Although separated by some 16,000 kilometres, the culinary cultures of Brittany and South Australia may have more in common than we might think.
One chef who is particularly excited to explore the similarities is Nathalie Beauvais, a lifelong Breton whose career in food has taken her around the world, while still keeping two feet firmly planted in the region where she grew up. As she tells The Adelaide Review, her relationship with the traditions of her home started early.
“When I was young, I liked doing my school lessons in the kitchen because it smelled good,” she recalls. “I could make cooking after my school lessons with my mother.” Afternoons in her mother’s kitchen led to a quarter century of Breton cuisine at her restaurant Le Jardin Gourmand, a regional institution in Lorient.
“The special climate and the geography offers a great variety of products from the sea and also a lot of others grown on the ground,” she says of the region. “Cream and salted butter are culturally [important] because of these unique specifics of climate and history of the region; it was a poor region and people fed themselves with pancakes, potatoes, porridge, and pork.”
On January 12 Beauvais will be drawing on South Australia’s own rich array of local produce for an evening of Breton dining as part of the Adelaide French Festival, joined by SBS Food Safari presenter Maeve O’Meara and French ensemble La Nuit Blanche. This trip will be Beauvais’ first proper brush with South Australia, but she looks forward to exploring what the state can offer.
“The main thing is to find good fresh local products and to adapt my Breton recipes at [their] best,” she says. “We discover a country through a trip, and it is thanks to the Adelaide French Festival that we have the pleasure to discover your country as we hope to contribute to the discovery of our own participating in the festival.”
And, as Beauvais points out, such discovery is a two-way street – she will also offer a crash course cooking class on Sunday, January 13 for locals looking for a more hands on experience. “Cooking is a good way to discover a country because it gives us cultural habits to feed and share,” she says. “I hope to contribute to this discovery of our beautiful region in the expression of my recipes.”
Just as sustainability has been a hot topic of discussion in South Australia, especially in regard to seafood, managing demand and environmental factors are also of pressing concern back home. “It’s the same with us and it’s time to realise that preserving our resources is paramount,” she says. One particular, somewhat Brexit-tinged flashpoint occurred last year when British and French fishing boats clashed in international waters off France, as British boats dredged for scallops while their frustrated French counterparts, obliged to observe seasonal restrictions, watched on.
“Professionals must set the example independently of consumer expectations, as they can explain and educate the consumer for the future by demonstrating that the pleasure of eating well should not be based on scarcity or luxury, but rather on the quality of freshness and the seasonality.
“That is paramount.”
Bon Vivant: A gastronomic taste of Brittany
Saturday, January 12
Banquet Room, Adelaide Festival Centre
A Taste of Brittany with Nathali Beauvais
Sunday, January 13