Big Moves from Canberra’s French Master.
by The Editor
Talented chefs. Are they all a bit crazy?
Ed: Hot on the heels of announcing his latest venture, Les Bistronomes, at the old Delissio site in Braddon, chef Clement Chauvin is still looking to cook up a storm during his temporary stint at Kennedy Room in Kingston.
Cooking can be a blast for those poking about the kitchen at home, slurping on wine and replicating recipes from fav cookbooks with no customers or food critics swarming about. But who wants to sweat it out in a commercial kitchen, being held accountable for every move? Talented, crazy chefs. That’s who. Chefs who discover early in life that being in the kitchen is in their blood. That cooking is their destiny.
Chef Clement Chauvin has been slaving in kitchens since he was a young teen and he’ll be in the kitchen for many more years. He’s worked in some of the best restaurants, honoured with Michelin stars, the crème de la crème of recognition in the restaurant world.
These days Clement calls Canberra home and is settled in as a hand’s-on consultant at Kennedy Room in Kingston, a well-known, classy bar that will have been on the scene for five years on 26 August.
There’s a reason Kennedy Room has lasted in a market where some bars close as quickly as they open. Owner Dimitris is no fly-by-night operator. He has years of experience under his belt and gets when it’s time to up the ante a notch or two. For Kennedy Room that time is now.
Enter Chef Chauvin, whose last stint was fine-dining Water’s Edge (the restaurant picked up a Good Food Guide hat under his tenure there). Dimitris and Clement put their heads together and decided to transform the menu at Kennedy Room, making it more contemporary and on trend, including with a new lineup of share plates, the tastiest way to explore dishes with friends in one sitting. Have a plate or two. Have many more. It’s up to you.
At a bar of the calibre of Kennedy Room, share plates make catching up with friends after work all the merrier.
Some Canberrans are getting a wee bit tired of plain old chips and dips, more schnitzel and burgers and other oh-so-predictable deep-fried fare. Many would stay at a bar for longer, instead of escaping home with takeaway or heading out to a café or restaurant, if there was intriguing food to eat. Indeed, times are a changing with bar food in many spots across Australia. Glammed up, but inexpensive food is what many top bars are now serving. So on the menu these days in some Sydney bars are caviar sandwiches, fries with parmesan and truffle, foie gras jaffles and gourmet meatballs.
Now, at Kennedy Room, you can order innovative share dishes like the Asian-inspired beef tartar. Never had raw beef before? Don’t panic like Mr Bean did when dining at a fancy-pants restaurant, hiding the tartar in his pockets and the sugar bowl so he didn’t have to force it down his throat. A quality tartar is amazing and Clement’s version, with the right amount of chilli, sits ever-so-pretty on a drizzle of wasabi and is served with light, airy, crispy beef tendons perched on top.
The pork belly is insanely good, including the quality of the pork, the caramelisation, the coconut mayo, house-made celeriac remoulade, smear of bright beetroot and crunchy cashews. And the jalapeno poppers with guacamole, sweet chilli sauce hit the spot with an icy, cold beer.
Mains include a beautiful duck confit red curry, with intense flavours. The dish is all the more memorable with lychee and crunchy bok choy. The home-made potato gnocchi is as an expert in the kitchen should make it and the parsley pesto refreshingly different. The French comes out in Clement’s Nicoise salad, the most famous of all salads from his home country. It’s an exquisite combination of top-notch ingredients. Those looking for heartier fare can get stuck into grilled options, like the 100 days’ grain-fed eye fillet.
And have we mentioned the specials? They rotate and have included a magnificent handmade tortellini (made Gordon Ramsay style) with juicy pieces of lamb, goat’s cheese and sage, as well as crispy skinned barramundi with textures of broccoli and almond and caper beurre noisette.
Working in a commercial kitchen requires precision, dedication and hard work. Clement should know. He secured his first job at 18 years of age, working in the two-Michelin Star, famous Pic in France. It’s where he first learned to scream ‘YES CHEF’ and where he first learned that no Head Chef takes any crap from anyone.
Looking back, Clement says he got through it because he was young and full of fire. And remember, it’s not as though Clement was sitting all day in a comfy ergonomic chair prepping his little heart out as a young chef. He was standing on his feet the whole time, with never a minute to spare.
The 17-hour days didn’t break him but it was close. If anything it fuelled his passion for food and, importantly, his respect for food. He next found himself at another two-Michelin Star establishment, owned by French celebrity chef Nicholas La Bec—the flagship of Lyon at the time. More military-style precision with every move was the order of the day and Clement soon felt he actually was living full-time at the restaurant. But every day was more experience and it was experience Clement craved.
When it was time for another change, Clement, even though he couldn’t speak a word of English, said goodbye to his home country and headed to London. He was picked up by Claridge’s, owned by Gordon Ramsey, and found he was a member of a kitchen team of around 25 who whipped up dishes for an average of 10 customers every five minutes—up to 120 at lunch on a typical day and 180 for dinner. Here he refined his ability to yell ‘YES CHEF’.
The next big event in Clement’s life was when he found love and moved here to be with his Aussie partner. He quickly found work at Sage and then moved to Water’s Edge. Never one to shy away from a challenge he is loving his time with the team at Kennedy Room.
Things are still being refined at Kennedy Room. Not every dish is yet perfect, but the team is getting things down pat, including with beautiful plating. But, still, who needs to go to Sydney or Melbourne when you can go to Kennedy Room?