An interview with Justin North, Bécasse Restaurant, Sydney

An honest approach

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Chef Justin North, Bécasse Restaurant, Sydney

Chef Justin North, Bécasse Restaurant, Sydney [©Becasse 2008]

 

It would be nice to say a love of food led Becasse's head chef Justin North into the hospitality industry, but really it was a love of girls.

"I fell into hospitality. My friend saw a hospitality course and we signed up thinking we could meet lots of girls. Well, there were no girls, but when we learnt about cooking I really enjoyed it, and it just took off from there."

Working his way through the ranks of fine dining establishments around the world, Justin learnt the intricacies of his craft and developed a healthy respect for fresh, local produce. Starting at the acclaimed Brassiere Cassis in Sydney, Justin went on to secure a place in the kitchen of one of Europe's greatest chefs, Raymond Blanc. There he learnt traditional French techniques while continuing to evolve his approach to ingredients. He took particular pride in understanding what he was working with and believed in learning time-honoured techniques such as being able to completely fillet an ocean trout or break down an entire pig. "It's good for young chefs to see the whole procedure because, unfortunately, I think in today's fast pace society, it's missing. We get chefs that have worked for five or six years and still don't know [basic techniques]. That's sad because if you're serious about your craft you should have the tools to be more creative in your approach."

Even though Justin loved the big city pace of Paris, London and New York, Sydney meant he was closer to his family in New Zealand, and it was in Sydney that he met his wife Georgia and later opened Bécasse in November 2001.

Bécasse was voted in the top 100 restaurants of 2007 by London-based Restaurant magazine and was given three stars in the Gourmet Traveller guide, in part due to its food philosophy and the work ethic Justin brings to the restaurant. Preserving its integrity, Justin combines traditional French technique with excellent produce, "sometimes making it taste better than it would naturally". He says the key element has always been fresh produce, which he has sought through the community of relationships developed with local farmers, markets, and suppliers over the years.

Sharing his food philosophy, Justin has published several books in his time as chef and owner. Refusing to compromise for the unforgiving publishing industry, Justin spent three years travelling with a photographer and food journalist visiting farms around the country, self-publishing his first book. Juxtaposing beautiful photographs of naked produce alongside articulate expressions of their best qualities, reflects Justin's honest approach to handling ingredients.

"We tried to learn as much as we could from the producers, they were so excited to speak directly us, without a supplier in the middle. It was a fantastic insight into their lives." Bouncing his recipe ideas off growers and farmers became the foundation of his famed restaurant and book, Bécasse.

Continually exploring new flavours and recipes, Bécasse's ever-evolving menu celebrates the best of the season and offers an extensive wine list to match. And while Justin does not have a favourite food and wine match, often deciding depending on mood, he enjoys creating fresh dishes to match a particular region's style, but most importantly, "to put a spring in everyone's step."

Regions

  • Sydney (NSW)

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May 21st, 2008
 
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