With a wealth of experience in the industry, Martin Bouchier, Executive Chef at Hot Tamale in Darwin, has seen the city's dining scene evolve and and broaden its dining horizons to become a foodie destination
Can you tell us about the food scene in the Northern Territory?
The old days of “pile 'em high” and “she’ll be right” are thankfully departing. You can still get a good steak or a great snitty in the taverns, but you can also get an awesome laksa or pho on a street corner, inspired local cuisine from a plethora of modern restaurants, fusion foods from the cafes and restaurants run by our melting pot of Territorians or an equally great coffee that matches anything Melbournesque.
What does Hot Tamale uniquely offer both the local diner and visitors alike?
Hot Tamale opened six years back when “Mexican Food was basically unheard of in Australia and tequila was what you shotted in a club to get wrecked”. Over the years, and since I’ve been in the kitchens, it’s been great to change those perceptions and set a trend of educating our customers. We use subtle spicing and our own modern twist on traditional dishes. We don’t do burritos and Tex Mex, but we tweak recipes from our travels around the great regions of Mexico itself, offering great value to anyone that takes a seat. We have agave spirits that would suit anybody – tequilas, mezcals, sotol, bacanora, raicilla … in fact, over 300 bottles … literally something for everyone, tourist and local alike. Our bar team are amongst some of the top in the country, breaking boundaries in beverages. All in all, our customers get something truly special.
You are also President of the ACF NT Chapter. What responsibilities are involved in that role?
It’s an honour being part of a great national organisation trying to make a difference in a much-maligned industry. I am lucky that I get to travel around this great country, meet some great people and eat some great food. My true enjoyment comes from helping aspiring chefs and cooks in their attempts to achieve their goals. My phone is always on and it’s awesome helping out the next generation. I believe in passing it forward and have had my fair amount of help and advice in 40 years of burning ingredients! I love passing it on to the next for the next.
What produce or ingredients are you particularly enjoying working with at the moment?
The NT has some truly awesome produce. Our fisheries are second to none. We have great beef producers and the markets are full of phenomenal local grown produce. We’ve been developing a couple of dishes using Spanish mackerel and I’ve been using a fair bit of Eva Valley grass-fed beef. What I love about up here is we all know each other. I can ring Pete and Fi and get a different cut done off their cattle as they have their own abattoir on the farm, or I can ring Niall or Ziko and find out what the boats have landed this morning.
What in your opinion does G&M bring to Australia?
It was founded in the year I was born so that’s got to be a good thing! I believe any guide produced and researched by our peers and people knowledgeable in our industry is a good thing. There are the Insta-warriors and TripAdvisor “critics” that have an opinion … which is perfectly OK. But genuine, unbiased critics giving valued judgement of us as we toil in our industry, I have never had a problem with. I even use the G&M app when I’m interstate. What does G&M bring? Honesty!