ve got to start by setting that dinner up as a bit of a celebration and then going back to something that you know that people can cook well. There’s nothing better than a beautiful, simple roast chicken. I would serve it slightly different, I’d like to see my potatoes cooked in goose fat, beautiful crispy and golden. I’d love it to be served with a beautiful seasonal salad, whether it be beetroot salad or iceberg salad with a beautiful simple palm sugar and lime dressing. I’d like it just to have some kind of seasonal notation on the plate.

If you could only own one cookbook, which one would it be?

That’s a tough question because I’ve got two. The first book that inspired me was Marco Pierre White’s White Heat. That cookbook for me is sort of the trigger of the success of the modern day chef. I think still today a lot of chefs read that book and the hair stands up on their neck and it triggers something in you. I use David Thompson’s Thai Food cookbook and I think that book for me is a fantastic bible. It’s just a great book where you can cook some great dishes, it’s so comprehensive. There’s some great kids recipes in there, everything. And I love Asian food and Thai food in particular, it’s brilliant – so fresh, light, and also technically challenging.

What three things do you always have in your pantry?

I’ve always got French butter, good cultured butter in the fridge, that’s a necessity. A bottle of fish sauce. Limes; my favourite drink is a Pisco Sour and you always need lime juice.

Your friends are coming over in 30 minutes - what do you cook for them? 

I’ve always got a bit of steak in the fridge and I’m always a fan of my charcoal barbeque. I would then probably make a beautiful grilled steak and something out of David Thompsons’ book with salad and do it with a simple Nuoc Mam Cham dressing, which is fish sauce, lime juice and sugar, and chilli. The steak would be a beautiful David Blackmore’s grass-fed Wagyu steak and it would be seasoned with the Nuoc Mam Cham dressing with chilli, coriander, lime juice, palm sugar and fish sauce.

What food(s) can’t you live without?

Couverture chocolate. I’m trying to cut as much sugar out of my diet as possible, just to make me feel healthier and everyone’s on that bandwagon at the moment. I’m not having sugar in my coffee anymore and I used to have two sugars in every coffee, and now I’ve cut that out. Chocolate is my only vice, and I’ve learnt that Couverture chocolate is always 70 per cent cocoa mass minimum. I’ll always just sneak a piece or two, it’s always in the cupboard.

What has been your most memorable meal?

My most memorable meal is when I was courting my wife Madeline [West, of TV show Neighbours], I took her to France on basically a food pilgrimage, to where the most famous chef in the world to me was, Michel Bras. He comes from a very, very small town called Laguiole, and he has an amazing restaurant in the middle of France. It’s actually in the middle of nowhere, but it’s incredible. It’s like a spaceship sitting on a hill. He only uses the local ingredients that he could find in the area and he produces amazing dishes. It was a defining moment in our relationship because Madeline was able to understand food and how passionate I was about it and how good it could be. And it was quite ironic because Michel Bras was a big fan of Neighbours, so when he recognised Madeline we got even better special attention, so it was great fun. It was just one of the best meals I’ve ever had and the atmosphere and everything about it. Incredible.

What’s your favourite comfort food?

I’d say it would be a really good hamburger. We’ve all sort of been on the hamburger craze. Say I’ve had a really long day, a challenging day, and the kids are screaming or what have you, I will either make a burger or I will go to the local burger shop - which is Huxtaburger near me actually - and I’ll get a burger and I can just chill out at home with a beer and a burger and feel totally relaxed.