Romain Bapst. He is always very well organized, and always ready to teach and to delegate. His food is consistent, full of flavour, wonderfully inventive and complex in its combinations. Fine technique, love of good produce and the ability to teach foreign staff are Romain’s legacy.
A native of the Alsatian city of Strasbourg, France, Romain brings to Australia the unique spirit of this culinary Mecca of half-timbered houses overhanging cobbled streets, its citizens wrestling with a language that is part-French, part German. Son of a butcher, he has an understanding and love of meat unusual in a modern chef. One of his great achievements has been to source new products including the ducks used for his specialty, pressed duck – he is Australia’s only Maître Canardier and large farm reared chicken He has also encouraged the growth of specialty vegetables, notably white asparagus, sourcing the morels from Bendigo, wild strawberries from Healesville and supporting farmers and growers.
His brigade included several young women and several Chinese chefs from Hong Kong, the picture of Romain, this huge man, surrounded by his exotic, diminutive staff, is a memory that will remain with us.
His ability to teach is Romain’s great gift to Australia. The French traditions of “restaurateur” began around the time Captain Arthur Phillip was paddling ashore at Botany Bay, but their culinary values and traditions – and in particular, the grand ones espoused by Romain – are built on truths, which still hold well.
Romain is now an Australian citizen. He has been here long enough to have drawn fresh inspiration from many different local sources. A wonderful example is his dish of oysters with raw scallops. It is a dish, he says, that couldn’t be reproduced anywhere else in the world; it is the ingredients that make the dish, and they are all Australian. It is the strength of flavour of the Tasmanian oyster, harmonizing with the sweet softness of the Coffin Bay scallop in the scallop shell with its juices. It’s a terrific starter, certainly succeeding, as Leo Schofield once said the perfect appetizer should, in “getting the taste buds up – like a poodle, asking for more”.
A tribute by Mietta O’Donnell, Restaurateur, Australia’s leading culinary publisher and food critic (1950-‐2001)
The Périgord Truffle. The finest truffles come from France, particularly the southwestern region known as the Dordogne. Historically as well as currently, the most famous black truffle of all is from a specific part of the Dordogne called the Périgord. In fact, fresh French winter black truffles are often called the “Diamonds of Périgord.” They are in season from December to March, French truffle markets feature delectable Périgord black truffles characterized by a subtle aroma& an earthy flavour reminiscent of rich chocolate. They reach their pinnacle of fragrance & flavour in January & February. Like other varieties of truffles, the Périgord black truffle (Tuber Melanosporum) grows beneath the surface of the soil among the root systems of specific types of trees and develops a symbiotic relationship with those trees, which primarily consist of oak, but also beech, hazelnut, chestnut, birch and poplar.
The Dinner is complemented by Alsace wines: “Vivacious bubbles & a fabulous crispness”, “Pure sweetness”, “A beautifully perfumed wine.” “The edge of richness while still keeping poise & elegance”, “A real wow wine”!