In December 2013 Jacques Reymond closed the doors of his eponymous French restaurant in Prahran after 23 years of service. Five years later, the feted chef is still not exactly retired, though he is selective about the kind of events he is involved with these days.
He didn’t hesitate when asked to cook at the Australian Open again.
“I love tennis, I love every sport,” he says. “It is very exciting to be part of these big events and for a chef it’s great exposure too.”
Reymond will be involved in three gala dinners from January 20 to 22 as part of the Australian Open Chef Series at The Glasshouse events space, adjacent to Rod Laver Arena.
He is looking to his homeland for inspiration; he’s designing a French-style six-course menu using the finest local and seasonal ingredients. There will be a selection of two appetisers: oyster with a ceviche of yellowfin tuna, and snails encrusted with cherry tomatoes and baked in the oven with garlic butter.
For entree, Reymond will serve spanner crab with avocado and tomato chilli jam (“We use fresh wasabi from Tasmania and beautiful, beautiful spanner crab,” says Reymond) and deep-sea grouper with Petuna brand ocean trout, also from Tasmania, baked in the oven with puff pastry.
“With the puff pastry, we give it some scales so it looks just like a fish and we serve it with a beautiful sauce of champagne,” says Reymond.
The main course will be Peking duck à l’orange with black rice, dried grapes and cranberries. “It’s a sweet, sour and acidic dish that is glazed for a long time in the oven until it gets very soft and very tasty,” says Reymond.
Dessert is a Martini of bittersweet chocolate with caramelised rice puffs, and a French meal wouldn’t be complete without cheese, here served whole and baked in the oven. “One will be wrapped in paper-tree bark, there will be a cow cheese and a goat cheese as well, and it will be all flavoured with candied garlic, wild thyme, bay leaves, all the stuff which gives it a beautiful flavour,” says Reymond.
The food will be matched with champagne, sauvignon blanc, a Yarra Valley chardonnay, pinot noir from Tasmania, a “very special, very unique” French wine and tokay from Rutherglen. “So there will be plenty of wine, plenty of food, plenty of fun,” says Reymond. Dinner will be served at 5pm, after which guests can enjoy the evening session of tennis from 7.30pm.
Since closing his restaurant five years ago Reymond has been busy with a handful of projects. There’s L’Hotel Gitan in Prahran and Bistro Gitan in South Yarra, both of which are run by Reymond’s children, Antoine, Edouard and Nathalie, with help from Reymond and his wife, Kathy.
He has acted as consultant for restaurants in Fiji, including Turtle Island Resort and The Auberge Group Nanuku Resort, the latter of which won Best Fine Dining Resort in Fiji in 2016. For the past two years, Reymond has also worked as a judge and mentor in the Asia Pacific region for the San Pellegrino Young Chef of the Year award. And back in Melbourne, he regularly returns to the kitchen for special events such as the Spring Racing Carnival, the Grand Prix and, of course, the tennis.
“When you prepare a big event, you need a month of strong preparation, of talking to the chefs and suppliers and finding all the best ingredients you can have,” he says. “It can be very stressful, it’s a different way to work but your mind and spirit is very occupied.
“It’s a good balance, I enjoy it.”
The Australian Open Chef Series features chefs Simone Zanoni (January 14 to 16), Alejandro Saravia (January 17 to 19), Jacques Reymond (January 20 to 22) and Duncan Welgemoed (January 23 to 25). Tickets are on sale now.
This article is produced by Broadsheet in partnership with the Australian Open.