I had a dream. I had a dream of opening an ice cream shop on the coast of NSW and, depending on who you ask, that dream is still lingering around. These days I am very conscious of the chasm between where I am now and what I need to learn to bring my fantasy to life. I was lucky enough to have the opportunity to join head chef at The Bunyip Hotel Brewery and Distillery, James Campbell, to learn Ice Cream 101 with a little impromptu cooking lesson. What an opportunity: going through the ins and outs of ice cream making with an ex-Movida chef; my heart beats faster and my toes tingle recalling the excitement of the day! I have to thank my mother for setting everything up; after years of barbering, she has mastered the art of networking and isn’t one to shy away from joining the dots. That was the first lesson learnt – seize the opportunities to connect with people when they come along.
Lesson number two had a lot more to do with the topic at hand: Ice cream and sorbets are all about ratios. Once you’ve perfected the base of vanilla cream or sugar syrup ratio to flavour, it’s all smooth sailing. We started the day with juicing mandarins and limes for sorbets. It was interesting to watch James tweak the mandarin juice to give it a better finish or add mint and rum to the lime (naturally) to add a little more punch. It is a lot easier to tweak the flavour before churning it into ice cream. The saffron and honey with a vanilla cream base was a force to be reckoned with. It was smooth and the saffron deepened the honey to a delicious buttery yellow hue. As James rightly said: this is what happiness tastes like.
Lesson number three is always cook with quality ingredients. James uses seasonal fruits and vegetables in his restaurant and as local as he can get it. He is conscious about reducing food miles and supporting the local economy. And why wouldn’t you, the Western District is home to varied and prime quality produce. It is no surprise that fresh ingredients yield the most fragrant and wholesome ice creams and sorbets.
The last lesson I learnt was about going back to basics. Creating good food isn’t hard when you use great produce nor do you need special equipment; although I will admit an ice cream machine does make the a whole lot easier. James showed me that greatness doesn't necessarily require complexity: the mandarins were juiced and mixed with the sugar syrup base and ta-dah, you have an amazing fresh sorbet.
James and his apprentice control the full cooking cycle, minimising any waste along the way. I observed the team making their own butter with a Kitchen Aid and squeezing out the remaining butter milk, which they use in preparation of other dishes. Watching James work up close gives you a deep appreciation for his creativity and ingenuity. The synergies he finds between ingredients and the design of his menu to ensure the dishes complement and enhance each other speak volumes about his hard-won skill and talent.
To see the final result of our session you’ll have to head to The Bunyip and make sure you leave room for dessert! The Bunyip is open for dinner Thursday to Saturday in Cavendish and their Brew Pub, a treat for craft beer lovers, is open from noon Thursday to Monday. An experience not to be missed, the Hotel runs Chef’s Table Sundays for $30 a head but you’ll need to make sure you book ahead.
Massive thanks to James Campbell, Nathan Bastock and the rest of the Bunyip staff for welcoming and sharing this memorable experience with Melburnian Guide to. Read our review of dinner at The Bunyip.