For those of us who might be lamenting the fact that it could be some time before we venture back to France to immerse into the narrow alleyways of Marché International de Rungis or the cheese shops of Rue Montorgueil the good news is that Paris and all that you enjoy of French cuisine has come to Moruya Introducing CHEZ DOMINIQUE - Itinerant bistro / Private dinners in Moruya, NSW
Elsa Marie and Julian May are a French-Australian couple who recently moved to Moruya from Sydney. To further their knowledge on growing organic vegetables and giving the food they cook a very unique meaning, they work with a local market garden called Borrowed Ground Growers.
Elsa says "We are both experienced chefs who have worked in renowned restaurants throughout Europe and Australia. In 2019, we ran a small bistro in Paris called La Vierge, and had in mind to do it again once back in Sydney. Covid changed our plans in April 2020, perhaps for the better ? Here we are in Moruya, happy to cook for you at home !"
Elsa describes the journey saying "Our history with Moruya begins back in 2015. On my first trip to Australia, I ended up at Old Mill Road farm as a woofer. It was my first experience on a farm and it is where I met Eliza and Alex, from Borrowed Grounds market garden, who were interns back then. We kept in touch throughout the following years, while they were travelling the world and I was discovering Australia. I kept on travelling, working on little farms, cafés, restaurants, and wineries. I loved Australia and decided to come back for a second year, in 2016/2017."
"Julian and I met very quickly after my comeback, by chance, at a Wine Festival. I was cooking there and Julian enjoying the wine. Since then we have been inseparables."
"After running our Parisian bistro, we decided to come back to Sydney in 2019 in order to open an Australian version of it. The team was complete, including Julian’s best friend as a sommelier. As we were negotiating a lease for a venue in Potts Point, Covid happened. We soon decided to change the plan, and reassess our goals. After a very exciting Skype chat with Eliza and Alex, they welcomed us to come and learn more about farming with them from September, down in Moruya. "To fill up the gap usefully between April and September, we purchased a van and went on a woofing farm trip along the coast of NSW. Since September then, we have been part time workers on the beautiful market garden of Borrowed Grounds."
"Very quickly the craving of cooking for the people made its way back in our hearts. We looked for potential venues where we could run pop-up french dinners, but so far the hunt has not given us the right space. As we talk we are still looking for it, but in the meantime we decided to simply bring the restaurant to people’s homes !" "Julian and I have been cooking for years and years now, even though we both have different backgrounds: Julian worked in finance before becoming a self-trained cook, and I studied Literature and Anthropologie before changing route.
"We have both worked in renowned restaurants in Europe and Australia.
Julian grew up in Beecroft, and lived in Sydney for years before going travelling to Europe to learn more about traditional cuisine. He worked at Brawn (London), Baest(Copenhagen), Auberge de Chassignolles (Auverge, France), 10 William St (Sydney) and Le Saint Eutrope (Clermont Ferrand, France). Under Harry Lester at Le Saint Eutrope, Julian honed his understanding of regional French cookery and developed his passion for high quality, local, sustainable produce and wine.
Elsa grew up near Paris, nourished by traditional French cooking and the love of seasonal produce. She described those years saying "In Paris since 2008 I worked as a chef, pastry chef and cooking teacher alongside famous chefs such as Guy Martin (Grand Véfour) and Betrand Grébaud (Septime). In 2013 I was given the chance to run my first bistro, les Pères Populaires. Here I developed market daily menus, working hand in hand with producers and providers and was featured in Le Fooding guide 2014."
"After we met in 2016, we came back to France together and were given the opportunity to open and run a beautiful bistro in the north of Paris called La Vierge.
"We worked hand in hand with producers and providers, I was designing the daily changing lunch menu while Julian was running busy dinners. Our food was and is authentic, traditional, creative, hearty. From day one it got very busy and successful, and we are very proud that La Vierge became one of the good places in Paris. It also taught us to take care of each other as a couple whilst running a business together !
"Our obsession has always been the produce: find the best, grown with respect for the planet, without nasties. It makes our work harder as we have to dig and reach small producers, fishermen, farmers, but it makes all the difference in your plate.
You can find articles about La Vierge on the online version of Le Fooding guide.
Back to Chez Dominique: The Itinerant bistro / Private dinners in Moruya, NSW
CHEZ DOMINIQUE : THE MENU
"We offer a surprise menu, designed according to the availability of the produce on the farms and markets. “Carte blanche” is the word for it in French, and it goes along with the idea that you trust the chefs and their creativity to cook what is best at the moment !
"We discuss with you dietary requirements, allergies and preferences (meat, fish, vegetarian, special occasion dessert, etc) then from there we create a menu that we believe will satisfy you.
"We cater for a minimum of 6 guests and maximum of 20. We offer two sizes: a $110 three course menu + amuse-bouche and a $150 five course menu + amuse-bouche.
"We are open to special requests, just give us a call and we can have a chat !"
"Our cuisine is authentic, inspired by French and Italian tradition, old fashioned in a good way. Produce inspired and vegetables focused, our food is hearty as well as healthy. Homemade terrine, fresh pasta, sourdough bread, vegetables from the farm, beautiful fruits tarts and much more … "
Julian said "All of our flours, grains, pulses and sugars are organic, sourced by our local favorite “the Rustic Pantry “ in Moruya.
"Our vegetables come mostly from Borrowed Grounds growers, an amazing market garden where we get our hands dirty a few days a week. So yes, we pick it ourselves ! At the moment the harvest is lush : cherry tomatoes, patty pans, zucchinis, rainbow chard, carotts, green beans, jalapeños, Japanese turnips, shishito peppers, corn, and I surely forget some. Two other farms we cherish and get our veggies from : Old Mill Road and Queen Street growers.
"Fruits and dairy are carefully chosen at Southlands Fruits and vegetables, our local grocer.
"Narooma seafood direct and Narooma bridge seafood provide us the freshest whole fish, locally caught. The red snappers at the moment are phenomenal. (The lobsters too).
Dewsbury free range pork Farm and Mogendoura Beef Farm see us coming every week to the markets to check what’s on offer. We recently cooked delicious scotch filet and rolled pork shoulder. The eggs we use come from three different friends’ gardens, in Moruya. They are the real free range kind, happy chickens eating all the good scraps from home kitchens." You can contact Elsa Marie and Julian May on 0412 413 680 or send a message via firstname.lastname@example.org