The viticultural and gastronomic hotspot of Healesville is where we find our December Mount Zero Heroes - the cellar door restaurant of Yarra Valley winery, Innocent Bystander. Cellar door, restaurant, artisan bakery, cheese tastings, coffee roastery - there isn't a lot that Innocent Bystander don't do at their Healesville winery but it's the quality of what they do that really shines through.
Innocent Bystander's open floor plan effortlessly encompasses cellar door and cheese sales counters, restaurant seating and views of production areas housing wine barrels and machinery.
Luckily for us, convincing Innocent Bystander Head Chef, Michael Smith to feature as our Mount Zero Hero was a simple task - he uses our product in heap of dishes on their menu!
Michael is somewhat of a journeyman in the Australian culinary scene with some seriously credentialed kitchens included in an impressive CV. Head chef positions at Jacques Reymond's fine dining establishment, modern Indian restaurant Tonka and now Innocent Bystander are just some of the highlights in a glittering career.
In preparation for his monthly recipe residency, we asked a few quick questions about his approach to cooking, produce and the best recipe we've managed to squeeze out of him!
Tell us a bit about Innocent Bystander and your approach to the menu.
My approach to food and the Innocent Bystander concept are very much the same, in the kitchen I source the finest ingredients and use that as my platform, uncomplicated flavours with a whole lot of bang…I always hope to complement the star ingredient with things that stand up to but not over power it.
What are your non-negotiables in regards to your kitchen and the produce you use?
Fresh, fresh, fresh.. at IB it’s the same as if I was still at Jacques, we demand the best produce from our suppliers and we build on it from there.
If you start with an inferior product you will not produce a great dish. And then to treat it well, it’s easy to cook, but to pay respect to the produce you are using takes a little heart, but you and your customers will reap the rewards.
If you were to suggest one dish that simply must be experienced on the menu, what would it be?
We have an absolutely fantastic lamb rump dish on the menu for summer, just went on this week. It's Roasted lamb rump, two textures of beetroots and a fresh caponata. Served medium and with such light accompaniments, its walking out the door and its delicious.
How did you come to hear about Mount Zero and why do you use our products?
I've been using Mt Zero for years now, I first came across Mt Zero Products working at Jacques Raymond’s Restaurant. There we used nothing but the best and I was lucky enough to use so many fantastic products, Mt Zero being one of them.
Which recipe should our customers be most excited about this month?
I think the tastiest recipe that I’m giving up from the volt is my Rabbit and baby green lentil terrine.
While it might not be something everyone can just whip up, those who do will love it, it’s a great charcuterie dish that you could do to start off a dinner party or even serve as a first course..
Recipe week 2 - Innocent Bystander marinated mixed olives
Recipe week 3 - Rabbit terrine with onion jam and chargrilled sourdough
Recipe week 4 - Twice cooked duck leg with mount zero lentils