Mount Zero Hero - Nicky Riemer and Union Dining

December 13, 2016

Head Chef Nicky Riemer opened Union Dining with co-owner Adam Cash in 2011 and it has been hit ever since. Within the first year of opening they were listed in the The Age Good Food Guide and Nicky was nominated as Chef of the Year.

Union Dining’s restaurant radiates a sense of calm sophistication. The pared back, classically inspired design incorporates wood textures, sparking tiles and fresh seasonal floral arrangements. The food and wine menu is provocative artfully created with locally and ethically sourced produce.

Regarded as one of Australia’s finest chefs Nicky Riemer’s passion is evident. Siting in the main dining room you are able to watch her at work. Instantly recognisable by her striking crown of red curls and immersed in the hustle of bustle of kitchen life – there is something mesmerizing about her rhythm and focus as she orchestrates her talented team.

Nicky developed her own inspired style training under and working with some of the country’s most well-regarded industry figures including Stephanie Alexander, Cath Claringbold and Karen Martini and remains passionate about supporting and mentoring women in the industry.

Her career now spans over two decades, during which time she has also been the only female head chef at Langton’s Restaurant & Wine Bar, and worked as the executive head chef at H-One in Hong Kong.

When asked about her career highlights she acknowledges there are many, but cites opening her own restaurant Union Dining as her the number one highlight to date.

Nicky, who was happy to be officially named as this month’s Mount Zero Hero(ine), was very generous with her time in response to my many questions:

What is your favorite menu item and why?
That really is like asking a chef “who is your favourite child”! I try to create unique menus that impress and stand out from the crowd, but more importantly, I want my menus to offer a sense of provenance and that bring back flavours that often get lost in modern cooking techniques. If I really had to pick a favourite, it would be the Agro Dolce Anchovies - which has been on our menu since we opened.

Where do you source your produce, including your wonderful blooms?

I do the flowers for the restaurant, and I go to Azalea Florist at South Melbourne Market every Friday or Saturday morning. They have the best selection of Aussie native flowers which I love. Summer flowers means lots of lovely natives, and right now, I can’t go past the Peonies!!

I try to use mainly Victorian produce. I deal with producers and farmers directly where possible. We have the best produce in Victoria!

The most heard feedback from your regular customers?
“Can I have the recipe for that?” 

What is your favourite kitchen tool?
Mortar & pestle

What would you be doing if you weren’t in the food business?
God only knows! Perhaps a job related to a chemical engineering? I started a chemical engineering degree before I left to start training as a chef, at the ripe old age of 22.

We are thrilled to name you a Mount Zero Hero(ine)– what products do you regularly use and how would describe describe Mount Zero?
I use a lot of Mount Zero products and think they are unbeatable. I use the extra virgin olive oil, lentils, chickpeas, pearl barley, quinoa and the only salt we use is the Mount Zero Pink Lake Salt. So I can safely say we would have about 20 dishes on the menu that use Mount Zero products. I also often gift the mixed olives to friends (and strangers!) You get to sample all the delicious varieties of olives.

Do you have any special plans or dream project for 2017?
I am planning a home based “staycation” this summer. I plan to cook lots, laugh lots, sleep lots, walk my dogs a lot and perhaps also to drink a good amount of good wine. I also want to find time to start writing my first cookbook!

Our final monthly question is what dish would you like to add to our Foodie’s bucket list?
The gorgonzola gnocchi cooked by Marco Lori at Lupino, actually anything cooked by Marco!!

Thanks Nicky, your time is much appreciated, it was a delight to learn more about you – and we can’t wait to read that cook book!

Click on the Nicky's amazing recipes below for the recipe page on our website.

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