Gustavo Morandi – Executive Chef, Cafe Del Mar

Culinary excellence with Gustavo Morandi, at Cafe Del Mar

On the shores of Darling Harbour, Cafe del Mar has stood as a Sydney landmark for over a decade. The venue welcomed esteemed chef, Gustavo Morandi, last month, bringing a fresh palate and perspective. We sat down with Gustavo to unpack his culinary journey, explore the essence of his food philosophy, and get an insight into the crucial process of selecting premium beef and fresh produce above all else.

A legacy rooted in simplicity

Raised on a family cattle farm in Brazil, Gustavo’s formative years were spent immersed in the rustic yet intense scenes of the beef industry, where he learnt the value of hard work and the importance of quality above all else. Graduating as a chef in 2009, Gustavo makes clear that, “great cooking is about discipline and respect—lessons I learned during my childhood and that have stayed with me until today.”

“Less is more, fresh is most”: a culinary mantra

Despite his experience and innate ability in the kitchen, Gustavo’s culinary mantra is a lesson in simplicity: “In the symphony of flavours, less is more, and freshness reigns supreme.” Similarly, his meticulous approach to premium beef selection is a choreography of simplicity, quality and humanity. With conviction, he emphasises, “I prefer grain fed beef, raised first in an open field without hormones to allow nature to do what she does best. No stress, fresh grass, nice weather, and plenty of space to stretch, finished with a grain fed diet.” This philosophy resonates in all his decision-making when it comes to food selection and preparation.

Australia’s beef influence

Gustavo’s respect for Australian beef unfolds through familial narratives. “Conversations with my father painted a vivid portrait of Australia’s unwavering commitment to culinary excellence, especially in the realm of superior beef quality. While there is undoubtedly exceptional and unique beef to be found elsewhere in the world, Australia can sit proudly knowing its up there with the best of the best.”

Premium produce: a symphony of patience and flavour

Delving into the intricacies of premium beef offerings, Gustavo extols the virtues of using flavourful cuts that offer serious bang for buck. “Sometimes what’s called for is a perfect, simple steak, but often I like to mix it up and use more economical cuts as well.” That’s why Gustavo values the opportunity to work with Andrews Meat Industries and JBS – “you know you’re getting the best quality produce from producers and growers where provenance, quality and supply are paramount.”

He’s hard pressed to single out a favourite beef dish but admits he’ll never get sick of crafting dishes like oxtail in a tomato roast braise. “It’s all about time and the quality of the produce, and you’re rewarded accordingly. Patience isn’t merely a virtue; it’s a key ingredient in the alchemy of flavour, so no shortcuts allowed!”

Insights into trends

Gustavo’s discerning eye captures the evolving cadence of culinary trends, noting that in this dynamic landscape, it’s evident that there’s been a resurgence of diners looking for simplicity, particularly when it comes to the meat we eat. “It’s about respecting the natural essence of the meat, aged to perfection, devoid of unnecessary embellishments. If your beef is good enough – if it’s from a local farm, raised and killed humanely and thoughtfully, and with integrity and care – you simply don’t need anything else.”

Inspiration from culinary pioneers

Drawing inspiration from culinary luminaries, including Marco Pierre White, Gustavo shares, “I’ve learnt that crafting an experience that lingers is the true art. It’s not just about creating a dish; it’s about creating an experience that resonates with people. That’s why we do what we do. This comes not only from investing in premium, seasonal produce but it’s about having a vision and putting that on the plate.” In the context of the kitchen, he adds, “Creating and nurturing a healthy, happy, united team is the goal. And that’s not always easy but it’s really the key. Creating something special on the plate starts and ends behind the scenes – it’s about fostering a culinary family – challenging, inspiring and learning from one another.”

Crafting a legacy

Gustavo reflects on what a culinary legacy means to him, saying, “It’s about simplicity and confidence—a delicate dance where each dish leaves an indelible mark. I want each plate to stand on its own and to tell a story. I’d love to be remembered for the passion and care I put into each dish.” In the heart of the kitchen, Gustavo’s passion comes alive. “The thrill lies in playing with people’s ego—the expectation, the anticipation. It’s not just about feeding; it’s about curating harmonious flavours that are memorable and evoke joy.”