Cooking with fire: Q&A with Travis Crane, City Winery

Get to know the exec chef behind one of Brisbane's hottest new venues.

City Winery recently opened its doors in Brisbane, bringing a working winery, cellar door, restaurant and event space to Fortitude Valley.

Heading up the restaurant is executive chef Travis Crane, whose menu showcases ethical produce cooked over an open fire. Here, he shares more about his food philosophy and the menu at City Winery:

Tell us about the food direction at City Winery

We are working directly with small-scale and ethical farms, doing our own butchery and making absolutely everything possible on-site. We have put a huge amount of effort into building strong relationships with our producers and it is these relationships that give us access to the amazing and unique produce that we use at City Winery Brisbane.

We don’t lock ourselves down to a certain style of cuisine, we cook food that excites us and food that is delicious. We choose to cook on fire because it produces a product and a flavour that can’t be replicated. It is a really immersive way of cooking that, as chefs, is constantly revealing new ideas, techniques and challenges.

Was the wood fire custom built for the venue? 

After countless hours drawing and planning a hearth (fire pit) that would accommodate a charcoal oven and asado grills, we asked ourselves what could we cook using that equipment that we couldn’t over an open fire. We concluded that there was nothing so we started sketching plans for the most versatile system we could imagine.

After getting some ideas down and polishing them with my brother, we took the plans to the builder who said it could be done and then we went ahead and built it. I have never used or seen a system like ours, but it has really exceeded all expectations.

There’s a strong focus on small suppliers – does this mean the menu is always changing?

As we are sourcing our produce farm direct mostly from small-scale farms, we have to be very flexible with our menus and dishes. Some menu items will stay for a whole season, while others change and evolve weekly or even daily.

Are today’s diners are more conscious of where their produce comes from? 

Yes people in general are starting to take a lot more notice of where there food comes from and how it was raised. People are wising up to the pitfalls of large-scale intensive farming and are looking for a better alternatives.

Food is so much more than just a meal when you know the story of where it came from or you know the farmer that grew it. This is an experience we do our best to share with our customers.

Coming into winter, what will the menu look like?

Winter is an exciting time for us as it will give us a chance to bring out the camp ovens and start making some big, hearty slow cooked dishes. We are starting to see the arrival of some beautiful brassicas as well as a good array of citrus, which will give us a whole new set of ingredients to start experimenting with.

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