Celsius Adelaide – paddock to plate fine dining
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.