Chef Darren Robertson is hoping to light the fires of inspiration.
Chef Darren Robertson is hoping to light the fires of inspiration.

Lighting the fires of inspiration on the humble BBQ

SUMMER is the season for the barbecue.

Chef Darren Robertson is hoping to light the fires of inspiration for outdoor cooking with his new series Charcoal Kitchen, airing on Foxtel's LifeStyle FOOD channel.

The British ex-pat, who recently starred on Channel 10's new series Recipe to Riches, is part-owner of the acclaimed Three Blue Ducks restaurant in Bronte and moved to Australia to cook for famed chef Tetsuya Wakuda.

A keen surfer, Robertson told the Guide he is fascinated with cooking over fire and hot coals.

He describes it as "MacGyver"-style cooking - finding creative ways to use whatever you have.

"It is quite an easy way to cook, back to basics with minimal washing up," he said.

"Just fresh ingredients, fire and imagination... I want to see what these simple elements can help me create."

He said Australia had the perfect weather to cook outside all year round.

"I think we all have the intention to cook outside," he said.

"Where I live in Sydney we have things called chuck out nights where you'll drive around and there'll be mattresses, sofas and always loads of neglected old barbecues.

"I think when people cook outdoors they're usually pretty good at it. It's just doing it. It's a really forgiving environment and the notion of cooking outdoors is a lot more relaxed and casual."

He hopes to show the diversity of using the barbecue to grill, smoke, steam and bake a range of dishes. Pans can be set on top of grills and foil and paperbark can also be used to seal in juices and flavours.

"This show is about inspiring people to use the barbecue again and not just super traditional things like ribs and steaks and prawns, but things like fruit and vegies and salads and proteins that people can throw together," he said.

And when it comes to seasoning, Robertson's mantra is the simpler the better.

"Sometimes all you need is a bit of smoke and salt and a bit of lemon juice."

In this week's first episode, Robertson visits Biota restaurant in the NSW Southern Highlands, raiding chef James Viles' kitchen garden to cook up spicy barbecue prawns, barbecued haloumi salad with beetroot and fennel and a surprising barbecue dessert: burnt meringue with smoked raspberry, roasted almonds and cream.


Darren Robertson's Charcoal Kitchen - Life

Style FOOD - Thursday at 7pm Qld, 8pm NSW.

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