The ingredients that Australia's top chefs can't live without at home

Shallots, a member of the allium family, add extra bite to savoury meat dishes.
Shallots, a member of the allium family, add extra bite to savoury meat dishes.  Photo: William Meppem

Top chefs from around the country reveal their go-to ingredients.

Blayne Bertoncello – O.My, Victoria

Blayne Bertoncello and his brother Chayse set up O.My restaurant in 2013 and have since earned two hats in the Good Food Guide Awards. They offer a highly seasonal tasting menu with everything grown on their nearby farm.

For head chef and co-owner Blayne, the one ingredient he can't live without is the allium family. "I like the fact that it varies so much," Blayne says. "It's got so many different levels of intensity. Some of the varieties are quite sweet."  

The allium family includes plants such as onions, garlic, shallots, leeks and chives. "There are 150 varieties that you can use," Blayne says. "It's a great way of getting some base flavours through ragouts, stocks and sauces."

Blayne is particularly fond of green garlic oil, which can be made by blitzing the green leaves of uncured garlic with olive oil. "It's beautiful to have as a base, rolling through fresh pasta or dipping your bread into," he says. "We've been serving it in the restaurant with salted apples. We also serve it with fresh tomatoes." 

Try this: Alison Roman's turmeric roasted chicken with spicy fried shallots

Sesame oil.

Sesame oil can be as varied as olive oil. Photo: iStock

Dan Hunter – Brae, Birregurra, Victoria

Dan Hunter is the chef-owner at Brae, the three-hat Otways restaurant located on a nine-hectare working organic farm. The team grows the restaurant's produce and even growing their own wheat to mill into flour.

For Hunter, he can't go past sesame oil. "We'll have it splashed on a cucumber or on a poached chicken. I use it in place of olive oil and as a dressing. It does tend to change the flavour profile of the dish," he says. "Sesame oil really has quite an aromatic and potent flavour but it's still quite light and delicate."

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"Australians have a good understanding of the differences of olive oil," Hunter says. "But sesame oil is one of those things where people are a little bit unaware of the differences."

Try this: Spinach, chilli and sesame salad

Soy sauce.

The versatility of soy sauce is hard to match. Photo: iStock

Tetsuya Wakuda - Tetsuya's, NSW

Tetsuya Wakuda of Sydney icon Tetsuya's on Kent Street has a passion for French-Japanese fusion and a real soft spot for soy sauce, which reminds him of his childhood in Japan. "Soy sauce is a very comforting taste."

For Wakuda, incorporating soy sauce is less about tasting the soy sauce overtly in the dish and more about the depth it brings.

He particularly likes Japanese soy sauce, or shoyu, which often has less salt than Chinese style soy sauce. For Tetsuya, the versatility of soy sauce is hard to match – using it as dressing and on things such as meat and fish.

"There are thousands of different types of salt," Tetsuya says. "Soy sauce is one of the kinds of salt. It's another salt for me. It's giving a saltiness and at the same time giving you a tastiness – an umami."

Try this: Neil Perry's teriyaki salmon recipe

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Bread is a must for Daniel Puskas. Photo: iStock

Daniel Puskas – Sixpenny, NSW

Sydney's acclaimed Sixpenny was one of only six restaurants in Australia to earn three hats at the latest Good Food Guide Awards.

Chef/owner Daniel Puskas can't live without bread. "Vegemite and avocado on toast," he says. "That's a staple. Lots of butter, Vegemite and then half an avocado."

Puskas's bread of choice is the Sixpenny house bread, which is made on-site. He also loves the bread baked by the Bread and Butter Project at Bourke Street Bakery – Australia's first social enterprise bakery, which trains and support refugees and asylum seekers. Their artisanal bread and pastries are available throughout Sydney.

Try this: How to make no-knead bread in a Dutch oven

Murray River Salt.

Murray River Salt is known for its minerality. Photo: iStock

Michael Ryan – Provenance, Victoria

Michael Ryan and his wife, Jeanette Henderson, offer a seasonal tasting menu with a distinctly Asian twist at Provenance in Beechworth.

For Ryan, high quality salt is the one ingredient he can't live without at home. "We mainly use Murray River Salt," Ryan says. "I like the minerality of it. When I use cheap cooking salt, I always end up overseasoning because it has such a different texture." 

"It's very tasty and I like the ethics behind it."

Ryan is particularly fond of salt in desserts. "I can't think of any desserts that aren't improved by a touch of salt."

He offers a dessert at Provenance that includes shiso – a Japanese herb he and Henderson grow in the garden – with strawberries, scorched hazelnuts and a pinch of salt. 

"It adds that little spark," Ryan says. "That other level of complexity that counteracts that sweetness of desserts." 

Try this: Adam Liaw's salt and pepper brussels sprouts