The line-up of spectacular dishes at Firedoor comes straight to the plate from a fiery hearth and wood oven. At the helm is Lennox Hastie, the chef fuelling the flames with an ever-changing mix of wood – from iron bark to eucalyptus, citrus trees to apple.
Rounds of just-charred wattleseed flatbreads are primed to top with buffalo cream and salmon roe; little grilled Ballina pippies come doused in XO; a fire-roasted crackle crowns a cut of Bundarra pork. A sweet, halved caramelised fig, joined by honey cake and black-sugar ice-cream, is a delightful finisher. Although every day’s menu is different, the flames are a constant – as are the three-month waitlists for bookings.
All this deliciousness is prepared in front of the blaze, which can sometimes become “a wall of fire”. Broadsheet spoke to Hastie – who also fronts up the Basque-inspired Gildas around the corner – about how he prepares for service, what keeps him coming back to the flames each day and his favourite dish of late.
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How do you prepare Firedoor’s flames each day?
At 11am every day, following our safety checks and the cleaning of the filters, we light fires in the wood oven and on the hearth. We build a fire via a log cabin method, so that we can use the initial heat to begin indirect cooking immediately.
What is it about fire that fascinates you? What do you love about cooking with it?
Fire is the hardest form of cooking to get a consistent result – one is never truly in control of a fire, you just need to find a way to work with it. There is no temperature gauge, with the act of cooking reduced to experience, patience and instinct. I love to cook with fire because it is the most natural form of cooking, and the most honest way in which to highlight the natural flavour of ingredients. The fire reminds me to always listen to the ingredient, and the ingredient reminds me why I love being a chef.
How do you feel when you’re behind the pass and on the pans?
There is nothing quite like cooking to order over fire for people – it's an interactive sport which pushes my limits and sparks creativity.
Describe the energy in the Firedoor kitchen in the middle of service.
It’s incredible – the kitchen has a real buzz. Everyone’s working in unison to execute the menu and create the best experience for our guests.
Do you have a current favourite on the menu?
With so many incredible ingredients, it’s always hard to choose a favourite. But I am currently loving the tataki kangaroo. Tataki is a Japanese word which means “to hit”, which describes the intense heat used to sear the kangaroo loin quickly. We do this over a live hay fire, which provides a burst of heat and a beautiful smoky flavour to the meat.
Does the fire’s size ebb and flow throughout a service? Or, is it tended to constantly to maintain a constant heat?
The fire is a constant ebb and flow throughout the service. We turn it up or down at various points in the evening in accordance with what we are cooking and what the ingredient needs.
Watching the footage of you on the pans in front of that glowing hearth, I’m sure that camera really did overheat. Do you or your team ever find the flames too much? It looks intense!
Yeah, it can get pretty hot and in the heat of service you can sometimes find yourself facing a wall of fire, when you have to move quickly. At these points it’s necessary to enter a zen-like state, take a deep breath and focus on the task at hand.
It’s such an energetic job, how do you mark the end of service?
I unwind with a long shower, a glass of wine and some jazz. In the mornings, I swim or go for a bush walk.