• Loddon Herald

The summer menu


Riverside dining is rocking at Bridgewater where the town’s hotel is drawing people from across Victoria for a gastronomical experience in a unique setting. The hotel’s head chef Ethan Egan has just devised a special menu for summer tastes and talks with the Loddon Herald about putting together new dishes with local and seasonal produce

Where did you start in forming a vision to create the new menu?

When designing any menu it is really important to try and cater for as many different tastes and dietary requirements as possible. This has always been first and foremost one of the first factors you take into consideration. Next, I always look to utilise local producers as best as possible, it’s hard not to take advantage of quality ingredients that our amazing producers have available. Finally you look at what your current clientele are ordering the most of and try to play to their tastes, if particular cuisines and styles of dishes are really popular on the previous menu it makes sense to try and promote them as best as possible on the new menu.

Were there any trial cooks?

It’s always important to test new dishes before placing them on the menu, a lot of venues use their Chef’s Specials to trial dishes in the weeks before changing a menu to gauge feedback from patrons, fine tune new recipes and help construct the meal in a way that is enticing both in flavour and visually, people always eat with their eyes first so it’s vital to make sure meals look as good on the plate as they taste. I’m sure a lot of the locals will recognize a few of the new dishes on this year’s summer menu from our specials board over the preceding months.

How much did seasonal and local produce guide you in creating the recipes?

Local produce is a major factor when creating new recipes, especially when you have local producers such as The Fat Butcher who produce Murphy’s Creek Pork which we use in one of our favourite dishes, the Crispy Fried Pork Belly, as well as the amazing lamb we use in our Slow Cooked Lamb Shoulder. We’re extremely proud to showcase so many local producers simply because of the quality of their produce and with our customers coming from all over Victoria we want them to experience this amazing produce that we get to enjoy all the time!

Designing dishes around seasonal produce is always important too, when apples are at their best quality early in the year it makes sense to showcase them while on your winter menu while heading into summer so many other ingredients come in season and you always try and utilise them while they are at their peak in quality such as our Caramelised Peaches dessert with peaches currently being their tastiest.

Apart from the menu itself, what other influences on the food and dishes included were there?

With all things it’s important to take into account your equipment and workspace when creating a menu, every kitchen is different in size, has different equipment available and is laid out differently. Your menu needs to be designed not to put too much stress on any one section of the kitchen, especially in our case with such a small kitchen that caters for such a large number of guests. Each dish is designed to be as streamlined and efficient as possible for our setup so that we can pump out meals as quickly as possible without minimising quality and taste.

Pairing the dishes with beers/wine - how important is that?

It’s always important to have a wide variety of beverages to suit a wide variety of dishes, we’re very lucky to have some amazing local producers of wine, such as Water Wheel Vineyards and Black Wallaby Wines, plus many others, that allow us to offer great beverage and food pairings. Having the right beverage with your meal compliments the flavours on the plate making your experience that much more enjoyable.

What’s your favourite dish on the new menu and why?

It’s really hard for me to choose a favourite dish when there’s so many great dishes to choose from but if i had to single one out i would probably choose the Porcini Mushroom Spaghetti, we use a medley of mushrooms including beautiful Porcini mushrooms imported from Italy as well as rich Truffle Oil in the sauce to create a really tasty dish. It has certainly become a cult favourite with the locals!

My favourite dish and beverage pairing would have to be a Slow Cooked Lamb Shoulder paired with the amazing Sylvie Sangiovese from Black Wallaby Wines, the hints of sweet fruits, herbs and spices really compliment the succulent lamb, buttery mash and rich red wine sauce.

Tell us a bit about your journey in cooking and how you ended up at the Bridgewater Hotel.

I started out cooking in 2009 while still in high school and quickly realised that this is what I wanted to do as a career. After finishing VCE, I journeyed to Ballarat when an opportunity arose to begin a formal apprenticeship at the Red Lion Hotel where I was able to learn under some amazing chefs, including the amazing chef Leroy Hand. Be sure to check out Leroy’s amazing Orchard Cafe Lucas if you’re ever in the Ballarat area! I was lucky enough to then have the opportunity to follow Leroy to The LakeView Hotel in Ballarat where I quickly rose through the ranks becoming the head chef at only 21 years of age. Since leaving Ballarat, I have worked at a variety of venues in Bendigo including the Bendigo Corner Store Cafe, the Brougham Arms Hotel and the Kennington Tavern. At the start of 2021 when hospitality venues began to close due to the pandemic I took the opportunity to take a break from cooking fulltime and spend some quality time with the family. By the end of 2021 it was time to get back to work and the fantastic opportunity to work with Virginia Hyland and Greg McKinley here in Bridgewater was available so I jumped on it.

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