Winter is definitely here and so is our winter menu. This week we turn the attention to our razor sharp kitchen team led by Zaki Anwar. He’s the man behind the menu that you love so much and you guys have been asking us to tell you more about him so here he is…
So Zaki, describe your style of cooking
I like to cook the way I like to eat, loading up on flavour and using plenty of fresh herbs, Middle Eastern spices and quality seasonal produce. I’m a big fan of using the whole animal and lesser-known cuts that are sometimes disregarded and often hold some of the best flavour.
Talk to us about your inspirations as a chef?
Growing up in the Hunter Valley was where it started for me and then being lucky enough to travel as a young chef opened up my eyes to different world of cooking. Travelling through places like France, Italy, Tunisia and other incredibly beautiful Mediterranean ports, I saw a common thread of simple unfussed foods as well as traditional techniques which I still refer to today.
How do you choose what dishes go on the menu?
We’re all about fresh, local, seasonal produce at Biv and that’s the starting point for most of the dishes but sometimes just picking one spice can be inspiration enough. I usually start by speaking with my butcher, fishguy and fruit & veggie supplier to see what’s in season and a little bit exotic. Then I collaborate with my senior chefs, we experiment with taste and that’s where the magic happens!
What are your must-try dishes for first timers to Bivouac?
The black barley with winter vegetables and labneh is one of the tastiest vegetarian dishes I’ve ever eaten but of course you can’t go past the goaties with our fresh ground Lebanese seven spices. Also don’t forget to ask about our secret menu dish, it’s usually something pretty amazing that we’ve created that day.
What is your idea of food heaven and hell-no?
Food heaven is eating hand-made food with family and friends on a big table, digging into mezze plates and sharing dips, slushing it all down a good drop of red. Hell on a plate to me is an overcooked and overpriced steak with demi glace gravy described as jus.
What is one easy thing people can do to improve their own home cooking?
There’s no comparison cooking with freshly ground and roasted spices rather than the pre-packed stuff. I also use a lot of fresh herbs and citrus which you can grow at home, you can never have enough!
Zaki and sous chef, Michael McKenzie