A Food & Travel Blog

Celsius Adelaide – paddock to plate fine dining

01/12/2010 | By

Celsius is one of Adelaide’s newest restaurants, having opened with quite a buzz about three months ago.  Run, in partnership, by  chef Ayhan Erkoc – a member of Cole Thomas’ Empirical Cuisine Collective – and his brother Kasim, Celsius has brilliantly sustained that buzz, cementing a reputation for Modern International cuisine and, at the Adelaide Food Awards on Monday night, being formally recognized with the Best New Restaurant Award.  None of this comes as any surprise to those of us who have eaten there or who are familiar with Ayhan’s background, which includes a year spent at Sydney’s Marque Restaurant and some time at the currently very hot Noma in Denmark!    For fine dining in Adelaide, you really can’t do better – a meal at Celsius is a very special experience.

I don’t intend to write a review of Ayhan’s simply sublime food.  Others before me have done that and if you want an idea of what might await you, then let me direct you to The Foodologist’s review, written when the restaurant first opened, and the review written in The Adelaide Review just a week ago – both of which shed plenty of light on Ayhan’s skill.  I wanted to introduce you to this very modest, but exceptionally talented young man and show you what he gets up to when he’s not in the kitchen!

Born here in South Australia of Turkish parents, Ayhan was brought up in Murray Bridge on his parents market garden block.  His early exposure to fresh fruit and vegetables has obviously left a lasting impression upon him and it has become the foundation for the magic that he works on the plates in Adelaide.  Since he first conceived  the idea for Celsius, Ayhan was determined that he would only work with the very best and freshest of produce.  He wanted to have the option of working with sometimes new and often uncommon produce and the very youngest and most tender of vegetables – frequently these ingredients can be difficult and costly to source. However, with his parents retired and their glass houses idle, he knew exactly where it was all to come from!

Virtually all of the fresh vegetables, flowers, greens and herbs that are so thoughtfully and exquisitely used in his food come from this farm.  The extensive glasshouses contain row after row of  lettuces, carrots, tomatoes, cucumbers, zucchini, beetroot, cavolo nero, beans, rainbow chard, dill, coriander, parsley … well, I’m sure you get the picture!  Some things are grown for their fruit and others for their flowers.  The coriander is allowed to flower and Ayhan urges me to try one.  I am astonished by the flavour punch packed into such a tiny white flower!  Nasturtiums are grown for  both their leaf and flower, violas for the delicate flavour in the pretty flower.  Ayhan has recently added baby cucumbers with the flower still attached to his dishes – where else would he get those?

All of the herbs, flowers and vegetables that are picked fresh every morning are grown without the use of any pesticide sprays and are watered using water caught on the glass house roofs and stored in a nearby dam, thus making it a very environmentally friendly endeavour.  When Kasim isn’t working in the front of the restaurant, he and his wife are the farmers who tend the extensive plantings in the glass houses and also care for the large flock of egg-producing chooks employed by Celsius.  Ayhans hours in the restaurant are long – as any chef will tell you – but when he isn’t in the kitchen or foraging by torchlight in the parklands for snails or spending a few precious hours with his young family, he can be found in the glass houses, picking, planting and pondering the plating possibilities of his produce!

When you sit down to one of Ayhan’s extradordinary meals you will be enjoying food that is not only informed by his years of training and experience in places like The Pier in Sydney, the aforementioned Marque and Noma, Urban Bistro and The Manse here in Adelaide, but also food that is borne of a passion for and intimate knowledge of the ingredients.  Combine that with his skill, quiet determination and acute attention to detail and you have simply stunning cuisine.  Try it.

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  1. The Foodologist

    Great article Amanda!!

    Wonderful to see some of the background story behind this incredible individual. Very impressive indeed and a great scoop!!


  2. Cakelaw

    I enjoyed this “behind the scenes” look at the restauranteur – great post.

  3. Kate

    This sounds just the BEST restaurant. I am doing mu own little bit of paddock to plate at the moment with copious amounts of silver beet !!! Anyone want some ?? And lemons too – I have mountains of them !!

  4. Ann

    He is certainly a busy man, it makes me tired thinking about it! I enjoyed the read. I went to The Manse while he was still there and absolutely loved it, so can’t wait to try Celcius.

  5. Anna Johnston

    Thanks so much for bringing us more info about this awesome chef. I get so excited when people through good old fashioned word of mouth shine a light on these guys who show us the true secret of the best dishes passionate chefs can create – by simply using & knowing all about their ingredients.

  6. Amanda

    George – thanks for the feedback, it’s much appreciated.
    Gaye – thanks, glad you enjoyed it.
    Kate & Ann – his food is very special!
    Anna – this kind of true passion and knowledge really does show in the end result.
    Lorraine – it is still fantastic!

  7. cityhippyfarmgirl

    He must be a very busy man! Those vegetables in the glass house look fantastic.


    This chef’s philosophy is to be admired…and hopefully as time goes by, many more will follow into his footsteps.

    This was a great post Amanda…enjoyed the read and the lovely photos.

    Too bad we don’t live closer…sigh.
    Have a great weekend,

  9. Sarah @ For the Love of Food

    Thanks Amanda for another behind the scenes look at the people who grow, make and serve Adelaide’s best food! I have now earmarked Celcius for our next anniversary dinner (coming up in early in the new year). We ate at the Manse for our 10th anniversary and loved it so it will be lovely to try another of this chef’s ventres.

  10. Amanda

    Brydie – I’m not at all sure that this man ever sleeps!
    Claudia -perhaps there may be some travel somewhere in your future …?
    Sarah – I’m sure you won’t be disappointed.

  11. Celia

    Were that all food was grown and managed like that! Inspiring to find a chef who goes to so much effort and has so much insight into the origins of his ingredients. Thanks for the article, Amanda, great reading!

  12. Susan: My Food Obsession

    It is great to see restaurants starting to care about the origins of the food they serve. I bet the food is just delicious because of it!