Perfect Match at Tiffany’s Maleny
Tiffany’s Maleny is more than a view. Deb Caruso meets the chef dishing up food that is as breathtaking as the award-winning venue.
NAME: Lee Montague
POSITION: Executive Chef
VENUE: Tiffany’s Maleny
Why did you become a chef?
I always knew I wanted to be a chef. I grew up in England and at 17, I left school to be a chef in the British Navy and travelled the world. I was in the right place at the right time and progressed to being the Captain’s chef.
The Navy taught me the importance of standards, structure and teamwork. Everyone has to be well-dressed; clean and tidy. That has to be first and foremost. It’s the little details, like
a freshly-ironed shirt; that’s also particularly relevant in a place like Tiffany’s where there are high standards.
What has been the most rewarding moment of your career so far?
This job. I’ve been here for almost a decade and I love it. There is so much trust and support from the owners, Kelly and Dave. Kelly literally found me on Gumtree when I advertised myself as a chef!
What do you love about being a chef?
The comraderie. You spend a lot of time with your team and you bounce off each other. I also love the creative side of it and keeping it exciting by trying new things and sampling new ingredients. There are four chefs in the kitchen here and we are very fortunate to have time to create and experiment with new dishes.
What do you love about local produce?
We have so many local producers to draw from. I love the eggs from Walker Farm; Ashbern Strawberries from Glass House Mountains; we utilise products from Kenilworth Dairies and Suncoast Fresh provides foraged sea herbs and edible flowers. We have found that our Month of Love restaurant in February (when we open as an a la carte restaurant), is a great opportunity to tap into locally-grown and seasonal food. This year we will use the Hinterland Feijoas Jam as a glaze for our duck breast, it is very unique and delicious. There’s always different ways to support local.
What is your approach to food?
Anyone can read a recipe but I like to think of a way to elevate the process so the customer has a memorable experience. I always ask our waitstaff for feedback, as the proof is in the pudding – pun intended!
Growing up in Northern England I was brought up on comfort food such as homemade pies. I love the challenge of taking something so humble and developing it further to create a dining experience rather than something you reheat and eat while sitting in front of the TV. It took me a while to understand this and the importance of having the freedom to design and create. There is always trial and error, and this is part of creating something special, before presenting it to our guests.
Do you cook at home?
Yeah I have two hungry boys who need to be fed. The kids love making pizza and they get involved in making spaghetti bolognaise or curries.
What are some of your favourite dishes?
There’s a few and we’ll be featuring some of them again for the Month of Love.
We do an amazing Fraser Isle Spanner Crab ravioli with prawn served with a crab bisque and saffron butter on wilted spinach with bisque foam on top; there’s also the Pork Belly braised in Tilse’s Apple Cider with a celeriac puree and the braising liquid is reduced to a syrup with poached pear. It’s clean yet hearty and earthy. What’s nice is that Tilse’s Apple Cider actually comes from the Director’s family and their 100-year-old apple orchard.
I also love the Confit Salmon that is gently cooked in oil flavoured with peppercorns, bay leaves, coriander seeds and the zest of a lemon, lime and orange and served with a saffron potato puree, simple lemon beurre blanc and a mix of pickled beetroots, roasted baby beets, sometimes pickled Dutch carrots, turnips or seasonal baby vegetables.
My favourite is the crème brulee which is made by steeping the Limonada Rosa Tielka Tea leaves in Maleny cream and then we serve it over dry ice and pour a pot of tea into the bowl to produce an aromatic smoke. It’s such a sensory experience with lots of theatre, the smell of the tea, the taste of the tea and the stunning visual of the smoke wafting over the table!
What do you love about Tiffany’s?
It’s the whole package – the view, the stunning chapel and venue and the trust from the owners that allow us to make sure the food is as impeccable as the service and the facilities. We have the freedom and flexibility to develop each dish to be its best. That’s exciting for the team, it’s motivating for them to constantly be creating and it means we can take it up a notch every single day.
We love creating dishes for our couples that will not only complement their event but be as memorable as their wedding day itself.
Any advice for young chefs?
Get as much experience as early as possible, learn as much as you can and then settle down and find your place. Everything is a learning experience.
Have pride in yourself and your work.
What is your favourite ingredient?
Moreton Bay Bugs. They’re amazing. It’s an incredible product that should be
a global sensation and they’re just from around the corner.
We have two dishes that feature them. One is an entrée – Moreton Bay Bug with lime nut butter and a light salad of tomato, fennel, burnt lime, preserved lemon. It’s pretty simple and fresh to allow the flavour to shine.
For mains, we do a Moreton Bay Bug with a lime nut butter on a vodka risotto with a watercress and white wine reduction. It’s superb.
Moreton bay bugs – lime nut butter – fennel and preserved lemon salad
• Moreton Bay Bugs – lime nut butter – fennel and preserved lemon salad
Fennel & preserved lemon salad:
• 1/2 x fennel, thinly sliced
• 1/2 x fennel, thinly sliced then pickled
• 1/2 preserved lemon, defleshed and thinly sliced
• 1 x tomato, deseeded and thinly sliced
• 1 bunch baby watercress
• Drizzle of olive oil
Lime nut butter:
• 275g unsalted butter
• 50g roasted macadamia nuts (crushed)
• 1 x garlic clove crushed
• Juice and zest of 2 limes
• Chopped chives
• Chopped parsley
• 1 cup white wine vinegar
• 1/3 cup water
• 3/4 cup sugar
• 1 tsp salt
• 1/2 tsp all spice
• Small cinnamon stick
• 1/2 tsp celery seeds
• 1/2 tsp mustard seeds
• 1/2 tsp whole black peppercorns
To make the lime nut butter
• Soften the butter slightly and add the juice and zest of 2 limes, the crushed garlic and roasted macadamia nuts then fold into the butter, season with salt and pepper. This is plenty for this recipe and will keep well in your fridge for you to use elsewhere, on things like prawns or even tossed through some steamed greens
To make the salad
• Combine ingredients minus the olive oil and set aside
• Take the Moreton Bay Bugs and in a medium to hot pan with a drizzle of oil cook for about 2 minutes before turning the Bugs over, cook for a further 2 minutes before adding a good tablespoon of the lime nut butter, once the butter starts to froth baste the Bugs by spooning over for a few seconds and removing from the heat. At this point when the pan of Bugs is off the heat add your chopped chives and parsley. Re-baste the Bugs before placing them in the middle of your plate.
• Dress the salad with a drizzle of olive oil oil before placing a generous helping on top of the Bugs, served with burnt limes
Method for pickling solution (if needed)
• Combine all ingredients in a non-reactive saucepan and bring to the boil, once boiling reduce heat and simmer for
30 mins, strain and chill.