Ben Williamson grew up near the beach in Perth’s northern suburbs. He fondly remembers fishing and cooking from a young age, but not much else. “Perth in the ’80s was pretty dire,” he says. “There wasn’t a lot going on and I grew up in a very anglo, white Australian household. But the more I’ve started to think about that time, I’ve realised there is stuff about it I do miss.”
Now head chef at the Gerard’s Bistro, the innovative Middle-Eastern diner in Gerard’s Lane, Fortitude Valley, Williamson is using that formative time as inspiration for The Family Table, a one-off dinner party at Gerard’s on April 9.
Presented by Broadsheet Brisbane in partnership with Brown Brothers’ new release Patricia collection, named after Brown Brothers’ family matriarch Patricia Brown, the dinner will see Williams revisit the food of his childhood with a five-course feast. Each dish will be paired with wines from the Patricia collection.
The meal will open with canapés including a crab sandwich, a reinvention of a favourite lunchbox snack, the devon and tomato sauce sandwich, and “Granny Marg’s”chicken soup, a meal so good Williamson says he’d often wag class to sample it. “I remember the food at Gran’s the most because Mum and Dad worked full-time,” he says. “She always used to have chicken soup on the go and that smell reminds me of successfully pulling a sickie from school.” For The Family Table it will be emboldened with the prominent lemon and lime flavours of Brown Brothers Patricia 2011 Pinot Noir and Chardonnay Brut.
From there he’ll follow with hat tips to his mum’s “anglo” dishes, including corned beef, and signature lamb roast with “overcooked greens”. “Mum used to cook broccoli and beans and things within an inch of their lives,” says Williamson. “When I started cooking as an apprentice I said, ‘Mum it’s not okay to cook greens like this.’”
Employing a Middle-Eastern technique honed at Gerard’s, the chef’s overcooked greens will be slow-braised with onions until they’re “sticky, delicious, caramelised, lively, spiced greens.” These will be served alongside the berry-spice of Brown Brothers Patricia 2013 Cabernet Sauvignon.
Williamson’s “abalone schnitty” is a new take on the barbequed abalone of his youth, which he used to source himself with friends. “I was a bit of a beach rat,” he says. “We used to go to the beach as kids and rip abalone off the rocks. We’d clean them up, bash the shit out of them with meat mallets, crumb them with parmesan, parsley and lemon zest and cook them on the barbeque. It was normal back then. Now people think of it as something super gourmet.”
The chef will serve the abalone with beach succulents and a dressing made from roasted fish bones and squid trimmings – “think a XO saucey kind of thing”. He’s matching it with the Brown Brothers Patricia 2015 Chardonnay, to enliven and refresh the palate after the meal.
Williamson will cap off the dinner with a not-so-sickly version of his own signature after-school snack – ice-cream with Milo and Ice Magic chocolate sauce, paired the sweet characteristics of the Brown Brothers Patricia Noble Riesling. Williamson has altered it into a malt ice-cream made from brewers’ malt crystals, but still with an instant-setting chocolate sauce that diners will need to slosh on at the table.
The Family Table by Broadsheet Brisbane and Brown Brothers Patricia range will be held at Gerard’s Bistro from 7pm, April 9. $90 per person covers five courses by Ben Williamson with matching Brown Brothers Patricia wines.
This article is produced by Broadsheet in partnership with Brown Brothers Patricia collection.