Jed Gerrard, it would appear, has a thing for big hotels.
In Sydney, for instance, he ran the kitchen of Black Bar & Grill, the steakhouse at The Star. On his return to Perth, he took on the role of executive chef at State Buildings, one of Australia’s most celebrated hotels, and spent almost four years overseeing the food at Wildflower and Post. For his next trick he’s teaming up with The Ritz-Carlton Perth to open a restaurant where, in short, he’ll be playing with fire.
Hearth, the hotel’s 180-seat restaurant and bar, will involve more than a lick of smoke – as the name suggests.
“Fire is the oldest cooking method in the world,” says Gerrard. “I love how it’s a living, breathing thing that changes every day. You have to keep an eye on it. You have to manage it. It’s also a fun, versatile way to cook.”
But for Gerrard – an alumnus of Australian fine-diners such as Wildflower and Sydney’s Tetsuya’s – dinner involves more than just lighting up the Weber. The heart – and hearth – of his kitchen is a custom-built two-metre grill he designed himself. Taking inspiration from the South American parrilla, the grill features five different levels to accommodate the various stages of the barbequing process, including grilling, resting and keeping-warm. In addition to cooking ingredients over and directly on coals, Gerrard will also explore indirect fire-based techniques, such as smoking (both hot and cold) and dehydration.
Apparatus aside, produce is the other star of the Hearth story. As was the case at Wildflower, West Australian ingredients will dominate Gerrard’s shopping list. In the lead-up to the restaurant’s opening in November, Gerrard (who’s been with The Ritz-Carlton since the start of the year) has been combing the state in search of new produce and producers to champion. And he’s done good. Among his discoveries: full-blood Wagyu from a farm in Albany, boab tubers grown especially for Hearth by a woman in Kununurra (Gerrard says they’re crunchy and juicy and taste similar to a water chestnut), and hand-harvested sea urchins. The urchins and other seasonal seafood (such as abalone and crystal crabs) will be held in seafood tanks in the kitchen.
Team Hearth won’t just match ingredients to cooking techniques, but the type of firewood, too. The kitchen will burn 10 different kinds at least, including fruitwoods and hardwood from the jam tree, a ubiquitous, clean-burning tree dotted throughout WA’s Wheatbelt.
Every dish on the menu, says Gerrard, will feature fire and smoke in some way, whether it’s dry-aged Wagin duck cooked over the grill and glazed with wildflower honey, or a dessert of gooseberries dipped in a sauce of burnt white chocolate and finished with a mandarin sherbet.
“The cooking is going to be more natural and less worked,” says Gerrard. “It’s going to be about showcasing the produce and telling the stories of the people behind the produce without getting too chef-y or technical. It’s not fine dining, the prices are going to be accessible. I don’t want people to say they’re only going here for their birthday or anniversary.”
Impressively, the restaurant will also open for breakfast, and it’ll take a WA-first, fire-based approach that menu too. Guests can order à la carte – including house-made bacon cooked over the fire and glazed with house-made miso and Donnybrook cider – and serve themselves from a table laden with wheels of Cambray cheese and smoked rainbow trout from Pemberton.
The drinking is no after-thought either. Eoin Kenny, part of the opening team at Rockpool Bar & Grill, is coming home after eight years in London – including time with the Joel Robuchon empire – to run the bar and manage the all-West Australian wine list.
“There’s no point telling the story of Western Australia through the produce and food if that’s not mirrored in the beverage program,” says Gerrard. “It’s the whole package.”
Hearth is the showpiece restaurant of The Ritz-Carlton Perth, a 205-room hotel opening in November at Elizabeth Quay (it’s luxury chain’s first Australian property). In addition to Hearth, the hotel will also have a rooftop bar and lounge and more than 2000 square metres of meeting and event space.
Hearth and The Ritz-Carlton Perth are slated to open on November 15.