By Hilary McNevin
Chef Lauren Eldridge is taking one day at a time right now.
“I find it easiest to take everything day-by-day and keep an open mind if opportunities present themselves,” says the award-winning chef, who is the Group Pastry Chef for the Van Haandel Group. This role means she oversees the iconic Stokehouse Restaurant in St Kilda as well as the company’s other venues in Melbourne, Fatto and Pontoon.
Lauren’s exceptional career path has seen her work in some of the best restaurants in the world and with some of its leading chefs.
Training under acclaimed chef Mark Best at his Sydney fine diner Marque, she ventured to Europe and worked in Parisian three Michelin-starred restaurants Le Cinq and Guy Savoy before heading to Italy to work with internationally renowned chef Massimo Bottura, when his restaurant Osteria Francescana was named number one in the World’s 50 Best Restaurants List.
But, like everyone else in Melbourne right now, she is getting through the Stage 4 lockdown as best she can.
“At the moment, I'm using an online platform Fresho which has a selection of restaurant suppliers that are delivering to residential customers during COVID. We've been getting fruit and veg from Northside Fruit and Veg and our meat from Gamekeepers Meat. I also have a subscription to St Ali for fresh coffee beans delivered. When we're not in lockdown, I usually visit South Melbourne Markets weekly.”
You might also find some Mount Zero produce in her house, too.
“The Frantoio Olive Oil is a pantry staple at my place. I love that it is local, versatile and has a smooth finish,” she says.
Lauren first became aware of Mount Zero while living and working in Sydney. “I'm sure I had heard of the brand when I lived in Sydney but I started using and learning more about the products when I moved to Melbourne in mid-2017. This was mostly is because when I was in Sydney I tried to use NSW-based suppliers and then, Victorian companies once I moved here.”
She credits her unique cooking approach to training opportunities, working closely with both savoury and pastry chefs while also pushing to discover new cooking techniques and ideas. Her creations are born of concept that work to transform the recognisable to the unusual. Lauren has been lauded for having a knack of tapping into nostalgia always adding a contemporary twist. We can see this knack in the recipes she has shared with us as Mount Zero Hero.
Take, for example, her Golden Macadamia Tart with Olive Oil Pastry, she suggests that you can use any nut you like and the olive oil pastry is “a bit more forgiving than most,” and who would have thought of chocolate mousse using olive oil? Lauren, of course! Her Smoked Dark Chocolate Mousse, “has a twist with the smokey taste from the olive oil.”
We can’t help but think that with dishes like these and her calibre of training and experience, Lauren Eldridge will have many more opportunities present themselves, but right now, for those of us in Melbourne, it is best to just go day-by-day.