Chef of the Month: Damian Brabender

Eat Canberra

Food, food, glorious food. We all know that Canberra is home to some pretty amazing restaurants, cafes, pubs and everything in between. These establishments  offer an incredible selection of high quality food using local, fresh produce.

We all love a good #foodpic but what about the masterminds and creators behind the food you see, eat and salivate over? The ones who spends hours creating menus to tantalise your tastebuds and bring plates of food art to your table that makes you “ooh” and “ahh”. That’s right, I’m talking about the chefs.

We love everything food related at Eat Canberra which is why we’re bringing you our Chef of the Month article! We’ll be introducing you to a new chef each month so you can see who’s behind the wonderful food you eat.

As you might know it’s the last month of the Truffle Festival in Canberra so I thought it would be the perfect time to feature Damian Brabender as our first Chef of The Month. We caught up with Damian to find out about his career, his passion for the industry and what’s cooking in his kitchen.

He has over 16 years experience in the industry and has worked in some of the best restaurants in Canberra and in amazing restaurants in London and has cooked for the Duchess of Cornwall. He’s currently the Executive Chef at The Truffle Farm and continues to impress diners with his culinary creations time and time again.

Eat Canberra
Executive Chef at The Truffle Farm, Damian Brabender

How long have you been in the industry?

I have been in the industry for 16 years including my apprenticeship and I would never think of leaving it! I have made life-long friends working side by side with mates, creating and producing food we are proud of.

Where have you worked in the past?

  • Head Chef at the Royal opera house in London for 2 years, working with Pierre Kaufman
  • Chef at Racine in London under Henry Harris.
  • Starge at La Gavroche, London, under Michel Rouxe jnr
  • Executive Sous Chef at Lizard Island Resort, Far North QLD
  • Executive Chef, Emirates Wolgan Valley, Australia’s number 1 hotel both years I was there.
  • Executive Chef, Sage Dining Rooms, Canberra

Where are you currently working?

I’m currently the Executive Chef at The Truffle Farm working with Jayson Mesman and his amazing truffle dogs! I also do ongoing consulting work for hotels, catering companies and restaurants as well as ongoing cooking lessons and private catering events. I’m also in the process of building a new restaurant….

What’s one of you career highlight?

Recently cooking a private demonstration for the Duchess of Cornwall at The Truffle Farm in Canberra.

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Poached eggs, homemade sausage, asparagus, cheese and truffles captured by the talented @wanderlust73 on Instagram.

Why are you so passionate about food?

Coming from a large family mealtime has always come with sense of occasion.

What food trend or product is hot right now?

I believe that traditional restaurant food is going to make a come back! Small plates and unsharable food are no longer tricking people. It’s all about a good menu with a strong focus on quality protein and old school cooking methods. I think we may see chefs cooking more real food again, and maybe even bothering to wear a uniform as a sign of respect for the trade.

How would you describe your current menu?

In one word? Truffley… If that is a word! Hahaha. I think I would use more truffles than any other chef at the moment. The Truffle Farm have spoiled me!

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Fresh truffles from a truffle hunt at The Truffle Farm! Photo via @thetrufflefarm on Instagram

How would you describe your style of cooking?

Honest and real. I’m not into fads, and don’t try distracting diners with attempts of ‘fake glitz and plastic glamour’. I think people in Canberra know what they like and that is real food. My background leans towards classic French but I really just focus on what is good at the time.

What’s so special about Canberra’s produce and food scene?

The obvious answer here is truffles. They are being ordered from all corners of the globe and Canberra truffles are some of the best in the world. We are very lucky to have such easy access to them.

The 8 score wagyu beef fillet with pumpkin puree, nasturtium, truffle jus and fresh black truffle. Beautiful photo by @girl_who_cooks on Instagram.
The 8 score wagyu beef fillet with pumpkin puree, nasturtium, truffle jus and fresh black truffle. Beautiful photo by @girl_who_cooks on Instagram.

What’s your favourite dish to cook?

Poached eggs or an omelette. I don’t know why but even during a crazy breakfast service I always found cooking eggs to be relaxing.

What’s your favourite thing to eat?

Mi Goreng Noodles because it means I must be on the couch at home after service. That and they are delicious with a poached egg!

What’s the one thing people need to try on your current menu?

The hunt and cook package! Getting the opportunity to be on a truffle hunt and then enjoy them moments later is truly unique!

Is there anything else you want to add about food or your career?

I am extremely excited about opening a new restaurant in Canberra very soon, and will be having a very strong focus on young apprentices. The current two apprentices I have are amazing! And it is awesome to see the development week by week. I believe we need more budding chefs coming through the industry, and it’s a shame that so many drop out before finishing.

Eat Canberra
One of the dishes served as part of the Truffle Hunt & Cook – Breakfast. Waffles with truffle ice cream, truffle salted popcorn drizzled in truffle honey snapped by @ekm105 on Instagram.

You have until the end of August to taste some of Damian’s truffle creations (pictured) and experience some of the amazing events on offer at The Truffle Farm! You can choose from the Truffle Hunt & Cook – Breakfast, Truffle Hunt & Cook – Lunch or skip the food and go straight for the Truffle Hunt! But why on earth would you want to skip the food? Get in quick because places are filling up fast!