Book Review by Franz Scheurer
If respect is measured by the quality of attendees at a book launch then it is clear that Justin North has our full and undivided attention, and justifiably so!
Justin’s journey from New Zealand via the kitchens of Raymond Blanc and Liam Tomlin to his first restaurant, Bécasse in Sydney, may have only taken a few years but he managed to cram several lifetimes of finely honed craftsmanship into that short space of time. Justin’s natural flair for flavour, combined with solid technique and innovative ideas, guarantees a steady flow of foodies to his Clarence Street restaurant. It doesn’t hurt that his wife, Georgia, has an uncanny nose for choosing the right wines; her wine list is exemplary and underpins Justin’s food.
The book, self produced in their spare time (what spare time?) over a couple of years is as much a homage to their suppliers as it is a chef’s journey in pursuit of flavour. Reading it, you learn something new on every page and can’t avoid Justin’s passion for every minute detail along the way; Steve Brown’s photography certainly does it justice. This is not however, a cookbook for the uninitiated. It relies on stocks, sauces and reductions that your average household simply doesn’t have on hand and there’s no such thing as an ‘easy’ recipe. That aside, it is deeply inspirational, and a must-have in any serious cook’s collection.
I love Justin’s food so forgive me for salivating my way through this book. Naming a favourite recipe is just about impossible, but if I must, it has to be ‘Salad of Crisp Spiced Pork Belly’ with Snow Crab and Vietnamese Dressing on page 110. It is seriously good (and only takes 24 hours plus a bit to make, unless you use Justin’s suggested shortcut of using barbecued pork from Chinatown). It is a dish that successfully marries textures and flavours and I could eat it for breakfast, lunch and dinner!
As Justin states on the opening page of his book: “Technique is a means, and culinary artistry visually appetising, but flavour is the only true hand to guide you”. Well stated!
The book, published by Hardie Grant, retails for $69.95 and is available in bookstores now (ISBN 13579108642); better still, go and have a meal at Bécasse and I’m sure Justin will be happy to personalise a copy for you.
204 Clarence Street
Sydney NSW 2000
Tel.: 02 9283 3440