Acre is one of the buzziest new cafes in Sydney, and we caught up with chef Gareth Howard ahead of showcasing two of their best recipes as our first Guest Cafe Series partner of 2017.## How did Acre get started?
Driven by a vested interest in the future of sustainable food in Australia, Luke joined Pocket City Farms, who operate the adjoining farm land to acre. Once the venue was secured, the team set about creating an immersive dining experience, transforming sustainable produce into creative and exciting dishes, packed full of flavour, all set within a broader community space operated by Camperdown Commons. ## Tell us the story of how you got to where you are today?
Ive just been extremely lucky to have worked with some great people with a crazy passion for fresh food. My first job as a school kid was in a restaurant working under a seasoned Michelin chef from France. He used to be at the market at 5am every morning, picking the produce for the restaurant that day. The quality and technique in that food was unreal. I landed my first head chef job by chance at age 23, and later went to work for Jamie Oliver in the UK. I stayed with Jamie for 7 years. I helped open several venues for the group before holding an Area Chef role looking after 10 restaurants. I learnt so much working for that group. They were pioneers of so many things and led the market in fresh food chain restaurants. I decided I would like a change of scenery, and the group offered me the chance to move to Australia to work. I worked for Jamie Oliver for 18 months before the opportunity came up with Acre. The foundations of the restaurant were built on everything Im passionate about. Fresh, seasonal, local food served simply on a plate to as many people as we can. It was an easy decision for me, and something I had to do. ## Best part of running your own cafe?
Writing menus is always the best bit of operating a restaurant. We are lucky here as we print the menus in house, meaning we can change them almost every day if we wish. The menu is dictated by the season and what is available from the garden or local farms, so we need to be flexible. ## "What is guaranteed though is freshness and flavour from Australias incredible produce."
What is behind your culinary inspiration?
Its become a bit of a cliché in recent times, but Im a chef who cooks with the seasons. I was raised in an agricultural market town in South Wales, Uk, and saw firsthand what food was available at markets every week. All the chefs I worked with at the start of my career would only source ingredient from local markets using seasonal, local product. ## "Ive always followed these rules:
If a product isnt cheap, and isnt in abundance at a local market, you probably shouldnt be eating it."
It means we are putting strain on the farmers and the environment in order to get it. Australia is so blessed with such incredible product, that you shouldnt have to look further than your local state for all your produce. We work hard at Acre to source as much of our produce from NSW as we possibly can, to support local producers and lower our travel miles. ## Best cooking advice youve received?
One of my old head chefs used to say to me, if food doesnt make you smile when you put it in your mouth, you havent cooked it well enough! That has stuck with me forever. When we are doing menu tastings in the restaurant, thats the only thing I look for. Peoples faces give it away.## What's your favourite thing to cook?
I hadnt had much exposure to South East Asian cooking before moving to Australia. I did a bit of travelling on the way here and did some cookery schools in Thailand and Vietnam, so Im still practising my skills here nearly every day. Its such an exciting cuisine. ## Favourite cuisine?
Its a toss-up between Mediterranean and south east Asian. The food of Italy, France and Spain is simply incredible on all levels, but I find Asian cuisine and the balance of flavour they achieve quite astonishing. ## Three tools you cant live without in the kitchen?
A chef cant live without his knives so that is one. My chefs will rib me if I dont say blow torch, as Im always using one at Acre. We have got a yoder smoker at the restaurant as well which is amazing for smoking fish, meats and vegetables. ## What recipes are in the Marley Spoon box this month? What inspired it?
Weve done a risotto which has been one of the biggest selling dishes in the restaurant for the last few months. Its a dish that you can change up all year round by adding different vegetables and herbs that are in season at that time. A great recipe to keep in your book and a simple dinner in under half an hour.Weve put a tasty salad in there as well. One you can either have as dinner when you get home, or a lunch to take to work the next day, or both! Its super tasty and healthy as well. Order Marley Spoon today to try Acre's dishes and receive $35 off your first delivery!