In May 2018 it’s coming up for 12 months since chef Asher Blackford took the lead in the kitchen at Southern Ocean Lodge. With a history of running and owning his own restaurants in Brisbane and Melbourne, the move to take up the role as Head Chef of one of Australia’s best known luxury lodges presented a whole new challenge.
Over the 12 months, Asher has reconstructed his team which now includes many of the trusted team members he has worked with over the past decade or so. Given the long hours in the kitchen Asher is very committed to fostering an ambience based on mutual respect, creating a team of people who want to be on the job.
One of the key differences Asher identifies between managing a luxury lodge kitchen and one’s own restaurant is derived from the all-inclusive nature of a lodge experience. Diners at a restaurant are coming to a venue for a dedicated dining experience. The meal is the star and focus. At a lodge, the dining experience is vitally important but it also comes as part of an overall package, so it is interdependent on the lodge surrounds, the destination, service and experiences. Designing a daily-changing menu that is both locally- and seasonally-focused is a positive challenge that ensures the team is dynamic and thinking outside the square.
For Asher, it’s vital to get the guest’s first meal at Southern Ocean Lodge just right. It’s that moment of anticipation where the guest is reassured that the dining is going to be great over the duration of their stay. So it’s at that first moment that Asher and his team build trust with the guest. It’s also important to note that whilst guests at a restaurant might choose a three course meal as a once-a-week or special affair, at Southern Ocean Lodge each meal can be a multi-course event. So with that in mind it’s important to offer some more simple food combinations over the course of a guest’s stay.
Seafood on Kangaroo Island is the biggest food joy for Asher. It’s fresh, fabulous and available in abundance, with King George Whiting, beach-caught salmon and oysters as highlights. Guests are surrounded by the Southern Ocean and the views from the restaurant and the suites look to the sea, so naturally guests are keen to order it from the menu. The visual and taste aesthetics of each dish tend to be organic and very much refer to Kangaroo Island’s wildly beautiful landscape.