Tell us about your family’s long history with cooking.
Food has always been a central part of our daily lives. Growing up the son of two chefs and living in and around restaurants all my life – following in my parents’ footsteps was hard to resist.
Take us through your own journey with food.
One of my childhood memories is waiting for the cooks in the kitchen of our family’s restaurant to slow down so I could dash from my bedroom – through the kitchen – to the bathroom.
I started my apprenticeship with my mother and then continued my training in the kitchens of some of Adelaide’s most iconic restaurants. After qualifying, I then travelled and worked in Europe (falling in love with charcuterie along the way) and finally landed in Melbourne where I worked for years at Il Bacaro.
After starting our family and moving to Kyneton we opened a wood-fired pizzeria called Pizza Verde – it became a local classic and won loads of awards. We sold it to create Piper St Food Co – a small boutique charcuterie and now home to our famous pork pie and a busy cooking school.
The older I get, the more I realise how important food is as a way of bringing people together and creating connections. I feel privileged to be able to make food that people take into their homes or on picnics and share with loved ones.
What has been your inspiration for the focus on preservation and charcuterie?
I am fascinated by the traditions and skills of preserving food. It is so ancient but still makes so much sense. Travelling through Europe opened my eyes to these centuries-old techniques of preserving meats – it was done purely out of necessity – initially to use every part of the animal and to provide protein for the winter months. The variations from village to village and slight regional differences was something I became very interested in. After returning home I discovered a second-hand copy of Jane Grigson’s 1967 classic The Art of Making Sausages, Pâtés and other Charcuterie – it is beautifully written and captures all of those regional recipes I wanted to know more about. My copy is now falling apart because I refer to it so often – we have used the recipes as a basis of so much of what we do here at Piper St Food Co.
Travelling through Europe opened my eyes to these centuries-old techniques of preserving meats – it was done purely out of necessity – initially to use every part of the animal and to provide protein for the winter months.
How does where you live influence your cooking?
Living and working in Kyneton – in the Macedon Ranges – is just so easy. We are blessed with loads of small, quality growers and producers – as well as beautiful natural mineral springs. But the biggest influence is actually being amongst other makers – Kyneton is home to the Lost Trades Fair – and there is a growing, thriving community of people that make, grow and cook using traditional methods. Our cooking classes are all based on traditional methods: making things from scratch using hands and traditional tools and utensils. Some of our classes with Rundell&Rundell mean you even get to make your tools first and then come and do a class.
What do you love about living in Kyneton?
The natural environment – fresh air, mineral springs, beautiful walks and swimming holes – it’s such an easy place to live and raise a family (we have five kids). It’s a real community too; business owners and individuals work together to support each other and offer unique experiences (and thankfully we have great locals who support these unique small businesses).
Plus, all the great food (wine, gin, beer, cheese, olives, restaurants, farmers markets etc) on our doorstep.
What is your favourite region outside of where you live?
Bright (Alpine Shire). Every year in January we close up shop for a week and load the trailer full of bikes and head to Bright. We do a bike ride in the morning, plan meals and cook during the day, and swim in the afternoon. There’s lots of beautiful swimming holes and hikes and we’ll often do day trips or rides to other little towns. Each evening after dinner we always walk up to the ice-cream shop and maybe to the water park for another swim. It’s just very relaxed family time – with lots of boardgames, reading and games of backyard cricket (all the kids work alongside us in the business, so this is a well-deserved break for everyone!).
Join Damian in his beautiful commercial kitchen in Piper St, Kyneton for a fun, hands-on Traditional English Pork Pie–making class with all the trimmings. Book here.