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Top chef behind Sydney restaurant Firedoor spills his kitchen secrets – and his favourite ‘hidden gem’ spots to visit for an amazing meal

Lennox Hastie has been fascinated by cooking with fire since 2005 – a passion that led to him owning and running one of Australia’s most sought-after restaurants: Fire door.

The immensely talented chef opened the restaurant in 2015; the popular spot is known for its seasonal menu which is cooked entirely to order over an open fire and bookings are only available on the first Wednesday of each month.

These bookings are three months in advance.

Speaking to FEMAIL ahead of his upcoming one-night collaboration with The Balvenie Single Malt whisky on December 5, Lennox said his fascination with using fire as a core cooking technique began when he was in Spain’s Basque Country.

Lennox Hastie has been fascinated with cooking with fire since 2005 - a passion that led to him owning and running one of Australia's most sought-after restaurants: Firedoor

Lennox Hastie has been fascinated with cooking with fire since 2005 – a passion that led to him owning and running one of Australia’s most sought-after restaurants: Firedoor

‘Food then went in a different direction, with a lot of processing and over-treatment. I found an unknown restaurant north of Spain in the mountains, where I watched the chefs respectfully handle the grill and witnessed firsthand the blend of high-quality ingredients and the rich, all-consuming power of the flames,’ Hastie said.

‘It was this blend of high intensity and subtly nuanced cooking that created this great tasting and incredibly well represented ingredient. The directness of the whole and the complexity of the flavors attracted me and I wanted to learn as much as possible about this style.

Fast track to 2023 and Hastie not only owns and runs Firedoor, but also Gildas, a Basque-inspired wine bar in Sydney’s Surry Hills…

FAVORITE PLACES TO VISIT FOR A GOOD MEAL

Hastie said Australians “have too much choice” of great restaurants, but his favorites are the chef-driven ones.

Two of his must-visits that immediately came to mind are Bar Vincent in Sydney’s Darlinghurst and LuMi dining in Pyrmont by chef Frederico Zanellato.

The Italian Bar VincentOwned by Chef Andy Logue, the restaurant is known for its shared dining experience and its minimal/minimal wine offering and creative seasonal menu.

“I love Andy, he is a good cook and you are warmly welcomed with a handful of small specialties,” Hastie said.

LuMi exudes a more refined atmosphere and offers Italian food with a ‘Japanese twist’. It is a firm favorite of many thanks to its waterfront location and tasty seasonal menu.

For a more informal experience, Hastie is happy to visit Banh Zeo Bar at the cannery in Rosebery. Run by top chef Ben Sinfield, the Vietnamese hideaway promises an amazing flavor explosion – especially with their signature crispy, savory pancakes.

FAST FIRE FOOD SECRETS

Steak: I don’t rub steak – apart from dry-aging or wet-aging our beef, we believe in letting the products really speak for themselves.

A three-ingredient sauce for vegetables: Fire, olive oil, salt. But if you want to up the ante, I like to grill baby gemstones by dividing them into quarters, brushing them with olive oil and grilling them for about two minutes on each side before removing them from the grill. Then I season it with sea salt and lemon zest, place an anchovy on each quarter, drizzle with olive oil and finish with parmesan cheese shavings and roasted almonds.

Five ingredients we find in your refrigerator: Farm fresh eggs, capers, Parmigiano-Reggiano, kalamata olives and Coppertree butter.

Three of the biggest mistakes people make in the kitchen: Under seasoning, don’t buy the best quality ingredients you can afford and don’t let your meat rest.

On the Christmas menu: A wood-fired glazed ham, coral trout and of course a pavlova, washed down with a dram of The Balvenie 21 year old Portwood.

Best Foods to Pair with Whiskey: There are too many to mention, but I go for jamon, black pudding and rainbow trout.

HOW CAN WE ACHIEVE SIMILAR FOOD MAGIC WITH FIRE AT HOME?

Hastie said fire can be as simple and straightforward as you want it to be.

‘I specifically designed a complete menu over a fire for 80 people per evening and a space that can withstand the heat. At home you can use stones and mesh; I grilled in a wheelbarrow [non-plastic] for.

‘It can be so simple: just light a fire with good wood, burn it to embers and let the ingredient shine. That’s the great thing about it.

‘I get wood from all over the world. Ironbark makes up 50 percent, but some of my personal favorites are wine barrel, apple, cherry, avocado and orange.”

'I specifically designed a complete menu over a fire for 80 people per evening and a space that can withstand the heat.  At home you can use stones and mesh;  I grilled in a wheelbarrow [non-plastic] before,” Hastie said

'I specifically designed a complete menu over a fire for 80 people per evening and a space that can withstand the heat.  At home you can use stones and mesh;  I grilled in a wheelbarrow [non-plastic] before,” Hastie said

‘I specifically designed a complete menu over a fire for 80 people per evening and a space that can withstand the heat. At home you can use stones and mesh; I grilled in a wheelbarrow [non-plastic] before,” Hastie said

HOW CAN PEOPLE GET INTO FIREDOOR?

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Reservations for Firedoor open three months in advance on the first Wednesday of the month at 12pm AEDT.

‘The release date obviously gets the largest concentration of people, but I notice that despite all the bookings we get a lot of cancellations because it is still so far away. If you get on the waitlist, you have a good chance of getting in,” Hastie said.

‘It’s really humiliating every time. We are a small venue and we do our best to meet all the expectations of those who come in after wanting to try it for so long. I feel a responsibility to provide them with the very best experience and the open kitchen allows us to do that with immediate feedback.

‘It’s a special place for so many… we cook to order over fire for people – it’s an interactive sport that pushes our boundaries and encourages creativity. We are completely wood-fired; we do not use electricity or gas for cooking.

‘We always strive to be better, to evolve, to challenge ourselves and I think our guests appreciate and respond to this. ‘

“I have been a fan of The Balvenie spirit for years – for me their whiskey is the best in the world, and I really appreciate the history, care, craftsmanship and passion,” Hastie said.

“I have been a fan of The Balvenie spirit for years – for me their whiskey is the best in the world, and I really appreciate the history, care, craftsmanship and passion,” Hastie said.

“I have been a fan of The Balvenie spirit for years – for me their whiskey is the best in the world, and I really appreciate the history, care, craftsmanship and passion,” Hastie said.

“I have put together an epic five-course meal, paired with The Balvenie Single Malts, which will be served at Firedoor on December 5,” he added.

“I have put together an epic five-course meal, paired with The Balvenie Single Malts, which will be served at Firedoor on December 5,” he added.

“I have put together an epic five-course meal, paired with The Balvenie Single Malts, which will be served at Firedoor on December 5,” he added.

HOW DOES YOUR ONE-NIGHT EVENT WITH THE BALVENIE HAPPEN?

“I have been a fan of The Balvenie spirit for years – for me their whiskey is the best in the world, and I really appreciate the history, care, craftsmanship and passion,” Hastie said.

“The Balvenie team put every barrel into every barrel. This year we deepened the bond with a visit to the distillery in Dufftown, Scotland; an incredible journey that allowed me to experience the world of Balvenie up close.

‘I have been able to meet malt masters such as David C. Stewart MBE who has worked at The Balvenie for over 60 years, try several truly amazing whiskeys straight from the cask, forage the Cairngorms National Park, trout fish in the Spey, and suggest based on these experiences an epic five-course meal together with The Balvenie’s Single Malts, which will be served in Firedoor on December 5.

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