Portfolio of Kimberly Johans

A collection of articles created during my stint as a journalist at The Macau Daily Times

Sydney chef Justin North heads for Macau’s Wine and Gourmet event

Posted by Kimberly on November 7, 2007

By Kimberly Johans
Published in The Macau Daily Times
November 7, 2007, page 4 (705 words)

Australian chef Justin North arrived in Macau as part of the Wine and Gourmet Asia, Macau event, creating an outstanding meal for local media yesterday afternoon at Crown Macau.
As owner of modern French restaurant Becasse in Sydney, Justin will be in Macau taking part in culinary promotions until Friday, November 9.
As for Macau’s restaurants, he said, “there seems to be, from what I hear, a nice balance of a lot of the new restaurants and the older Macanese and Portuguese styles, which I want to look at.”
The 32-year-old chef said that coming to Macau had provided him with the opportunity to meet with other chefs, both local and international.
Then there’s the cookbook he’s recently brought out, the second in his illustrious career.
“Its good timing in terms of getting that out there a bit,” he said, adding “it’s also nice for a change to go away and do something in a different country. I’ve done quite a few and on average tend to do maybe two or three a year,” he said.
He went on to mention that the book, called ‘French Lessons’, was a natural flow from the first, which focussed on produce in Australia.
“The first book was all about produce, travelling around Australia and talking to suppliers and spending time with them so it was quite an educational book, looking at what goes on and the passion behind it.
“The second book is a natural follow on with what to do with that produce. I really enjoyed writing it as well. It was a bit different from being in the kitchen for 18 hours a day and it’s nice to step back.
“It’s quite reflective and therapeutic and you can really step back and think about what you’re doing a bit more. It’s about looking at things from a different angle,” he said.
While the first book took about three years to complete, with all the travelling involved, the latest was done within a six month period, whereby 12 days of shooting occurred, with about 40 photos taken each day.
Asked about Sydney’s food scene and his impressions, Justin felt it was unfairly judged.
“Apart from being exciting, there’s a lot of potential. I think you’re always going to get people who knock things but it’s important to keep developing and encouraging and giving it the right support. “It’s easy to say well, that’s boring or whatever, but I think that’s a reflection on the individual more than anything,” he said.
Of course, mention of his restaurant’s name came into being queried, with the chef telling a story of his time in Europe, and the prized bird called a Becasse or woodcock.
“It’s quite rare and in France it’s illegal to shoot and sell it. You can only shoot and eat it for your own consumption. It’s probably one of the most highly prised game birds and was one of the nicest culinary experiences I’ve had. And that’s where Becasse came from,” he said.
Of course his telling of the story involved a graphic explanation of how the bird was killed, cleaned and cooked!
He explains that, when it comes to his repertoire of recipes, it’s extensive because he still follows the lesson learnt when he was an apprentice, which was to make notes of everything.
“I still do it now but after 17 years I have this massive repertoire so I always look in there for inspiration or talk to other chefs,” he said.
Being a chef, he said, began with a six month hospitality course as a means of meeting girls at the age of fifteen but grew into an obsession that’s “like a drug, because the more you know the more possibilities are open to you.”
As for the future, there’s a third book he’d like to complete, “hopefully a book on regional France, lots of little stories of the food culture,” and Becasse of course.
“Becasse is still young and I want to take it to greater heights, both in terms of making the standards better by repositioning it but also expanding.
“I don’t want to have a hundred restaurants but whatever opportunities are there I’m willing to have a look at,” he said.

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