Stephanie Clifford-Smith

<i>Sydney Morning Herald Good Food Guide</i>'s Citi Chef of the Year
Brent Savage at home. Click for more photos

Kitchen spy: Brent Savage

Sydney Morning Herald Good Food Guide's Citi Chef of the Year Brent Savage at home. Photo: Sahlan Hayes/Getty Images

  • <i>Sydney Morning Herald Good Food Guide</i>'s Citi Chef of the Year
Brent Savage at home.
  • The staples: Savage favours this unbranded olive oil.
  • The staples: Savage's vinegars.
  • Drinking: champagne for after midday and burgundy with dinner.
  • The staples: Brunet Italian goat's cheese, which Savage says is well balanced and creamy.
  • Toolkit: Savage's Sunbeam blender, for smoothies and purees.
  • The staples: Newman's Australian-made English mustard.
  • Toolkit: Savage's All-Clad braising pot.
  • Toolkit: Savage's Japanese teapot.

The Sydney Morning Herald Good Food Guide's Citi Chef of the Year produces some of Sydney's most cutting-edge food, but it often finds its genesis in something simple he's made at home for the family.

Savage will take the basic concept into one of his three restaurants, Bentley Restaurant & Bar, Monopole or Yellow, apply dazzling technique, and transform it with texture, wit and whimsy. He relishes running three places with distinctly different briefs - a fine diner, a wine bar and a bistro - and still enjoys pottering around his home kitchen.

He lives with his wife, Fleur, and daughters Orielle, 3 and Amika, seven months.

The staples

My pantry I always use this unbranded olive oil that I get from the wholesaler Nicholson & Saville. It's fresh, not overpowering but still has plenty of body; I can use it for everything at home. Great vinegars are really important for seasoning sauces and making quick pickles so I usually have J. Leblanc raspberry vinegar and Forum chardonnay types. Shredded salted konbu is great for making quick 10-minute stocks. Fleur is vegetarian so it's important I can generate flavour from somewhere other than meat. There are always spices, especially ground cumin and coriander - I tend to make a lot of Indian curries at home. We make loads of side dishes with quinoa, amaranth, pulses and rice. I'll eat an animal protein as well, but Fleur sticks to these.

My fridge I really love Brunet Italian goat's cheese. It's really well balanced, creamy and not too chalky. Newman's Australian-made English mustard is good, as is Colman's. I like having great mustard because it's easy to make dressings, put on sandwiches or just use as a condiment. And we grow a lot of fresh herbs so they're always on hand.

Most memorable meal

El Bulli in 2008 was probably the most memorable, I think because it was so difficult to get a reservation and it managed to meet the very hyped expectation. It was just Fleur and me. I can't remember all the 30 courses but one that stood out was a spherical parmesan puff, which was amazing. Also there was a seaweed with grilled watermelon course, which is a funny combination, but it worked really well.

I'm drinking

In the mornings it's all about juices and smoothies or sometimes a combination of both. I don't drink coffee but occasionally drink aromatic black tea. Alcohol-wise it's like this: After midday, champagne, usually Diebolt-Vallois. With dinner, burgundy. At the moment I'm drinking Volnay Premier Cru. After work, beer. Late at night, gin and tonic. And very late, tequila.

Secret vice

Crunchie ice-cream bars. There's none here now though, we've just raided the freezer!

I'm cooking

Last dinner at home It was an Indian-style vegetable curry with saffron and tomato rice. I did a lot of that sort of cooking when I worked with Phillip Searle at Vulcans in Blackheath years ago and it's become a secret passion of mine.

Inspiration

At the moment it's two things: access to farmers' markets and the producers. The other big inspiration is my kitchen staff in all three restaurants, who push so hard every day. They help me lift my game.

My toolkit

The stainless steel All-Clad braising pot is used constantly because the shape's so versatile. I make smoothies and other purees in the Sunbeam blender, which is pretty powerful. Fleur bought the little teapot in Japan when she was on a work trip with Tetsuya Wakuda (she worked on the floor at Tetsuya's for six years) and I use that pretty regularly.

Favourite

Probably my first knife - not because it's amazing, just because I've had it so long.

Kitchen highlight

I really love the Electrolux induction cooktop. The heat's accurate, fast and it's super easy to clean.