Hamish Ingham was already considered one of Sydney’s top culinary names, thanks to his Surry Hills eatery Bar H, an Asian-inflected, gastropub-like space that earned the 38-year-old a Sydney Morning Herald Chef’s Hat (Australia’s version of a Michelin star). But it’s his latest role overseeing the new gastronomic offerings at Four Seasons Hotel Sydney that has food aficionados taking note.
Ingham is one of Sydney’s biggest proponents of using native ingredients in cooking. And patrons at the Hotel’s new The Woods restaurant, which is outfitted with a large wood-burning oven, can dine on dishes featuring ingredients from — where else? — the Australian bush. “Most of our indigenous ingredients are coming from Aboriginal farmers,” says Ingham, who works with native plants including warrigal greens (leafy greens that taste like spinach, only more bitter) and saltbush (a grey-blue shrub that has a subtle salty flavour).
It’s a natural progression for Ingham, who spent time training with local-food advocate and chef Alice Waters at the famed Berkeley, California-based restaurant Chez Panisse. Ingham also procures ingredients from area farms and suppliers. “Alice helped me understand the importance of working solely with seasonal products and local purveyors,” he says. She instilled a love for foraging as well, and Ingham has been known to gather rose geranium and blackberries from a secret spot near his home for use in dishes. (Try the rose geranium ice cream on the dessert menu.)
But Ingham isn’t stopping with local ingredients. The chef also prepares his food in a way that spotlights Australia’s unique offerings: Most of the dishes are cooked in the wood-burning oven filled with different Australian hardwoods. The menu features spatchcock chicken cooked over mallee wood (a type of eucalyptus), and fresh line-caught fish grilled over apple wood. Ingham is also responsible for the menu at the Hotel’s new artisanal bar GRAIN. There, elevated bar eats lean heavily to the indigenous—think fried saltbush leaves with an aioli dipping sauce, and pork-and-native-thyme sausage rolls. Such intriguing ingredients make for locally delicious fare. -Liz Woodson
First appeared in Four Seasons Magazine, Issue 1, 2013.