Kitchen Spy: Anthony Musarra

It's been a tumultuous but exciting year for Sydney-born chef Anthony Musarra. The Van Haandel Group's general manager has had to deal with the destruction by fire of the recently refurbished Stokehouse Melbourne and then watch the opportunity to open a Stokehouse at the Opera House slip through his fingers.

He's overseen the transformation of the not-quite-right Trocadero into Fatto Bar & Cantina and he's birthed Stokehouse City, which opened just a few weeks ago, while making sure Stokehouse Brisbane is firing on all kitchen burners. In March he lost his father to cancer. It's no wonder that at home, which Musarra shares with his wife Louise and their three adult children Max, 17, Emma, 20, and Meg, 23, the rule around cooking is ''keep it simple''.

The staples

My pantry There are always onions, garlic, lemons, good bread, and good spices. I like punchy flavours so I use vinegar liberally. I love Colonna extra virgin olive oil, although I'm not loyal to a particular brand - it's about making sure it's fresh. I like dried pasta, such as Rustichella and Di Martino, anchovies, such as Spanish Ortiz Grand Reserva, which are plumper and more delicately flavoured (great to melt in a base for sauce or on a bit of grilled toast). And I always have nuts, lots of different grains, and good hard cheeses, like reggiano.

My fridge I've always got meat because Max eats enough for a town, like this Rangers Valley flank steak from Queensland - great cut really thinly and done quickly on the barbie. I've always got olives and seasonal vegies, like cavolo nero, which I like to cook down really slow with some onions, olive oil, a little bit of garlic and lemon, dressed with capers, anchovies and parmesan. Fennel is a great winter veg too, either roasted with a chook or shaved in a salad. And Careme pastry is great for when you can't be stuffed making it yourself: already rolled, pricey, but perfect for a crostata.

Recipe stalwart

Roast chook. It's all about having good chook (Saskia Beer's from the Barossa are amazing). I like to cook it about one hour 20 minutes at 160C in a preheated oven. Seasoning's important, so a good whack of salt and pepper, fresh herbs like sage, a little bit of garlic, and tarragon is delicious under the skin with some butter. Don't forget to rest it for a good 20 minutes.

Most unforgettable meal

I've eaten in some amazing restaurants around the world but I'll never forget the last meal I had with my dad. We were at my sister's house three days before he died, in March, and we had baked pasta, a simple salad and bread. We didn't talk much but there were a lot of exchanged looks and I remember watching him peel a tomato carefully with his knife and fork. It was just nice to have that last exchange, to eat together.

I'm drinking

A great friend introduced me to Tesseron Lot No. 76 cognac, which is ridiculously good. Two words: medicinal and magical. I don't mind a beer but I'm not a big drinker. I prefer lighter red wine varietals, like pinot, but I love others like this nebbiolo from David Fletcher in the Pyrenees. I'm also a Grey Goose fan - equal parts tonic, equal parts vodka, maybe with some fresh mandarin skin.

Last night's dinner

Louise made a really hearty lentil-based soup with some risoni, pancetta and lots of herbs. We had it with toast.

My toolkit

I can't do without my Microplane grater for sweet and savoury things and this garlic press is fantastic - you can do ginger through it too because it's got a couple of interchangeable settings. Of course, you can't ever have enough serving spoons and this Italian Ruffoni copper risotto pan is great with its detachable handle, so you can take it to the table. Otherwise I've got my trusty Dualit toaster, a Kenwood Chef Excel food processor and a Breville blender. And I love my Marc Newson Dish Doctor for drying dishes.

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Secret vice

A spoonful of Kraft crunchy peanut butter every other day. I find it indulgent. And Dulcey Blond Valrhona chocolate - it's like a caramelised white chocolate.

Food discovery

Smoke-flavoured Falksalt from Cyprus. There's a lot of smoking going on these days and it drives me insane when it's overpowering but this is subtle and it's got a real delicacy about it.

Favourite

My great-grandmother's Sicilian bowl, which dates back to 1890. It's weird how it's lasted but the glaze looks so fresh, still. I inherited it from a dear first cousin who thought I might like it.

My inspiration

It's a combination of my own DNA and understanding what people want. Restaurants really do reflect society so you've got to be really focused on what's happening in the world. For me art, life, food - they're all related. I appreciate good art and design so it's about finding inspiration in a lot of those things.