If the luscious cover complete with handsome man adorning Table by the River doesn’t immediately draw you in, the culinary story behind this internationally acclaimed chef will soon have you scrabbling to add his gorgeous book to your collection – for it’s not just an impressive array of recipes Dietmar Sawyere shares in this beautifully presented book.
Filled with musings on a lifetime of incredible culinary roles from Chef Saucier to an inaugural member of the Singapore Airlines International Culinary Panel, Sawyere’s impressive career spans an award-winning arc through some of the world’s best hotels and restaurants – from London through Asia and into the Antipodes, with some of his finest achievements being founded in both Australia and New Zealand.
In 2007, Sawyere had the opportunity to acquire renowned restaurant, the Berowra Waters Inn, an iconic Australian restaurant located on the Hawkesbury River north of Sydney. It’s from this base that Table by the River was created, drawing on the stunning cuisine served at the Inn but also showcasing a series of reminiscences and insights into the running of a restaurant, and the creation of recipes.
From amuse gueule (literally ‘mouth amuser’) – bite-sized portions perfect for parties, through the first course, crustaceans, vegetables, fish, soup, poultry and game birds, butcher’s meat, game and offal, cheese, desserts and petits four, Swiss-born Sawyere shamelessly floors us with his highly-trained expertise, trouncing us with specialised recipes that are remarkably simple in their instruction.
Despite the potentially intimidating depth of expertise, this is not a pretentious book. The recipes are written simply and are easy to follow, without the addition of superfluous flounce. Yes, the ingredients can mostly be found at Coles. Happily, there’s not much that will have you running for a French dictionary or to a specialist store on the other side of town, and the tone and essence of the recipes is one of warmth and deliciousness and lots of pretty. What we don’t have here is ostentatious 3 Hat Chef intimidation that will have you rolling your eyes and tossing the book aside while you reach for a can of baked beans.
Despite being surprised by the relative ease of these recipes, what I love about this book is that it will extend you as a cook. You’ll learn something special and new. There are very do-able techniques and ideas that will intrigue any home cook – like the pistachio-coloured foam on the Roast Gippsland Lamb Rack, Sweet Green Peas, Wilted Lettuce and Lemon Myrtle. Yes, you can also make foam. Just use a stab blender. No bells and whistles here. You, too, can create pistachio-coloured foam at home.
I also love how exquisitely the book has been done – with truly stunning photography, masterful layout and design, and luscious, large format pages with creamy paper and those fascinating snippets that make this book unique. Read about the history of the Berowra Waters Inn, learn about Sawyere’s take on fish, his musings on how to ‘use’ a good restaurant and master the reservation technique. My favourite musings are ‘on food as art’, ‘on the rise and fall of haute cuisine’ and of course – ‘on chocolate’. I also love the section at the back of the book specifically for superb basics like basil oil, beurre noisette and tapenade.
Part cookbook, part history book, part memoir, part visual splendour and all in good taste, you won’t need a river flowing through your kitchen to become entranced by this gorgeous culinary tome. Enjoy every tender bite.