By Hilary McNevin
It was in Dunkeld in Victoria’s west that Peter Gunn, chef and co-owner of Collingwood’s IDES, first discovered Mount Zero Olives.
“I was working at the Royal Mail in 2010,” he says, “and we marinated a variety of olives. If I’m being honest, it was really my introduction to the huge variety there are of olives. My family in New Zealand weren’t an olive family so I really only knew Kalamata olives and tapenade.”
His knowledge of olives and olive oil has certainly expanded since then, and we are thrilled that Pete is our Mount Zero Hero for this month. He has shared a deliciously simple recipe with us that will work beautifully if you’re entertaining over the summer, or just want to enjoy something with a drink before dinner.
Pete uses Mount Zero olive oil, salt and olives in his kitchen at IDES. “It’s so much about the flavour profile,” he says, “and it has to be single origin olive oil, I have no time for blended weakened oils.”
Pete enjoys using our Picual EVOO as a finishing oil. “I love green herbaceous olive oils and don’t want to apply those flavours to heat as they might dissipate, so I use it as a finishing oil.”
His recipe of chargrilled whole olives is a revelation in its simplicity. “It was part of my answer to the hibachi phase, when everyone was chargrilling and we landed on the idea to use olives, as they have a lovely meaty, protein texture that wasn’t actual meat and catered to everyone,” he says.
He trialled some olives and discovered that the Gordal Green Olives was the meatiest in texture. After a process of washing the olives and skewering them on bamboo skewers, he dresses them in our olive oil and an apple balsamic vinegar from Lirah in Queensland. Then there’s the cheese, an earthy sweet Fermier from Victorian cheesemakers, L’Artisan, and to round out the experience, the team went foraging for olive branches to use as replacement skewers.
Pete’s not asking you to forage your neighbours backyard, but it’s those small details that add to the theatre of any dish and complete the package.
The package that is IDES is continuing to grow and evolve, even through what has been a harrowing 2020.
“This time last year, we had plans to take over the bar next door,” says Pete. “That’s not going to happen now, “not yet, anyway,” he says.
During both lockdowns he and his team established March by IDES: a play on the ‘Ides of March’ and a way to stay connected to his customers and keep his staff busy in a world of turmoil. “We had to consider what could we do, what we have to work with and what we’d be happy to do at this time that would stay true to the brand,” he says.
It was very important to him that the team was comfortable with their next steps. “Part of the way I lead my staff is to ensure they are happy and know we do what we do for the right reasons.”
They settled on March by IDES, a four-course menu concept to finish at home including a monthly ‘One Day Sunday’ event where Peter would collaborate with other chefs to create a special menu for people to also finish off at home.
March by IDES has taken a backseat while IDES’ doors swing open and diners can settle into dining rooms again and navigate the new Covid normal, and that is fine.
“It got to its own finish line,” he says, “but come winter time, we might do it again, keep the brand alive and keep the conversation going around it.”
Pete has been enjoying a more pared back focus on his cooking. “My style of cooking is definitely maturing and developing into a peaceful simple approach to things,” he says. “I’m being more restraining in what I do. Look at the recipe here, it’s grilled olives and a dressing, it’s quite simple but it’s a bit of flavour bomb. All the elements are strong and I love having a respect and appreciation for that simplicity.”
Here’s to the flavour bombs and to Pete and his team at IDES.