Dustin Bowie-Ford

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Dustin Bowie-Ford can lay claim to having the best Signature Dish on the Mid North Coast of NSW after being judged the winner of the Third Annual Signature Dish Awards.

Thirteen of the best chefs from across the Mid North Coast battled it out at the Third Annual Signature Dish Awards held recently in Port Macquarie.

Coffs Harbour swept the pool, with all three of the top dishes hailing from the Coffs Coast region, with the ultimate winner Dustin Bowie-Ford from Saltwater Restaurant in Emerald Beach.

Not only can Dustin lay claim to having the best Signature Dish on the Mid North Coast, but as part of the winning prize Dustin will get to mix it with some of the country’s best chefs.

He’ll spend time in the kitchens of The Bathers Pavillion, Rockpool Bar and Grill, and Quay, recently rated with 3 chefs hats in the Good Food Guide.

We catch up with Dusty after his big win.

> Hi Dusty. Congratulations on winning the Mid North Coast Signature Dish Competition; you must be very excited!

Yes, I’m very excited to be the winner of the Mid North Coast Signature Dish 2010. It’s a competition I’m proud to be a part of, with its strong support for local produce.

> Tell us about your winning dish, including what local ingredients you chose to use.

My dish is master stock braised pork belly, confit duck leg, chilli tomato paint, Daikon Radish roesti, Kaffir Lime jus, vegetable melange and lemongrass foam.

This dish combines classic French methods of cookery with Asian ingredients; for example, Daikon Radish roesti … Asian vegetable, French method of cookery.

Married with spices, fragrant Kaffir Lime jus, sour and pickled vegetables and refreshing lemongrass foam.

The winning dish for 2010

The winning dish for 2010

Both the duck and pork for my dish are sourced locally through Coastal Fine foods and Gaian Organics. The vegetables are farmed locally, and supplied by A & D Vegies Coffs Harbour.

> As part of your prize, you will get to spend some time in some of Australia’s best restaurant’s kitchens. What do you hope to learn?

I want to learn everything! These guys aren’t successful chefs for nothing.

I have a thirst for knowledge when it comes to food, and I plan to absorb as much as possible in regards to the use of new ingredients, culinary skills and alternate cooking methods. Anything they know, I want to know.

> When did your passion for cooking turn into your career?

I’ve always had a passion for food, but I guess when I actually decided I wanted to be a chef was when I worked at a family member’s restaurant in Woolgoolga in my early years of high school.

I got to understand more about food and flavours, and seeing how chefs transform raw ingredients into art on a plate.

> What’s on the menu at Saltwater?

We have 3 menus here, as Saltwater is open for breakfast, lunch and dinner. Our menus change seasonally, making the most of our region’s fresh local produce. Our style is modern Australian, combining classical French, Spanish, royal Thai and Chinese. As well as the menu, we have daily specials allowing everyone to be involved and show their creativity.

> What are your favourite ingredients to cook with?

I like so many. My favourites are usually based on the season – whatever I’m trying to incorporate at the time. I like using French cooking methods with Asian flavours and getting creative.

If I had to pick two, I suppose they would be pepper and violet – I did name my two daughters after these!

> Why is it so important to utilise local products and produce?

It is important to support local businesses, keeping money and jobs in the community. Also, we live in one of the most beautiful places in Australia, with an abundance of fresh produce and a diverse range of gourmet products that all taste exceptional. Why wouldn’t I want to use the best of the best?

> Who do you look to for inspiration for your dishes?

There’s no one person that I look to for inspiration; many things inspire me.

Whether it be the head chef or the 1st year apprentice, or something I’ve seen in nature, a cookbook or dining out. I love cooking, and I love talking about cooking with anyone that has a passion for it like me.

> If you have to give the home cooks one tip, what would it be and why?

A lot of people get too comfortable. My advice would to be try something new: a new dish or a new ingredient. Get excited about what you can do in the kitchen.

> What makes dining at Saltwater unique?

We’re located directly across from Emerald Beach, with uninterrupted ocean views out to the solitary islands.

Saltwater Café & Restaurant is open for breakfast and lunch from Wednesday – Sunday and dinner from Wednesday – Saturday, with the exception of summer holidays, when we are open daily with extended trading hours.

By day Saltwater is a lively breakfast and lunch spot, where locals, beach goers and tourists dine al fresco on the outside terrace, or just call in for a coffee.

At night the restaurant undergoes a transformation, with white linen and candlelight to become a chic and intimate fine dining restaurant.

Our menu is a culmination of many styles and flavours, resulting in food that has freshness, complexity and wonderful layering of flavours … e.g. for lunch … saffron angel hair pasta, Spanner Crab meat, tomato, chilli and parsley.

Or for dinner, royal Thai yellow curry of bug tails, prawns, banana blossom with steamed jasmine rice.   And top it off with a deliciously decadent chocolate assiette!

Saltwater’s combination of award-winning cuisine, local produce and seafood, coastal views, ambience and friendly service provides an unforgettable dining experience for locals and visitors to the Coffs Coast.

> Thank you Dustin, and congratulations on your big win.

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