After serving as sous chef early in the restaurant's life, Daniel Murphy has returned to FINO Seppeltsfield, taking the head chef role following Sam Smith's exit.
Chef Daniel Murphy returns to FINO Seppeltsfield
In January this year, chef Sam Smith delivered news to Sharon Romeo and David Swain – founders of FINO, who Sam worked for more than 10 years – he was moving on from the business.
Sam worked at the original FINO in Willunga for five years before being stationed at the Seppeltsfield restaurant when it opened in 2015, moving from a sous role to head chef.
He’d been at the Barossan restaurant ever since, and in that time had become “deeply connected to our brand”, Sharon tells CityMag.
Sam’s announcement hit Sharon hard. “Lots of tears from me, personally. It was very sad to see him go,” she says.
“But,” Sharon continues, when chef Daniel Murphy, most recently head chef at Eleven on Waymouth Street, enquired about the vacancy, “I willingly let Sam go,” she laughs.
Daniel knows the FINO Seppeltsfield kitchen well. He was part of the restaurant’s starting lineup, as sous chef, when it opened seven years ago. A year and a half later, Daniel moved to Appellation, where he stayed until 2021, when Callum Hann and Themis Chryssidis drafted him into their CBD restaurant, Eleven, as its founding head chef.
Working in the CBD was not a career decision Daniel expected to make, given he lived in the Barossa Valley with his young family. “But Callum has a way of convincing you,” the chef says, grinning.
“I loved it every step of the way – from the ground up, helping design the space, fully designing the kitchen,” Daniel says. “It was great, but there was a toll, and I could see a future at Eleven that wasn’t always going to work for me.”
That toll was the near-hour-long commute to and from work, and his dislocation from the community he has cooked for throughout his career.
“It’s my home, it’s where I grew up; I just want to be here,” he says, speaking to CityMag from the floor of the FINO Seppeltsfield restaurant.
A deep understanding of and connection to the Barossa is why Sharon was so excited to bring Daniel back.
“He is a very driven, motivated Barossa boy,” Sharon says of Daniel. “He is deeply Barossan, which is wonderful. He lives in the community. He’s like Sam, so we’re really lucky. And his philosophy’s very similar. It is the same, to be honest.”
FINO is known for its lack of pretension and focus on exalting South Australian producers. Daniel is also committed to this philosophy.
“The producers are of the utmost importance. Supporting them, buying local, going to the Farmers Market. That’s the philosophy of Fino, and that’s why I love it,” Daniel says.
Daniel’s Basque cheesecake is laid on the table in front of us, and he lists the origins of its components – all from within the Barossa region: figs from Angle Vale, walnuts of Eden Valley, and honey sourced from the Barossa Farmers market.
Other producers used on Daniel’s menu include Hutton Vale Farm, which provides the lamb for the (not-croquette) croquette dish; Wagyu beef from Mayura Station in Tantanoola, for the supremely tender brisket, served with black vinegar; and Daniel says duck will soon appear on the menu, sourced from a local chef’s dad.
“I’m getting some ducks out of Cockatoo Valley,” he says. “[The chef] can’t use them at his restaurant… so I get 10 a week… We get the hearts, we get the livers, we get everything. So, coming soon we’ll have duck fat brioche with liver parfait. Something simple.”
Working in the city, Daniel missed this proximity to growers and their produce.
“Knowing the producers, knowing their names, knowing their kids’ names, it’s so good,” Daniel says.
“Hutton Vale lamb deliver a lamb every week, Gumshire Pork, just out of Keyneton, deliver us six loins a week with the bellies on. It’s so good to be connected.
“In the city, there’s a lot more work to get these producers, whereas here, they’re just down the road and they’ll drop it off.”
While the food philosophy at FINO Seppeltsfield remains unchanged, the menu has been entirely remade under Daniel’s stewardship (though with two obvious exemptions: the FINO sourdough and the crema catalana, which “will always stay”).
On the day CityMag visits to speak with Daniel and Sharon, we’re only given a brief window, as they’re needed elsewhere in the restaurant. FINO, like every other restaurant in Adelaide, is suffering through the hospitality staffing crisis.
With some members of their team out of action, Sharon is working the floor. “I’m a section waiter, essentially,” she says, with only the slightest look of exasperation in her eyes.
The reasons Daniel wanted to re-join FINO are many, but an important one is the admiration he has for its founders.
“The people in the industry that I have the most respect for are David and Sharon, because they are grinders,” Daniel says.
“They’ve been doing it for such a long time, and they’re still doing it. Sharon doesn’t stop. She’s not supposed to be here right now, but… but Sharon’s still here, every day.
“David has snuck away for a week off, which he very much needed, but he and his partner Sarah [Munn], they’re here every day, just to help out. You might sneak in and see me on the pass and then see David on dishes.
“That’s why I love them – they’re solid hospo people. They’re people you want to work for. And people you want to work for, you want to cook for them, because it represents you, it represents FINO, it represents them. I’m so excited.”