After two years, Oliver Edwards and Brianna Smith are moving on from The Summertown Aristologist. The pair, who upped stumps from Melbourne to head the Hills kitchen, is moving back home before embarking on a new, as-yet-undecided adventure.
“It happens in every restaurant but it’s a fairly large impact because it’s two out of three members of the kitchen team, and what they’ve done is fucking amazing,” says Aristologist co-owner Aaron Fenwick.
“It’s exactly what we’ve talked about the place becoming. So it’s a real bum to see them leaving, because they’re hitting the mark so hard. But everyone has their time and we wish them well and support them in whatever project they do next.
“And a little bit of fresh energy is never a bad thing.”
Fenwick and co-owners Anton van Klopper and Jasper Button (the winemakers behind Lucy Margaux and Commune of Buttons, respectively) are now hunting for the pair’s replacements. One of the positions will be filled by Adelaide-born-and-bred Tom Campbell, who most recently worked at Leroy in London. “We’re super excited to have him as part of the team,” says Fenwick.
While the team searches for the second replacement, it’s scored a seriously exciting guest chef in Tasmania’s Luke Burgess, who’s hitting the pans for five weeks from August 28.
Burgess was the owner-chef behind Hobart’s now-shuttered Garagistes, which was widely praised for using the best produce from Tasmanian farmers and fishers, and its inventive cooking.
“We thought, ‘We can’t close the restaurant’, so we talked to a few friends who might want to do a stint. And Luke was like, ‘Shit yeah, let’s clear the calendar’,” says Fenwick.
“Garagistes was one of the early supporters of natural wine, so him and Anton have known each other for close to 10 years now. He’s got a relationship with a lot of the early producers up here, as well as a lot of the current ones. And he’s just a banging chef.
“We have so many similar beliefs in food – the way it should be grown, the way it’s consumed … He’s totally into growing vegetables and no waste and our whole message. We’d love to be able to afford for him to be here forever.”
Since closing Garagistes in 2015, Burgess has cooked in eight different countries, run Sydney’s much-loved 10 William St for five months, and started a company consulting to emerging hospitality ventures. On top of that, he continues to pop up at some of Australia’s best restaurants, and he’s just released a guidebook called Only in Tokyo, which he co-wrote with Melbourne chef Michael Ryan (The Provenance). In short, he’s a busy guy.
“Anton and co have asked me [to do a stint] a few times over the last couple of years and I haven’t been available,” Burgess tells Broadsheet. “Being winter things are a bit slower and I’m in-between projects, so it was good timing.
“I’ve eaten [at the Aristologist] twice and very much enjoyed the meals there, and the whole concept behind the place,” he continues. “It’s not too different to what I’ve done in the past in Tasmania. Plus, I’ve been involved in this wine movement for over a decade now so it makes sense to be close to those producers and a region that’s been at the forefront of minimal-intervention winemaking.”
He can’t say what he’ll be cooking just yet, but the foundation and philosophies that guide the existing, constantly evolving menu will remain. “Until I see what’s in the garden and what’s in the larder, I won’t have any idea,” says Burgess. “But you can expect what you’d normally find in winter time, and whatever’s been preserved from the other seasons. I think coming into a place without preconceived ideas is a good thing, too – to leave myself open.
“It’s about being clever about how we cook … and not really looking to set the Hills alight but just cooking food that’s tasty, and fun … approachable, inclusive and all those things that are important.”
Luke Burgess will take over the pans from August 28 to September 29. Bookings are available on 0477 410 105. Before then, Edwards and Smith will say goodbye with a special takeover this Sunday for which they’ll cook some of their favourite Asian dishes. “It’s not Aristologist food at all … but everything made with Aristologist produce,” says Fenwick. “No bookings, walk-ins only, party vibes, magnums.” Doors open at 5pm.