Luke Mangan - at home and in the mood

Luke_ManganI am lucky enough to have eaten hundreds of restaurant meals, prepared by scores of chefs. But it is only occasionally that a someone's food will make my eyes pop open; only once in a while that I am hit with the realisation that "this person is really thinking about what he or she is doing. They are experimenting. They are not afraid. They really know what they want to achieve with their food!"

Sadly, I could count the number I have said that about and I could name them all. Of course Luke Mangan is one. I ate his food first at Hotel CBD in Sydney many years ago, and even then his rare talent stood out in lights.

Now he is the owner-chef of Glass Brasserie at Sydney's Hilton Hotel. He owns and runs South Food + Wine in San Francisco, Salt in Tokyo and has just opened The Palace in Melbourne.

It doesn't hurt that he is media-savvy and has a ton of marketing ideas, and that he has kept learning and honing his skills as this book shows. Yet the key to Luke's ultimate success is his innovative 'take' on dishes, and his sure-footed technique and understanding of what will and won't (as well as what can't and shouldn't) work in a dish.

Michel Roux (yes, the Chef Roux) from The Waterside Inn in the UK, says in the Preface to this book: "After more than forty years of working in kitchens and training many hundreds of young chefs, very few have left an indelible imprint of their natural gifts, discipline and exemplary attitude. Luke Mangan is one such talent."

So in this knockout book, released, oh-so smartly just in time for Christmas, Mangan lets us in to the food he loves to cook at home when he is surrounded by friends and family, away from the salamanders and staff of his workplace.

So what does he eat? It's hugely comforting to know that Luke Mangan likes a simple toasted sanga - albeit buffalo mozzarella, bacon and mushrooms at Chez Mangan. Even better to have him demystify dozens of other seemingly complex dishes in straightforward non-cheffy language.

Dean Cambray's sumptuous photography is the perfect adjunct. His pictures are so tight and clear that you can count the sesame seeds sprinkled on a wok-fried calamari or sense the wobble of a chai pannacotta. Best of all, though,  between them, especially with Mangan at hand, you get the feeling you really can serve up something pretty closely approximating what's on the page. Including the raspberry soufflé.

Especially as Luke Mangan himself calls it 'never fail'.

by Luke Mangan, published by New Holland Publishers, 2009, www.newholland.com.au, hardcover, rrp A$59.85.

 

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