There's a chance you're sinning in the kitchen.
Yes Chef: The 10 Commandments of food with Marco Furlan
Since interviewing Marco Furlan and discovering his restaurant, La La La Osteria on Gilles Street, we’ve stayed in touch with the maître d’-turned-chef, and enjoyed many deep and frivolous conversations about the world and everything in it – ie: food.
Recently, Marco pulled us up on how we were using our olive oil at home. What do you mean we shouldn’t be cooking in olive oil?
Interested in why we shouldn’t cook with olive oil and what else we might be getting wrong, we sat down with Marco to talk about his rules for food and the best practices we could put in place at home to avoid culinary embarrassment. These are them.
Number 01 – Olive Oil
“Olive Oil has got to be cold pressed,” says Marco. “All of those beautiful nutty, citrus notes in great olive oil are lost with heat. Heat is the enemy of olive oil. Don’t store it next to your stove top, don’t buy it in clear glass bottles. The sun damages good oil. Store it away from heat, in the cupboard!
“Also don’t cook with olive oil, you’re wasting it if you do. Olive oil’s low smoke point means it’s easy to burn and all those delicate, delicious flavours are the first thing to go when you heat it. Cook with vegetable oil. Finish with a drizzle of olive oil over the top.
“Now – frying eggs in olive oil – that absolutely works. Every rule has an exception.”
Number 02 – Seasoning
“Maldon salt,” says Marco. “The only one I buy. People have been turned off salt by dieticians or doctors or fads or whatever, but the worst things about salt are things found in cheap salt. Too much sodium, too much aluminium. You don’t want metals in your salt. Maldon sea salt melts on your tongue, it doesn’t taste salty – it tastes delicious. And it’s a thing of beauty, those little crystal pyramids. Fantastic!”
Marco likens good salt and pepper to a good amplifier on a stereo, they bring out the best in the food, in the dish – the details you might not otherwise notice.
“I’ve been buying Herbie’s Spices ‘pepper melange’ for 25 years. You can buy it from Lucia’s in the Market. It sets you back $110 a bag but it’s worth it. There’s no way out of it – you can’t make a silk purse out of a sow’s ear. You gotta buy the proper stuff.”
Number 03 – Cooking
“Carbon doesn’t taste good, it tastes like death. Carbon is the base element of humankind, it’s the last state of existence. Burnt food is not cool,” says Marco driving home a point.
Marco gets goosebumps when he talks about the Maillard reaction, the process of cooking that turns the carbohydrates crispy. The Maillard reaction occurs between an amino acid and a reducing sugar and describes the browning effect on toast, on pie crust and pork crackling – it’s delicious.
“You want to surf the edge of burning,” says Marco. “Don’t ever cook with your stove on full bore! Don’t believe the signs on your stove either – turn down the heat with your eyes. Look at the flame. Keep the food moving and be vigilant.”
Number 04 – Shopping
“You can’t cook if you don’t shop,” says Marco. “If you’re looking – as we all should be – to move away from a meat-centric diet and into more of a plant-based diet, you’ve got to shop at Gaganis or Omega. Beans and legumes store well in your pantry and they’re cheap! You should always have good cheese in your fridge and seasonal stuff too. There’s nothing like fresh figs and mascarpone. Delicious.”
Number 05 – Vitamin D
Dovetailing nicely with shopping, Marco says you need to get out of the house – and not in the car.
“Walk around the farmers market, walk to the shops, feel the sun on your skin! Just like the Maillard reaction, the heat on your skin gets you going,” says Marco. “As a rule, I only ever buy greens [vegetables] on the day I’m going to cook with them. You know you’ve got some droopy celery or rotting cucumber in the bottom of your crisper. Forget about it! Buy them on the day and use them fresh.
“When you’re outside, away from the screen, you have space and time to think. Smelling the world, smelling the markets and the fresh food around you will excite your palate. Food is about joy.”
Number 06 – Flour and water
“Caputo flour is excellent. I don’t use Caputo,” says Marco. “I’ve always used Laucke flour – it’s superb, it’s local. I’ve got a theory about allergies and that is we need to be consuming the food of our region in order to be healthy. We need to be drinking the water that falls on the lands and feeds the land we take nourishment from. Don’t drink acqua from Pana – that’s what the Tuscans drink – do they have problems with allergies the way we do in the West? We need to keep things simple and local.”
Number 07 – Fat
Marco’s partner in La La La Osteria, Olga Kokaliaris, chimes in on this commandment: “Fat is flavour. I’ve been hanging out with this guy long enough to know all his rules,” she says laughing.
“It’s true,” Marco concedes. “Don’t run away from fat. Why does everyone love salmon? Well it’s because of those little white lines between the beautiful tangerine-coloured flesh. It’s the little layers of fat that makes salmon so delicious. There are good fats, and thankfully people are starting to re-learn that. Nuts, cream, legumes – fat comes in different packets to suit different diets, but it’s all good. Fat is like the bowtie, the belt, the brogues – the Church’s on your feet. It’s what makes the dish stand out and be memorable!
Number 08 – Grow at least three things
“All GM foods are the fundamental problem with people’s immune system,” says Marco. Before we can ask for his peer-reviewed article on the subject, Marco goes on to explain that of his more than 30 years in restaurants he can say, “hand on heart” that, for his first 20 years in the business, allergies where limited to shellfish and a few, but “very rare,” nut allergies.
While growing your own food isn’t going to cure allergies, Marco believes we need to be more connected to the place we live and consume the water that falls from our sky. Growing vegetables does this wonderfully. “Spinach grows everywhere. People should be ashamed if they don’t grow spinach or silver beet,” he says.
“Parsley, mint and sage – herbs only count as one of the three things,” Marco clarifies. “Those three herbs grow like weeds and grow beautifully together. The other thing I would grow – one of the oldest antibiotics known to humankind – garlic. Ask Cleopatra, she knows.”
Number 09 – Meat
“If you’re serving meat, you’ve got to be a little bit selfless and sometimes take a hit,” says Marco about his approach to protein portions at La La La Osteria.
“You’ve got to give them content! But at home, and in general, I think we do need to be more responsible about meat consumption. I’m not advocating for vegetarianism, in fact, if you ever wanted proof for the possibility of intelligent design you can’t go past the humble duck. The fat, the meat, the feathers – it’s the one-stop-shop for civilisation. Duck is delicious.”
Number 10 – People
“I cook for people for a living, so I tend not to entertain at home,” says Marco. “Olga and I – we eat out. But one thing I would like to say about food, and it may go against the norm here, but I think everyone should eat alone at least once a week. And I’m not talking, a sandwich in front of your computer at work. I’m talking about alone – out.
“Imagine the evolution of social behaviour if people went out to eat alone? It’s not easy to do, but it’s an incredible experience. Lots of people hate eating alone. Lots of people eat alone because they have no choice. Going out to eat alone is different. Dining at Soi 38, recently I was struck by the sheer number of single tables there were in the restaurant – more than I’ve ever seen before.
La La La Osteria
19 Gilles Street
(08) 8212 3535
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“Eating out by yourself is good for you, and the thoughts and your appreciation for strangers and for the food you’re eating only grows when there’s no one there to keep you in a bubble.”