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Lennox Hastie on His Five-Course Pairing Dinner

Lennox Hastie has become synonymous with the art of cooking with fire. As well as opening Surry Hills destination Firedoor in 2015 – where everything is cooked with fire, free of electricity or gas – Hastie released the cookbook Finding Fire in 2017 and most recently opened Gildas, a Basque-inspired wine bar in Surry Hills.

But despite Hastie being Australia’s foremost authority on the skill, his journey to flame agnostic started in Spain’s Basque Country. Following stints at Michelin-starred restaurants in the UK and France, Hastie spent five years cooking over fire in Spain prior to opening Firedoor.

“It opened my eyes to the nuances and flavour of different woods,” says Hastie of the formative experience. “I wanted to continue that journey. It’s a flavour profile that can’t be matched by any other means, and I haven’t found anything better since.”

Hastie has since mastered what he calls the “huge” spectrum of cooking with fire – from specific grilling techniques to subtle use of embers and light smoking. With a menu that changes with every service, Firedoor prioritises working with small farmers and producers to make the very most of whatever nature throws at them that day.

That single-minded focus on exploring the possibilities of cooking with flame has led Scottish single malt whisky makers The Balvenie to invite Hastie to collaborate as part of The Makers Project. Designed to champion modern creatives who dedicate their time to excelling in their craft, Hastie was – quite rightfully – identified as a pioneer in his field.

The result is an upcoming five-course menu Hastie has designed to showcase his talents alongside pairings with The Balvenie Single Malt Scotch Whisky. Originally scheduled as a one-off event on Monday November 21, the dinner will return for an encore on Tuesday February 28 by popular demand. The event aims to broaden guests’ ideas of cooking with fire as much as it will their conception of whisky.

“There’s this preconception about [matching] smoky whisky [with] smoky fire [flavours],” says Hastie. “We’re not a smokehouse, but we try to use the fire to apply delicate nuances of flavour. We never want to swamp an ingredient: we want to enhance it.”

With that in mind, Hastie is looking at pairing the likes of kangaroo with pepperberry, toasted macadamia and sea purslane alongside The Balvenie 12 Year Old DoubleWood Single Malt Scotch Whisky; barrel-aged pork with caramelised whey, roasted sugarloaf cabbage and dark rum mustard, with The Balvenie 14 Year Old Caribbean Cask Single Malt Scotch Whisky; and pencil squid, charred corn,makrut lime and lardo with The Balvenie 12 Year Old American Oak Cask Sample. Of the latter Hastie says the pairing is: “Allowing it to relate to some of the tropical notes of coconut and green mango in those younger whiskies.”

The pairing event features two cask whiskies that had previously never before been tasted in Australia, and there will be much to learn on all sides. “It’s about the stories behind the whiskies and behind the ingredients,” says Hastie.

Just as he has embraced the challenges of cooking with fire and utilising different types of wood – which he says “eschews all forms of convenience” – Hastie looks forward to exploring the similar depth of flavour behind that special bottle of whisky.

“Obviously with whisky you’re creating something that just begins as different expressions of barley and water,” he says. “But look how special it can be in the right hands. David Stewart [of The Balvenie and one of the longest-serving malt masters in the world] has been doing it for 60 years and still hasn’t lost that childlike wonder.”

It’s an ethos reflected at Firedoor. “We don’t do many collaborations, so it’s important to find out where the common ground and marriage with flavours is,” says Hastie. “We try to change people’s pre-conceptions about what cooking over fire is, and what it can be. [On the surface] it’s harder to pair our food with certain whiskies, but there are possibilities when you dig deeper and work to the strengths of high fat and rich protein. There are interesting matches to be made.”

The Balvenie x Lennox Hastie Experience at Firedoor will be back on Tuesday February 28, 2023. See more details and how to go in the ballot to attend. The ballot opens on December 5.

This article is produced by Broadsheet in partnership with The Balvenie Single Malt Scotch Whisky.

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