Interview with Chef Curtis Stone

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Curtis Stone is an internationally-known chef, author, entrepreneur, and TV personality. Hailing from Australia, he now oversees a culinary empire from California. His journeys across diverse cultures and cuisines have shaped his culinary philosophy. His expertise is intricately woven with his extensive travels, blending flavours and techniques from around the world.  

In what way does your cooking stay true to your Australian roots? 

Smack dab in the middle of the ocean, Australia is multicultural, and it shows in the food. Chefs in Oz are influenced by the many cultures and ingredients around them. I like to keep my food simple, using seasonal ingredients but experimenting with different flavouring agents and ingredients I find on my travels.

Tell us about a trip that had a profound impact on your culinary philosophy.  

I was in my early 20s when a mate and I took a trip to Europe. We travelled everywhere and when I ran out of money, I found myself in London. I had just read White Heat by Marco Pierre White and I was desperate to work for him. The day I knocked on the door, the chef had just fired someone, so he gave me a chance. I worked with Marco for eight years, doing everything from peeling potatoes to finding myself helming the kitchen at Quo Vadis. My approach to cooking was born from a knock on that English door.  

Australia’s national dish is, of course, roast lamb. What’s another favourite national dish you’ve discovered in your travels?  

The connection between identity and cuisine is fascinating to me. People take pride in their national cuisines. Pot au feu is a national dish in France, but not something you see made much anymore. It’s something your gran would make. But I love all dishes that have come to symbolize a culture and cuisine, from ramen in Japan, to mole in Oaxaca, and tapas in Spain. 

What’s the most underrated culinary destination you’ve visited, and what did you learn there?   

With the devastating fires, Hawaii has been on my mind. We filmed my show Field Trip with Curtis Stone there back in 2019. There is a convergence of cultures on the islands with so many culinary influences from Japanese to Filipino. The people who live there are stewards of the land and honour the ingredients. We went spearfishing with a guy who is a fireman by day and a champion diver on the side. His brother breeds Berkshire pigs, while promoting sustainability. Their uncle makes award-winning poke. Family is a priority, gathering around food. 


What’s the most treasured ingredient you’ve ever purchased abroad? 

In Hong Kong, I was able to get my hands on some dried abalone. Des Voeux Road West is a whole street devoted to dried seafood, known as hoi mei. Sea cucumber, fish maw, and abalone are delicacies and the abalone cost more than truffles. 

What advice would you give to at-home chefs who want to broaden their culinary horizons through travel? 

Just get off the couch and do it. There is no greater teacher than travel. You don’t have to stay in fancy hotels or dine in Michelin-starred restaurants, you just have to get there. Travel is the best culinary school you can attend.

Your flagship restaurant in Beverly Hills, Maude, focuses on the cuisine from Southern California. What’s something this style of cuisine does better than anywhere else in the world? 

The Central Valley of California, just a few hours north, grows most of the fresh produce this country consumes. It’s like having the world’s best and largest backyard garden. Fresh and hyper-seasonal ingredients are what California cuisine is all about. We also get amazing seafood off the coast of Santa Barbara, all the way up to Monterrey Bay. We try not to intervene too much and let the flavours speak for themselves.

How do you plan authentic culinary experiences when you travel somewhere new?  

First, I ask for recommendations from my chef friends. I was recently filming in Hong Kong and I wanted to take the crew out for Peking duck. I texted [celebrity chef] Andrew Zimmern who sent me a list with everything from high-end restaurants to little noodle shops.  

Next, ask the locals. They know all the secret neighbourhood gems tucked away that serve delicious food without the flash. 

Where are you travelling to next, and what are you most excited to experience there? 

I’ve been in the South of France this summer with Lindsay and the boys, my mom and stepfather, and my mother-in-law and brother-in-law. We’re then headed to Majorca. Linds and I celebrated our tenth wedding anniversary earlier in the summer and we really wanted a bit of a reunion with our family and to be able to show our boys where it all began for us. 

This article was originally published in No. 31 of Globetrotting Magazine.

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Mitchell Fawcett
Mitchell Fawcett
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