Award winning Wellington chef Jacob Brown is a working advocate for the sustainable harvest and quality and of New Zealand seafood – adding value to it from nose to scales.
Seafood features largely on the menu of his Miramar restaurant, The Larder. You can expect to be surprised by Jacob’s “nose to scale” approach to cuisine where nothing is wasted.
“I feel very strongly that if we are going to kill animals to eat them we should honour every part – not just the prime cuts.”
He has partnered with fish supplier Yellow Brick Road to showcase this approach at the Red Herring event as part of this year’s Wellington on a Plate food festival with nothing wasted, including the scales, which Jacob says are delicious.
“It’s amazing, they turn from something slimy and unpalatable into something that is crispy, fun and invigorating to the palate.”
When we spoke to Jacob he was working out how to incorporate a fi sh offal into the dessert course, but he wasn’t sharing anything about what that involved till the dinner on August 19. Originally from Dunedin, Jacob has been cooking since he was a young child – inspired by his mother.
“My mother was my first inspiration for cooking – she is a fantastic cook.”
His Dunedin childhood has given him a life-long affection for lemon sole, blue cod and Bluff oysters. Jacob’s career started in Sydney as a kitchen hand at Sean’s Panorama.
“One day Sean asked me if I would help him cook eggs for a Sunday brunch – the rest is history.”
From there his career progressed to working in in some of Sydney’s top restaurants, Fuel (part of MG Garage), Tabou and Bennelong at the Sydney Opera House. When he returned home to New Zealand he worked at Wellington’s Boulcott Street Bistro for a year before opening The Larder.
Jacob has a string of awards for his work at the Larder. The restaurant has picked up the One Chef’s Hat award each year in the Cuisine Good Food Awards since the award came into effect three years ago and has been a finalist in the Cuisine Top Restaurant Award. He won Best Chef in the Wellington Capital awards last year.
In Sydney while he was at Tabou the restaurant received One Hat Award from the Sydney Morning Herald for a number of years – as well as Sydney’s Favourite Bistro. And he always made sure New Zealand seafood was on the menu, sourced from the Sydney Seafood Market.
“My focus was always on the freshest product – which was predominantly from New Zealand. I like the way it is treated and respected after it is caught and that there is a serious commitment to sustainable fishing in New Zealand.”
He also gave demonstrations at the Seafood School attached to the market. Jacob says he loved everything about the market.
“There was something new and interesting to inspire me with my food. I especially loved the energy of the people – the families that worked there.”
He loved the Sydney Seafood Market so much he and his partner Sarah would take their young children there on his days off. “It was great to wander around with them and look at all the amazing seafood available. Often we would then have fish and chips on picnic tables outside with the pelicans.”
Here's Chef Jacob's recipe for Grilled Octopus with Taramasalata, Olives and Soft Herbs
Grilled Octopus with Taramasalata, Olives and Soft Herbs
1.5 kg octopus, cleaned
(head and beak removed)
6 cups water
2 cups white wine
2 cups red wine
1 large onion, roughly, chopped
3 cloves garlic, crushed
1 leek, washed, and sliced
2 celery, stalks, chopped
2 bay leaf
½ bunch fresh parsley
1 Tbsp peppercorns
? cup extra virgin olive oil
1 Tbsp red wine vinegar
1 lemon, juiced
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 tsp dried oregano
¼ cup fresh parsley, chopped
¼ tsp freshly ground black pepper
1. In a large pot, combine all ingredients, except octopus and bring to a boil. Add the cleaned octopus and gently simmer uncovered for 45 minutes–1 hour or until octopus is tender. Remove octopus from liquid and cut into separate tentacles.
2. In a separate bowl combine all ingredients for the marinade.
3. Add octopus pieces to the marinade. Let stand for 15 to 30 minutes.
4. Preheat grill to high.
5. Grill octopus for 4 to 5 minutes. Turn to brown evenly.
6. Serve with crispy potato wafers, parsley purée and a salad of fresh herbs and olives.