Michael Elfwing and éRemo create a sense of place in the Hunter

No matter where he is, or what style of cooking, from Malaysia to Margaret River, éRemo’s new Head Chef, Michael Elfwing always brings a sense of place to his food.

That old saying, “home is where the heart is” has certainly played out for Michael who has made the Hunter Valley the place to locate his heart and his family. And he brings this love and a fast-developing pride of the area to the food, the wine, the atmosphere, in order to create a very special experience for éRemo guests.

Michael talks about why the Hunter Valley/why Italian/why Spicers? And touches on the journey that brought him here to a place where he definitely wants to stay.

Why the Hunter Valley?
Memory is a funny thing – when I first visited the Hunter Valley just over 10 years ago, I remember just a sense of brown everywhere. The impact of years of drought was so strong. And I think to see it so lush and thriving with such a vibrant energy a decade later filled me with joy. I still get that same sense and breathe a little contented sigh whenever I pull up to the restaurant.

Why Italian?
I am Swedish born and have travelled and cooked all over the world. I am classically trained, but I made sure to visit the three great European culinary regions of Spain, France and Italy. I really wanted to understand why it was so important to always use quality Parmigiano Reggiano and to learn about all the intricacies and nuances of things like balsamic vinegar from the masters. It is great to be able to incorporate this knowledge and my love of these types of ingredients into the dishes I create here in the Hunter.

Delicious XL prawns from Yamaba

Why Spicers Retreats?
Arriving at Spicers was the clincher for me to move my wife and three boys to this part of the world. Spicers had recently invested a significant amount in establishing an amazing kitchen that is full of light and lots of space. Whilst the sight of lots of shiny new equipment was exciting for me, like a child with lots of new toys, it also spoke to me more about the fact that Spicers were prepared to invest in something that they do exceptionally well – food.

The relaxed luxury of Spicers also resonates with me – as an example I am a strong advocate for truffles.* Being at éRemo I can introduce truffle into some of our delicious pasta dishes without costing our guests the earth. I love the idea that luxury can be accessible – more people should be able to enjoy the finer things in life.

Do you have any food predictions for winter 2021?
This will be my first winter here and I am very excited to take advantage of the red wine and fireplace vibe that is part of the magic of the Hunter Valley during winter. I will be introducing more game like goose into the menu; plus I am sourcing lamb from the Blue Mountains and some special white veal, to use in some of the heartier dishes that work so beautifully with red wine; especially when the temperature drops outside.

An array of éRemo dishes

The Hunter of course is mostly about the wine but there is some superb local produce. One of our great all-season dishes, the roasted duck is sourced locally. We dry age and roast the duck in an Italian country cuisine style and then the whole duck can be served to the table – Italian authentic dining done with panache. Local eggs and cheese are also perfect for our hand-made pasta and pizza dishes, and the honey is also magnificent.

How do you tell that it has been a good night at the restaurant?
For me it is a mixture of all the elements that go towards a memorable dining experience. We are fortunate here at éRemo, because it is an open kitchen, and we can see and hear what’s happening on the floor. I love it when I hear the sound of people enjoying their experience here – the food, the wine, the service and the atmosphere – it is an energy in the air that you can just feel – another thing that gives me that contented sigh.

The t-bone at éremo

Future for you, Spicers, the region?
I used to think that I could never love a place more than the Margaret River, but that is no longer the case. I love it that the local farmers are working so hard and so proud of their produce – there is so much on offer here. I really see the Hunter Valley continuing to grow as a hub of great hospitality, and Spicers is a part of that journey – and all just 2 hours from Sydney!

*Michael was Chef Ambassador at WINE AND TRUFFLE LTD in Western Australia for 5 years.

Read more about Michael here.