Celebrity Chef Curtis Stone keeps family close to his heart. His two restaurants Maude (2014) and Gwen (2016) were named in honor of his grandmothers. Gwen a restaurant and butcher shop is co-owned by his brother Luke, who runs the hospitality side of the operation. “He is a great people person and knows how to motivate people and keep them excited,” said Chef Curtis. Luke also owns a floral business in Melbourne.
Chef Curtis has appeared on numerous television programs throughout the years. He has played host to many cooking shows such as Bravo’s Top Chef Masters, among others. His first restaurant Maude was awarded a Michelin star. He recently embarked on a new project. As of October 2019 (the time of this interview), his new television show titled Field Trip premiered on PBS. I’m grateful that he took the time to do this interview in the midst of his busy schedule. Read on for more info and links for “Field Trip,” and other projects, and his restaurants.
Q: How did you first start cooking with your grandma Maude?
A: I loved food from the get-go. I would run raisins through butter as a kid which I thought was a bloody good snack. The kitchen is always where I feel the most at home.
Q: How old were you, and what was your favorite dish to prepare with her?
A: Maude made incredible fudge and that was our thing to do on my visits. I started really getting into it when I was about four years old.
Q: What type of meals did your grandma make?
A: I grew up with a pretty traditional fare at dinner. Lots of Sunday roasts and baked goods. As I started traveling in my twenties and got to Europe, well that’s when I really started exploring food. I didn’t have a taco until I was about 20 and now they are my secret-shame indulgence.
Q; How has travel affected you as a person?
A: Traveling just gives you a better sense of the world and makes you realize it’s not just about you. As a chef, we spend so much time in the kitchen and our work can become really granular and nuanced. Taking cues from other cultures and cuisines really makes you realize how similar we all are.
Q: Can you tell me more about how travel has influenced your work as a chef?
A: I just got back from Australia filming the second season of Field Trip for PBS. Of the many places where I been fortunate to travel, I am still mesmerized and inspired by my home country. Chefs Ben Shewry and Jock Zofrillo are bringing indigenous ingredients to the forefront of their menus and introduced me to a few of their mates who are showcasing the plants, berries, and techniques that have sustained their culture for eons. It’s humbling and inspirational all at once and I’m excited to put these opportunities to use in my restaurants.
Q: I understand truffles are your favorite ingredient. How old were you when you were first introduced to truffles, and when did the love affair begin?
A: I was already in my twenties when I first ran across a truffle. The smell is intoxicating and there was no looking back. I will shave them on anything but pastas, risotto, and eggs are a treat. Truflles are the only ingredient we repeated for our monthly menus at Maude during our first four years. They’re back as a supplement to this quarter’s Tuscany menu.
Q: Of all the places in the world that you have visited, what is your favorite (other than Australia)?
A: I have an affinity for Spain. Lindsay and I were married there and Rioja was the first menu of the new concept at Maude – quarterly menus inspired by the world’s great wine regions.
Q: Wine pairing is a huge part of dining at your restaurants. For those who may not know, or who are just discovering the value of pairing, tell our readers why you feel the correct wine pairing is so important?
A: Wine is the focus of our menus at Maude. We’re creating whole menus around regional wines. Wine is like another ingredient really. The pairing brings out nuances of a dish that you may not taste otherwise.
Q: Is there a specific region in the world that makes your favorite wines?
A: I love Champagne and Burgundy. The wines coming out of Australia are phenomenal as well. Younger winemakers in Barossa and the Hunter and Yarra Valleys are all doing incredible things that hold their own against old world vintages.
Q: Your menus tend to highlight the protein of the dish. Do you have a favorite vegetable/fruit as well?
A: I love passion fruit. I’m starting to see them more at the farmers’ markets here in Southern California but they ubiquitous in Australia and I always try to plant them in my home garden. I’m also a fan of the finger lime. They look like them sound and, again, are easily found in Australia. We use their pulp as a caviar substitute for vegetarians.
Q: It is apparent that you love to take your guests on a culinary journey, serving many courses…what is the reasoning behind this multi-course dining experience?
A: I think diners are really sophisticated and eating out is a treat. I want to give guests an experience, something they can’t create for themselves at home. That being said, I still want their evenings with us to be unfussed. I want them to feel like they’ve come to my home and I’m cooking just for them. The evening should feel special, unrushed, and exceptional.
Visit the websites to find out more about Chef Curtis Stone’s two restaurants Maude, and Gwen. He also works with Princess Cruises – the collaboration called SHARE features a six-course meal, complete with wine pairings. His television show “Field Trip” is currently running on PBS.