7 questions to the executive Chef Christian Oblak who designed the new exquisite culinary experience for the restaurantDans le Noir ? Melbourne located inside the Rydges on Swanston.
What is your background?
I discovered the culinary world when I first had my apprenticeship in Austria. It was like an art that gives euphoria to one’s senses. I had great opportunities to hone my skills in fine dining in my own country and latter also abroad. My journey brought me to one of the most treasury Relais & Châteaux in Ireland which has broaden my appreciation for palates of different cuisines. The industry has opened me the world, traveling to different countries has made me understand that food plays a big role in one’s culture.
Proofing myself as a Sous Chef in Switzerland where I got my name firstly recognized in the Michelin Star Guide, oldest European hotel and restaurant reference guide equivalent to Australian 2 hats. As I challenged my career to move forward, I had the chance to partake in opening a prestigious 5-star hotel as an Executive Chef in Russia. Later on, I decided to travel again and made my way to Australia which gave me a vast of opportunities to further my career. Currently, I am working as an Executive Chef at Rydges, where I enjoy working as it gives me challenges and at the same time a great satisfaction.
How do you design a unique surprise menu?
Like with any other menu, I love to involve my international culinary brigade behind me. With a piece of an empty paper, we brainstorm on which ingredients we would like to use that are available in the market and use our imaginations on how we can make these ingredients into an exquisite piece of art. Bringing different ingredients into a single plate is quite a challenge as it never turns out as exactly as what we imagined it. It is a trial and error until we get the right aroma, texture and taste. We know it is perfect when each ingredient is still distinct but when eaten altogether it gives a surprising unique flavour.
How do you deal with allergies?
Allergies are daily business in any kitchen. It starts with receiving basic training about the needs of my guests. Then the market availability is an important factor, it has improved huge over the last 10 years which makes it easy for chefs to find substitution products or even create whole menus without using any classic ingredients. I ensure that my brigade is trained to the same standards, that we can always guarantee our guests to have an evening where they don’t need to have concerns except to enjoy their meals.
What is your favorite dish?
It is a classic dish from my grandmother called “Kärntner Käsnudel”, a traditional Austrian cuisine. It is similar to ravioli which is stuffed with cottage cheese, potatoes and mint as the main ingredients. Once the pasta is cooked, it is pan fried in butter to a golden crust. It is served with lingonberry jam and a green salad at the side. I love the simplicity of the dish and it has effectively helped me whenever I get homesick. Furthermore, it has surprised many people and friends alongside my own journey who had tasted the dish.
What is your most unforgettable memory about food?
I traveled in Africa and the local people in the community invited me to join them to cook on an open fire. It was amazing how simple ingredients can come out into a beautiful dish. With picturesque landscape, we shared the food with one another, while I enjoyed their company. I can say food brings people together.
What is your fave place to eat in Melbourne?
Pascale Bar & Grill is an outstanding experience in food and service which is without a question on the top of my preferences. While succeeded by Om Nom, which is well known with their delicious and creative desserts. I also prefer going to food markets whenever I feel more casual and more options. Nonetheless, I also love cooking at home where I can keep it simple.
What “Dans le Noir ?” represents to you ?
It is a unique experience to have a different approach of creating a menu that is particularly crafted to tap the other senses of our guests. We all know sight is the most dominant sense and we tend to rely on it most of the time. Without having this, it was a challenge for us to be out of our comfort zone and create something that would arouse the curiosity of our guests by relying on their other senses. Furthermore, I also believe that it is an unique opportunity to be part of a small global community of chefs within the different Dans Le Noir? projects which fills me and my brigade with pride.
The unknowing, the mystery of what is unexpected. Using only the sense of smell, taste and touch to discover what dish was served is a neuro-phenomenal experience for me. Being complete depending on the guides and trust them. It’s a very exciting experience which I have enjoyed multiple times and will also enjoy in future.