A CHAT WITH OUR FOOD, WINE & DINING EXPERTS Leo Howard – Barmah Park Restaurant, 945 Moorooduc Highway, Moorooduc


What do you enjoy most about creating in the Barmah Park kitchen?

The sense of freedom to be creative, and the support from the team at Barmah Park. I like to use the immediate surroundings of the restaurant to inspire ideas for dishes, whether it’s wild herbs growing around the vineyard or just the outlook from the restaurant.

Please describe the style of food and flavours punters can expect at Barmah Park Restaurant.

I would call the style of food ‘contemporary’. There really isn’t a specific style or cuisine. I just cook using the best produce available and in season. There is inspiration from English food — where I am from originally — and techniques from traditional French cooking and elsewhere in Europe. I like to use some of the amazing amount of Asian produce available in this country, and of course I will try and use native Australian produce when available.

How long have you been cooking and how did your career begin?

I’ve been cooking professionally now for almost eight years. I started my career when I was 19 back in the UK. I did my apprenticeship in a four-star hotel and country club in the Cheshire countryside. It was a good place to start because I got to experience lots of aspects of the cooking industry.

Are you always cooking? What about at home after a hard day’s work?

A large part of my life is spent cooking, and yes, I do cook a lot at home as well. But when I’m not working I spend time with my two amazing kids and my beautiful fiancé. Other passions of mine include football (soccer), going to the gym and foraging for wild herbs and mushrooms during the season. I also love to eat out at other restaurants and love a wine or beer.

How is the menu at Barmah Park changing to welcome in the warmer weather?

The spring menu is focused on the amazing produce starting to come into season on the Peninsula; lots of spring herbs and flowers. There will be more light and fresh seafood dishes too. A few cold dishes and more fresh fruits will make an appearance on the dessert menu — think slow-poached quince, Peninsula honey cake and mascarpone.

 Where does your produce come from?

I always try my best to work with local suppliers and growers. I like to support local businesses, and I find that it really pays off if you have good relationships direct with the actual producers.

Does your menu cater for all tastes?

Our menu is designed to give a good amount of choice to satisfy people’s varying tastes, whether you are a meat-eater, like a good fish dish, or are vegetarian. We also always try our best to accommodate specific dietary needs by modifying dishes where necessary.

What do you enjoy most about the Peninsula?

As a young chef living and working on the Mornington Peninsula I feel extremely lucky to be surrounded by some of the world’s best fresh produce. There is literally inspiration everywhere you look. I’m living the dream.