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Winter Roast at Darriwill Farm Cafe Restaurant - Roast Collection Event

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An Interview with John Hedley, Chef and Manager
Hamilton Darriwill Farm Cafe Restaurant
Chef John Hedley (left) and team

The Melbourne Food and Wine Festival in March brings us a cornucopia of restaurants to tantalise our tastebuds. In June, the Festival continues with a celebration of Victoria's winter produce and the roast. The Roast Collection has brought together establishments like The Emerson, Lezzet and College Lawn in Melbourne with regional venues like Tamsin's Table, Newnorthern and Brown Brothers. I spoke with John Hedley, chef and manager of Darriwill Farm Restaurant about his passion for food and wine, his signature dishes and his efforts to make his hometown of Hamilton a food and wine destination for Melbourne and Australia.

1. What do you love about being a chef?

I am passionate about food and wine. As a career chef with a strong local back ground, I've had well over 20 years experience leading the kitchens of Hamilton.

I originally had a strong back ground in traditional French training, and over the years have added to my repertoire including Italian, and other influences such as Thai, Indian and Asian cuisine.

I commenced my position as Head Chef in Darriwill Farm in 2005 with my wife Jacinta managing the store. The restaurant-store has provided the perfect fit for a food and wine enthusiast like me. I am surrounded by quality gourmet produce and a busy up-market trendy cafe restaurant with customer who enjoys good quality food.

We are very well supported by the local community who have embraced our concept and who love to show off our restaurant to relatives, friends, visitors and tourists alike.

2. How do you keep customers coming back?

Darriwill Farm Hamilton has gained notoriety and has now become a Tourist Mecca for food and wine enthusiasts who embrace our paddock to plate philosophy. We also source some of the best farm gate produce throughout the world. My team and I are lucky as we can also incorporate the gourmet produce in our retail store and the fresh produce in our gourmet delicatessen to our contemporary cuisine.

Hamilton Darriwill Farm Cafe Restaurant
Photo courtesy of Darriwill Farm

3. What are some of your signature dishes?

We offer a contemporary menu which has resulted in several customer favourites. Our aged fillet of beef with BBQ tiger prawns, oysters kilpatrick, croquette potato, vegetables, red wine jus, and Béarnaise sauce with French tarragon is a dish I have not be able to remove from the menu for nearly two decades. I personally have a love for anything duck, whether it be a Thai influenced duck red curry with almonds, jasmine rice and a pineapple and sweet chilli salsa, or a French style seared duck breast with a pithivier of duck leg and a red wine jus, or a Moroccan style duck bisteya - all equally amazing dishes that reflect modern Australian multicultural cuisine.

Hamilton Darriwill Farm Cafe Restaurant
Photo courtesy of Darriwill Farm

4. What are you doing to showcase your region?

I do enjoy showcasing our talents at any of our food and wine dinners held throughout the year. More than that I love the area in which I live and working hard to make Hamilton and the region recognised as a 'go to' area for fantastic food and wine with other restaurateurs, farm-gate producers and local producers such as Greenvale meats, Glenelg Chocolates, Fiona Wall biscuits, Waltana Flaxseed products, Mount Zero Olives, Tarcoola and Muntham olive oils, Grampians Sheep Dairy, Shaw River Buffalo Cheeses, and the very impressive Henty region wines. We have it all at our very own door step, and need to share our bounty with Melbourne and Australia.

John and his team are celebrating winter and local Victorian produce every Friday and Saturday night in June by swapping their usual menu for a modern twist on the classic roast. You can enjoy a main course of local Greenvale rare breed Wessex Saddleback pork belly with cherry jam, cabernet jus, roasted fennel & cauliflower puree, baby beetroot, Dutch carrots & sautéed kale or a refined rare roasted squab pigeon breast with smoked pancetta, braised leg, caramelised eschallot & beetroot tartlet, cauliflower puree and roasted baby winter vegetables. Prices are from $39.50 including main course and a Julius Meinl European coffee experience.
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When: Friday and Saturday in June - 6pm to 9pm
Phone: 03 5571 2088
Where: 169 Gray Street Hamilton VIC 3300
Cost: From $39.50
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