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French chefs discover Aussie haute cuisine

PARIS -- Australia's new wave cooking has long been admired in the English-speaking world, and now it seems chefs from the land of haute cuisine are finally waking up to its uninhibited charms.

Drawn by a no-holds-barred culinary culture that has produced creative East-West blends, French Michelin-starred cooks have been traveling to Australia for stints at kitchens Down Under.

“It made me less hung-up,” said Pascal Barbot, chef at Paris's “L'Astrance” restaurant who has three Michelin stars to his hat.

He spent two years working in a Sydney restaurant experimenting with flavors and creating dishes he said would have been unimaginable in the more conservative French tradition.

It “had a big influence on my cooking,” Barbot admitted.

David Toutain, touted as one of France's best young chefs, also stopped off in Australia during a world tour last year.

“I had heard other chefs talking and I wanted to see what was going on down there,” said the chef, whose eponymous restaurant opened in December in Paris.

It was a “great” decision, he said, saying he came upon “extraordinary” ideas in a country where some chefs are even working with native ingredients used in aboriginal cooking for some 60,000 years.

This week, some of Australia's top chefs came to Paris to cook at the ninth Omnivore festival, an annual event that brings chefs from around the world to show off their stuff in 35-minute “masterclasses.”

Billed as a the culinary world's Cannes festival, it aims to celebrate new perspectives in food preparation and those who are creating them.

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