In any big city culinary playground the established star chefs are the stags of the forest. But as trends percolate and new talent is lured to world-class capitals, the young bucks are those who keep ideas flowing.
Canadian up-and-comer Tyson Gee is conjuring ‘sophisticated rustic’ cuisine at Radii Restaurant & Bar in Melbourne’s Park Hyatt, a hotel prized for its spatial grandeur. Of half German and Chinese provenance, Gee’s experience at the Park Hyatt in his hometown Vancouver paved the way to a global career - first stop, Australia.
“Vancouver is more laid back and relaxed like Melbourne; Toronto is the big, bustling neighbour, just like Sydney.”
Gee’s enthusiasm for food kicked-in early. “I begged my parents to try new flavours while travelling. You never know, it may taste amazing!” In high school, Gee had the good fortune to enrol in a culinary arts programme. “It was way beyond basic baking. We learnt about stocks, sauces and basic knife skills. By the time I got to the Hyatt I could work on banquets and pastries across all stations. It was great training in creating daily specials, costing a menu and bringing a restaurant to the next level.”
After his early bootcamp training, Gee was ready to make the most of Australia’s renowned foodie culture. “It’s incredible how locals support the food scene here – back in Canada casual food rules. But Aussies are really willing to seek out new food, spend money, experiment…”
Gee’s Instagrams showcase his flair for artful plating that still looks farm fresh; Radii’s Thai Chicken is heaped spectacularly high with herb leaf. “The house-made coconut yoghurt with marinated chicken leg, lots of fresh herbs and pickled baby vegetables is out of this world!”
Gee cites fish sauce, coconut milk, and lemongrass as cornerstone ingredients. “Thai Asian is very aromatic and flavourful: you have the bitter, salty, sour and sweet, from palm sugar to lemons and kaffir limes. I like acid, especially sherry vinegar, and pungent citrusy flavours that pop.”
Dishes like wagyu beef cheeks braised in veal jus, lacquered in orange and served with shaved black truffles over pommes purée, butter and cream exemplify his mantra: local, fresh, simple and delicious.
“Refined rustic cuisine starts with your producers. We have hands down the best fish in Australia, hand-caught and killed painlessly. Our pork farmer is only a two-hours’ drive away and all our beef and lamb comes from the Gippsland region.”
While the challenge of any hotel chef is the business guest who wants to default to steak and chips, Gee’s seasonal, produce-driven fusion menu is attracting 50% locals.
“At Radii we do things differently and people come to experience that. We break away from being a hotel restaurant - our mission is to be a restaurant inside a hotel.”