Each month we feature an International Chef of Chef Works. If you’re a fan of Chef Works gear and are interested in being featured, email firstname.lastname@example.org. Pictured above is our September International CoCW, Chef Brett Humphries, photographed at the Desert Gardens Hotel in Australia in his Hartford Chef Coat and Butcher Apron (note: the pictured apron is currently only available in Australia).
Smack dab in the middle of the Australian Outback there are cooking techniques going on that you probably won’t see on any television show. There are flavor profiles known only to those who inhabit the land and ingredients that rarely travel the thousands of miles to the country’s larger cities.
This is where Brett Humphries works to perfect his craft. The executive sous chef at the Desert Gardens Hotel works in the shadow of Ayers Rock, one of the world’s most recognizable natural landmarks.
“We are directly next to two very special parts of this country called Uluru and Kata Tjuta,” Humphries explained. “We are very fortunate to have the elders and guides of these special places who tell us stories of the culture and the food they have used for thousands of years. From baking to foraging history, we draw our inspiration for our menu from offerings from the land and from the culture.”
For a little geographic perspective, put Australia inside of the continental U.S. Sydney would be around Virginia. Humphries works near what would be the Colorado/Kansas border. Perth would be San Diego.
“It takes a certain kind of person to live and work so remotely in an often-harsh and dry environment,” said Humphries, 30. “I am fortunate to be a part of a team of great junior chefs and our executive chef supports me and my ‘out there’ ideas and offers advice and inspiration.”
Humphries is originally from the eastern part of the country from the town of Toowoomba, about 90 minutes west of Brisbane and eastern shoreline. There he was exposed to cooking at an early age by his father, who would cater weddings and events. Brett would often tag along. That led to his first job at age 14, where he washed dishes.
“Food and cooking have been a massive part of my life for as long as I can remember,” Humphries said. “Food brings people and family together. There’s no other career where you can complement a great night out and connect with so many senses – smell, feel, look, taste and sound.”
Freshness and creativity are what drives Humphries, who draws on the experience he gained cooking in numerous regions throughout the country.
“I use the land as my guide,” he said. “For instance, when I worked in Tasmania, I would wait at the fishing docks for the fishing boats to arrive with local crayfish, abalone, mussels and oysters. I drive far and wide to find the right product and utilize local knowledge as much as possible.”
Humphries doesn’t just eat food. He sleeps it! A self-confessed sleep-talker, he’s been known to call out orders in his sleep. It consumes him. And that’s why he’s passionate about the people who consume his food.
“As chefs, we are learning every day,” he said. “The best way to learn is from the people who eat your food and grow and catch it. It’s about seeking wisdom in the most unlikely places and inspiring others by passing on that knowledge. I’m always telling my junior chefs to get in and feel the food. Look, smell and touch what you are cooking.”