There’s no nonsense about Judith Tabron. Starting in the restaurant industry as a 16-year-old apprentice, she worked her way up to become the co-owner of Soul, an acclaimed, successful bar and bistro situated at the Viaduct Harbour in Auckland. On stage at last year’s Savour New Zealand – she co-presented Greg Malouf‘s class on Middle Eastern Magic – her straight talking, take-no-prisoners attitude was very refreshing. She is, as she says herself, a leader rather than a follower, and her interest in new trends and different cuisines came through strongly at the symposium as it does in this, her first cookbook.
Tabron is an enthusiastic advocate of the practice of bringing other chefs into the kitchen and the book showcases the most popular dishes served at Soul alongside recipes from a selection of visiting guest chefs – Melbourne-based Bill Marchetti, Greg Malouf and Stephanie Alexander; Chicago’s Charlie Trotter; Soul maitre d’ and TV presenter Geeling; and Philip Johnson of e’cco in Brisbane. Beautiful photographs by Stephen Robinson illustrate recipes using a variety of unusual combinations and techniques – Caramelised Belgian Endive filled with Goat’s Cheese with Crisp Almonds and Dates, Potato and Goat’s Cheese Terrine with Rocket Salad and Lemon Vinaigrette, Tea Petal-Rubbed Akaora Aalmon served alongside Rhubarb and Orange Salad with Mirin and Sake Dressing. Tabron comments on each dish, whether about suppliers (Tom Bates of Akaroa Salmon), influences (trips to San Francisco, other chefs) and stories about the restaurant.
Soul is a bit more cheffy (by which I mean that many of the dishes have far too many components for my home kitchen) than I normally like but the ideas here are exciting and the recipes can easily be broken down to their constituent parts. Worth more than just a quick look, especially if you get caught – as I have – on the Greg Malouf-influenced recipe for John Dory on Parsnip Mash with Lentil, Shallot and Olive Vinaigrette. Time to dig out that Ras el Hanout again!
Soul by Judith Tabron & Friends is published by Random House New Zealand.