In safe hands

REECE LARDI remembers the exact moment he wanted to become a full-time chef.

He was an 18-year-old dishy at the Albion Hotel in Cottesloe when he and a kitchen hand were left to run the restaurant while his co-workers went to a colleague’s leaving doo.

“I was told on the spot that the Albion was mine for the night,” Lardi tells the Herald.

“I was in shock. We were thrown in the deep end, but our training rewarded us well and we were complimented with a perfect service.”

The thrill of handling an 85-person service gave the young dishy a massive confidence boost and he decided to forge a career in cooking.

• Reece Lardi. Photo by Matthew Eeles

Lardi went on to work at several restaurants in Fremantle including Chalkys, George Street Bistro, Little Lefroy’s and The Norfolk, before becoming head chef at the critically-acclaimed Stable Hands in the city’s West End.

While Fremantle isn’t synonymous with fine dining, Stable Hands is one of the city’s best and is up there with Manuka, La Sosta and Bread in Common.

Having only cooked toast before his gig at the Albion, Lardi credits his modern cooking techniques to Google.

“The internet is such a powerful tool for young chefs. There is so much information out there about quality cooking that it almost makes it impossible to screw anything up,” Lardi says.

“Cutting-edge chefs from around the world are the ones you should be learning from. “They all have their own bizarre flavour profiles which seem strange at first but begin to make sense over time.

“You take what you learn from them and apply it to your own style with whatever ingredients you can get locally.”

One of those ingredients is Fremantle octopus, a world-famous mollusc that renowned seafood chef Rick Stein recently described as being the best on the planet.

“It’s such a great product,” Lardi says.

“We created our octopus dish with a lot of care and attention.”

Lardi’s octopus ($26) is sous vide then chargrilled, giving it a smoky caramelised coating.

Each tentacle was cooked to perfection and not one morsel was tough or unpleasant to eat.

The octopus is served with macadamia romesco (a capsicum-based sauce), grilled black pudding and crunchy samphire, which has a moorish saltiness and unites all the flavours.

Another dish which has survived multiple menu updates over the last few months is the flank steak ($28).

The incredibly tender beef is served medium rare with tangy chimichurri, grilled leek and an eggplant duxelle.

The duxelle was a bit chunkier than the ones I’ve eaten before and was testament to Lardi’s experimental nature.

“I love the logistics of cooking. After ten years you know how to cook.

“It’s more about getting a product to the guest in a timely, high-quality fashion.

“That’s the most important thing to me. If you put love into your food, everyone will love it back.”

by MATTHEW EELES

Stable Hands
8 Bannister Street, Fremantle
Phone: 9430 7309
stablehandsfremantle.com.au

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