The pioneer: Analiese Gregory on her life lessons from global kitchens
New Zealand-born Analiese Gregory has foraged in France, mastered complex gastronomy in Spain and cooked camel in Morocco. Now she’s taken over the kitchen of Franklin in Tasmania, she’s found somewhere that feels like home.
Tonight, Analiese Gregory is cooking possum for the first time. She plans to remove the saddle like she would from a rabbit; she’ll then marinate the legs and shoulders separately before braising them with cider apples.
“The tail’s a bit creepy,” she says, “but I’m curious.” Curiosity is what has driven Analiese her whole career. Currently leading the kitchen at Franklin in Hobart, Tasmania, she makes food inspired by nature’s bounty and the farmers who nurture it. But to understand what compels her to cook and constantly explore, you have to go back to her childhood.
Analiese was born in Auckland, New Zealand, to a Welsh father and Chinese-Dutch mother. Raised on a mix of stroopwafels and pork buns, she was schooled long-distance for three years during a caravan trip around Australia.
“I credit my mother with my inability to settle down or be in the same place for a long period of time,” she says. When she’d had enough of school, she followed everyone’s advice to do something she loved, which at that point was baking. She did it as a hobby, selling cakes to her mother’s friends. After two years at college in Auckland, Analiese moved to London at the age of 18 to work with her father, who was the executive chef at Axis, back then a restaurant at One Aldwych hotel in Covent Garden.
Stints at London’s The Ledbury and Paris’s Le Meurice followed, and when Analiese eventually returned to New Zealand, she missed her fast-paced lifestyle. “I didn’t want to be there so I went to Sydney for a weekend away and two weeks later, I moved there,” she says.
After a transformative four-and-a-half years as Peter Gilmore’s second-in-charge at his much-lauded Sydney restaurant, Quay, she “got itchy feet again” and returned to France, this time to Michel Bras’ eponymous Michelin-starred restaurant in the South of France, where she headed up the foraging programme.
“I was the ultimate city girl,” she says. “I turned up in my Vivienne Westwood gumboots and my Rag & Bone jeans and was the only person in the garden trying not to get dirty. But they turned me. It’s just the restaurant and nature, there’s nothing else around you. It’s super abundant; you can pick ceps across the road from the kitchen when they’re in season.”
If France was Analiese’s introduction to foraging, her next gig at Mugaritz, just outside San Sebastián, cultivated her creativity during a six-month research and development stint.
“To be completely honest, I’d worked for all these famous chefs and I was really good at being Peter [Gilmore]’s second in command, but I always felt like I couldn’t do what he did — like I wasn’t creative,” she says. “I felt I was a really good sous chef, but not the person who came up with things or inspired other people.”
Mugaritz was just the cure. While she was there, Analiese was invited to do a three-month residency at Morocco’s Numéro 7 restaurant, now called Nur. Both her creativity and resourcefulness were challenged in the ancient Fez medina, where she hired a donkey to lug ingredients back to the restaurant and worked around limited refrigeration. She ran a set menu based on market visits that included everything from camel hump to pigeon.
After three months, Analiese returned to Sydney to work at the now-closed Bar Brosé, but she wasn’t enjoying city life. And just when she was considering a return to France, the owners of Franklin called to ask if she’d be interested in stepping into their kitchen. Initially she struggled without the luxuries of a Michelin-starred restaurant, such as a dedicated herb fridge, before realising her experience would allow her to master her new role.
“We source from something like 50 farmers at Franklin and they all grow just one to three things,” she says. “Everyone specialises: this is the corn guy, this is the celeriac guy, this guy has Pacific oysters, these people only do abalone — all of our suppliers are like that.”
Analiese acknowledges the paradox of learning intricate techniques at Mugaritz that involve liquid nitrogen and silicone moulds, then moving to Franklin, where her producers drive the menu. “I got a message today from a fisherman who’s caught stripy trumpeter, a local fish, which we can’t order; we can’t control when he goes fishing. He messages me, brings it in, and then tomorrow night I have to have a dish ready to go. It’s a totally different kind of cooking, but when you get your head around it, it’s really fun and rewarding.”
It’s a process that might result in Bruny Island wallaby tartare with beetroot, native pepperberry and horseradish, or a simple dish of King Edward potato galette with nettles.
Analiese cooks in a Scotch oven, a large wood-fired oven traditionally used for commercial baking. It sits in the centre of Franklin’s open kitchen, which is itself surrounded by curious customers who watch and ask questions.
Analiese is fanatical about how food is made; since moving to Tasmania, she’s introduced a sourdough bread programme, made her own soft cheeses and turned a whole pig into charcuterie for the restaurant. “I just have a desire to know how things are done and how to make everything from scratch. Even if I know I can’t make something as well as someone else does for a living, it doesn’t change the fact that I still want to do it.”
She lives a 40-minute drive from Franklin, in an old farmhouse in the Huon Valley with animals for company, including two escape-artist goats called Naughty Nanny and Baby Fanny. On her days off she’s immersed in Tasmania’s wilderness: she started diving, lured by the promise of abalone and sea urchins, but now does it to ease her mind.
“Professional kitchens are stressful. It’s just the nature of the beast,” she says. “Everyone was always like, ‘You should find something for stress relief, like yoga.’ I’m not a yoga person, but I found that I got a similar feeling from diving. It’s really meditative for me.”
June marked two years since Analiese moved to Tasmania, which is still a while off her longest professional stint, at Quay. For once her feet aren’t itchy, although Analiese hasn’t ruled out moving again. “This is the most settled I’ve ever been, but, having said that, I would also totally move somewhere else because I love travel and new places and novelty,” she says. “But I do I feel at home here. I really love the lifestyle and how much I can get outdoors. This morning I was on top of a mountain, playing in the snow, and now I’m in a wine bar. There aren’t many places in the world where you can have that.”
Published in the January 2020 issue of National Geographic Traveller Food.
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