Kitchen Spy: Banjo Harris Plane

He took out Sommelier of the Year at the recent Age Good Food Guide awards and plies his trade at one of Australia's best restaurants, the three-hatted Attica in Melbourne's Ripponlea. But Banjo Harris Plane, 30, is yet to pass the notoriously difficult Court of Master Sommeliers exam (he's already tried twice), something he hopes to remedy when he flies to London in October. Given the pass rate is less than 3 per cent (only two people in Australia hold the title), it's no wonder the Balaclava apartment he shares with partner Meira Harel is strewn with wine theory swot cards.

The staples

My pantry We always have pickles (an Israeli brand that Meira likes), ABC sweet soy, Megachef Premium Fish Sauce (great for stir-fries or for dressings), Yeo's Pure Sesame Oil and lots of honey for toast or on cereals and yoghurt for breakfast. My mum was a chef and I grew up in Adelaide around wine and south-east Asian cooking so I always have rice-paper rolls and noodles handy - thin rice noodles for cold salads or organic Hakubaku soba noodles for soups. I also have a real thing for sour flavours, so we always have grapefruits handy.

My fridge There's lots of mustard (Moutarde de Dijon and Maille Whole Grain), Penta brand pickled chillies, which I chop up finely and use in salads or soups, plenty of laksa paste (Por Kwan and Woh Hup Singapore brands - Mum's trick is to mix crushed candlenuts in to make the sauce creamier), a big chunk of parmesan, some E. Graindorge Petit Pont L'Eveque cheese, and Nudie orange juice. In the bottom drawer we always have coriander (we crush the roots and make a dressing with lime juice, sugar, fish sauce and a bit of chilli), fennel (Meira loves it) and radishes, which we dip into a miso-flavoured butter or salt.

Secret vice

I eat a lot of Maggie Beer Burnt Fig, Honeycomb and Caramel ice-cream. And Mars Pods - those little wafer biscuits filled with caramel and topped with chocolate.

Recipe stalwart

Noodle stir-fry. I use whatever noodles I've got, and throw them in the wok with garlic, chilli, fish sauce, a bit of lime juice and mushrooms. It takes about 10 minutes.


Cleansing Ale from Two Metre Tall brewery in Tasmania. I like beer with a sense of acidity because it elongates the flavour. This one's slightly sour, but in a good way.

My inspiration

Stephanie Alexander's cookbook is one of the first cookbooks I ever got. The best thing about it is its versatility. I really like that it's laid out by ingredients, so if you're a little bit short on inspiration you can see what's in the pantry or the fridge and just look it up. That way you get to play around and try a few different things.

My toolkit

My Vintec V30SG wine fridge mimics the conditions of a cellar and keeps my wines at 12 degrees with a constant humidity. We use our handmade wine decanter a lot - it's hand-blown and I got it from a place in Adelaide called the Jam Factory. Likewise our SodaStream. It cost about $100 but the $40 canisters need replacing every four to six months.

Last night's dinner

Shiitake mushrooms cooked in miso butter with some bok choy, coriander, fried onion and rice.



My Wusthof knife. It was a birthday gift a couple of years ago from some close friends. I keep it in the packet so it stays sharp, and the chefs at Attica sharpen it for me every three or four months.

I'm drinking

A friend in Sydney and I have a company called Real Wines and we import Austrian and Italian wines for restaurants and small bars. I drink broadly but more whites than reds. I love the freshness and acidity of riesling, like Arndorfer from Kamptal, which has a grapefruit characteristic and works well with a lot of Asian-influenced food. The other variety I like is chenin blanc, which is great with or without food. In terms of reds, La Violetta Up! shiraz has really lovely savoury, spicy characteristics.

Most unforgettable meal

I was 19 and had moved from Adelaide to London and my mum came over for my birthday. We went to Paris together and ate at L'Atelier de Joel Robuchon. It was the first meal I had in a really high-end restaurant. It was expensive. Neither of us speak French so we bumbled our way through, not really knowing what we were ordering, but everything that came out was, for me, really quite amazing.