Mount Zero Hero - Paul Baker, Chef

February 22, 2018

Paul Baker is the Head Chef of the Botanic Gardens Restaurant in Adelaide, one of the ‘hottest’ restaurants in the country, as voted by Weekend Australian Magazine.

Located inside Adelaide’s Botanic Garden, in a heritage rotunda, the restaurant's menu features ethically-farmed produce as well as fresh vegetables and herbs harvested from its surrounds.

 “I probably have the biggest garden in the country – it’s about 52 hectares – and the Botanic Gardens are really accommodating, they are really open to us utilising the living collections.” Paul Baker

Sydney born Paul is today one of Adelaide’s most well-known food ambassadors, he has been named the Adelaide Advertisers "Chef of the Year" 2015 and in 2017 he was awarded "Chef of the Year" by the Restaurant & Catering Association. He is the South Australian state judge for Delicious Magazine's produce awards, an ambassador for Eat Local and I Choose SA, as well as a member of the 2017/18 Porkstar Campaign.

A great champion of the zero waste movement, Paul believes in nurturing sustainable agriculture and fostering relationships between producers and chefs. His skill, passion and approach has led the transformation of Adelaide's iconic garden restaurant to dizzying new heights and a seemingly never-ending list of awards and recognition.

Accolades include a glowing review by John Lethlean in The Australian, as well as the addition into its prestigious “Hot 50 Restaurants” list in 2015, soon after Paul joined to head up the team.

The restaurant has also received coveted star rankings in Gourmet Traveller’s 2016 and 2017 restaurant guides, and closer to home, 3 forks in the Advertiser Food Guide (2014 through 2018) and Best Contemporary Restaurant (2014 through 2017).

This month, and as our featured Chef, Paul has answered some questions for our readers and provided us with three delicious recipes (click the image for recipe details) all that celebrate Mount Zero Olives produce, thank you, Paul! 

Mixed Grains, pickled fennel, pomegranate, sumac & labne salad
Mixed Grains, pickled fennel, pomegranate, sumac & labne salad: "The grains salad I make all the time its fresh, easy to put together and bloody tasty."

Can you tell us a little about your background? What led you to the industry and some of your career highlights to date?

I am originally from Sydney; I grew up in Revesby and always wanted to be a chef. At the age of 18, I started my apprenticeship under Matt Moran at Aria restaurant before going to work at Pello restaurant, where I became Head Chef.

After a while, I got the “travel bug” and spent a few years living and working abroad. In the South of France, on Lizard Island and Bedarra Island on the Great Barrier Reef. I then worked to open Naladhu Resort, a 6 Star resort in the Maldives for the Anantara Group.

While I was travelling and working in far north Queensland I met my now wife, Annabelle. She is also a passionate foodie who studied at the Le Cordon Bleu in Paris and worked as a freelance food writer before opening Edible Exchange in Adelaide.

Annabelle grew up in South Australia and after visiting Adelaide with her I fell in love with the local food and wine scene and the state’s incredible produce. We decided to make it home. We both love living and working in Adelaide and have relished making the most of every wonderful opportunity the place brings.

How was the Adelaide food scene changed in the time you have been back?

The dining scene in Adelaide keeps going from strength to strength. The locals are proud of their food and wine and there is a growing interest in provinance and the numbers visiting local farmers marketing are increasing.

There is also a healthy overseas interest in the products and the food culture of the State. Last year we took Botanic Gardens Restaurant to James Beard House in New York City and also to London for a ‘Dinner with the Adelaide and London Symphony Orchestras’ showcasing South Australian food and wine, which was fabulous. We should all be so proud of our produce here in Australia.

What’s your favourite item on your menu and why?

It would have to be our pork head terrine. It’s a dish that’s always been on the menu but the ingredients change and are paired with what’s available from our garden. At the moment it is satsuma plums, native ginger, celeriac pollen, cured egg yolk and lovage.

Nomad pastured chicken breast, star anise carrots, organic lentils, pumpkin seeds, ricotta salata
Nomad pastured chicken breast, star anise carrots, organic lentils, pumpkin seeds, ricotta salata: "The chicken is a really nice pasture raised chicken, carrot & lentil dish for when you want to entertain. The carrots and lentils are a dish on their own." 

Where do you source most of your produce? 

It’s a combination of local South Australian producers such as Nomad Pastured Chicken, Kinkawooka Mussels and Woodside Cheese and of course the amazing 52-hectare Botanic Garden we scour every day. Much of our produce you cannot purchase through your standard greengrocer.

What’s the most heard feedback from your customers?

They love the freshness and uniqueness of ingredients we source, and of course the panoramic view of the garden.

What’s your favourite kitchen tool?

The Paco Jet. The ice-creams and sorbets we make are perfection.

What would you be doing, if you weren’t in the food business? 

I have wondered what it would be like to be a police officer...

What word do you use to describe Mount Zero Olives?

Funnily enough, the two things I rarely eat are olives and anchovies - but Mount Zero Olive Oil is a quality oil that I absolutely love.

Seafood Cassoulet
Seafood Cassoulet: "The cassoulet is a great alternative to the old heavy French duck cassoulet and easy to prepare ahead of time."

We are forever creating our Foodie’s bucket list – please add your "must eat" recommendations and tips…

Socca from the Nice farmers market on Cours Salaya. It’s just something you cannot replicate.

Do you have special plans or dream projects planned for 2018?

Tasting Australia will be on again this April. I’ll be doing a special pork dinner with Colin Fassnidge on April 20th at the restaurant. If you love pork this will be something you won’t want to miss!

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