BY now, many of you will have discovered the gourmet gem that is “Waddingtons of Kergunyah”, which I have previously described as the local area’s “best kept dining secret”.
Jan Waddington and her team produce beautiful food from a modest kitchen and dining area nestled amongst green grass and well fed cattle.
Her husband Rod is the personable “front of house guy “– it is a unique venue as yet undiscovered by many.
But the magic doesn’t stop there – son Rhy was born to be a chef, honing his skills under both his mum and also good friend Noelle Quinn (now of Q-Food in Albury), learning from each the importance of local produce long before “food miles” became a fashionable topic.
In 2006, Rhy left for the States with his delightful partner Sam, to be part of the Aussie team setting up “Bondi Bar and Kitchen” in San Diego (California).
At the BBK, Rhy was executive sous chef, working with and being mentored by Chris Behre (ex-Tetsuya’s).
This was not a cosy little restaurant, with over 500 patrons per night and a prodigious kitchen staff (only four of whom spoke English!).
Rhy was quickly promoted to executive chef, and started to make his own mark on the menu and operations of this very significant Southern Californian restaurant.
The organisational and food skills learnt from family and friends became valuable assets for the lad so far from home.
Rhy must have done something right – he was voted among the top five chefs in Southern California at the San Diego Wine & Food Festival – not bad for a boy from the Aussie bush …
With all that newfound fame, did Rhy forget about his roots in Oz?
Not on your Nellie Melba!
As well as using the best of Southern Californian produce, Rhy imported first class Australian beef, cheeses, olive oil and ocean trout but hit the proverbial brick wall when he tried to bring in Gundowring ice cream (the best in the world, made just down the road from his home at Kergunyah, but an “import enemy” for the US import regulators!).
In early 2009, Rhy was being noticed big time – he was asked to join the culinary team at Winged Foot Golf Club in New York, one of the best golf clubs in the States, and which numbers Donald Trump as one of its members.
When Rhy contacted me recently, he had several feet of snow outside his window – a bit of a cultural shock from San Diego with its 52 weeks of summer!
Nonetheless, New York City is only 30 minutes from his kitchen and (when the snow permits) Rhy and Sam soak up the buzz and culinary scene of the close by “Big Apple”.
His unique kitchen style has produced wonderful dishes of complexity and flavour, using locally sourced produce such as East Coast halibut, Nantucket Bay scallops, and Baja tuna.
Rhy readily acknowledges that his beloved Sam has been his “rock”, keeping them both sane when so far away from home.
But I don’t think they are missing Australia too much – during a recent work break, instead of heading back home, they defected east to London for lunch at the “Fat Duck”, regarded as one of the greatest restaurants in the world.
Great to see that Rhy has his priorities straight – you can visit Aussie family and friends any time, but lunch at the Fat Duck is not to be missed!
Rhy and Sam had a vision and realised that the world did not end at the Murray River.
They are a great example to up and coming local hospitality students, proving that with effort and focus, nothing is impossible in the food world.
Well done to you both!
Next week: The Revival of Aussie Chardonnay – the world starts taking notice.
By PAUL MUNTZ