David Airoldi, chef and founder of a range of spice blends inspired by France talks to us about his company Le Fermier.
David, you recently launched your herb and spices business called Le Fermier. Why did you decide to found this company?
The idea came to me one night when I was cooking dinner, I wanted to create blends that pay homage to the different regions and cities of the world, I wanted to create a culinary world tour through spices to offer my clients the possibility to discover different tastes and flavours.
The Le Fermier spice blends are inspired by and named after French regions and towns: Bazas, Sarlat, Bresse, Marseille, Alsace, Basque, Provence, Calvados. Which is your favourite region for its cuisine?
My favourite region for its cuisine is the Périgord, having grown up in that département. I love this cuisine du terroir with foie gras, truffles, duck, nuts and ceps. It’s an honest and generous cuisine.
You have worked as a chef in Michelin starred restaurants. In which restaurants have you worked?
I worked at the Vieux Logis at Trémolat in the Périgord, at the Manoir de Bellerive in Buisson de Cadouin, at the Hôtel des Pyrénées in Saint Jean Pied de Port and at the restaurant Rive Gauche for Pierre Reboul at Tain l’Hermitage (which is now in Aix en Provence).
How long have you been in Australia? Why did you move to Australia?
I arrived in Australia in August 2006; I came here because my brother lives here so I wanted to come for a while and I decided to stay because I liked Australia.
Do you still work as a chef in Australia?
Yes, I am still a cook, I am a chef in a café in Hampton in Melbourne.
What’s your favourite French dish?
My favourite dish is the cassoulet from Carcassonne; it’s a dish that I can eat no matter what time of the year. It’s a dish with modest origins but it has evolved and has become a dish that is known worldwide and which is made to share among friends or family, which for me is the essence of cooking.
How and why are the tastes of each region different?
I think that each region has its own culinary identity, with different climates and specialities. To create the blends, I chose a product for which the region is most well-known like the bœuf de Bazas, or the poulet de Bresse or duck in the Périgord and create a blend which will marry well with this product. But I also try to add a twist in using an Australian native product from time to time.
Where do the ingredients in your blends come from?
Some of my spices come from a supplier called Gewurzhaus (which means Spice House in German), I use this supplier for any dried spices like paprika, cumin etc…I dry the chillies (apart from the piment d’Espelette), fruits and vegetables that I use in my blends myself.
The piment d’Espelette for example is a spice that is only found in France, I think. Do you import spices from France?
Yes, the piment d’Espelette is a controlled appellation (appellation d’orogine contrôlée); I don’t yet import spices from France, Gewurzhaus imports the spices and I buy them from them.
Are there spices and herbs that we don’t find in Australia and that we don’t use in Australia?
We are lucky in Australia to have a choice in products because, I think, of the different cultures that are found here. Some of my herbs and spices, being not so well known, like the sarriette for example are not yet available in Australia.
What are the challenges in importing spices into Australia given the strict customs laws? Also what are the challenges in maintaining the quality of spices through the voyage?
I am not sure about that, not being an importer. But I think that the packaging and the origin is fundamental; the products must come from a business and not from an individual.
For the quality after the voyage, it depends on the packaging and the transport, if everything is as it should be the quality shouldn’t be affected, so long as the product is of good quality from the start.
If it was your last meal, what dish would you eat?
Good question! For me, I would start with some foie gras with some toasted bread and some fig jam, followed by a warm goats cheese salad with nuts, duck gizzard and a honey vinaigrette, and to follow a cassoulet, cheese (made with raw milk of course) and a chocolate mousse.
Anything else you’d like to share about you, French cuisine or Le Fermier?
For me cooking is about sharing, friendship and family. I don’t think there is a greater pleasure for someone passionate about cooking than to sit with friends and share a dinner or to cook together. There are so many different cuisines in the world, so many different flavours and tastes, with Le Fermier I hope to create a culinary map of the world with spices and to make people discover the different cuisines of the world starting with French cuisine of course!
We thank David Airoldi for this interview.
You can buy Le Fermier spice blends directly from the Le Fermier website