Wills Domain 2017 Winner
The West Australian Good Food Guide regional restaurant of the year is Wills Domain at Margaret River. It wowed the judges with its clever cookery, delivered without gimmicks or complication and it’s stunning location and seamless, casual service. The owner of Wills Domain is Darren Haunold. He spoke to Hermione Stott.
Q: What does the Good Food Guide win mean for you and your team at Wills Domain?
A: It’s fantastic recognition for the chefs and the team and all their hard work and dedication. The guys here go over and above what you’d expect them to do. This is not a job that they watch the clock on, they put in the hours and it’s a testament to that type of application and loyalty to the team. Seth (executive chef) is a bit of a unicorn, I’ve never seen a harder working chef.
Q: Why do you believe it’s important to have awards such as the Good Food Guide?
A: It’s important that we acknowledge the depth and dynamic of WA food culture. As an industry we are very different to the offerings on the east coast but in WA I believe we are doing a great job of providing an excellent offering.
Q: How would you describe Seth’s cooking?
A: He’s technically brilliant. He has a way with texture and balance and the art of plating – it’s restrained and completely thoughtful. He’s inspired by produce and being edgy and different. He draws his inspiration from a lot of sources and if it’s not the 600 cook books he owns, it’s the produce itself and coming up with an innovative way to embrace its flavour, find its brilliance and put it on a plate. Sometimes it’s really simple, but sometimes it’s all about technique and that can be really mind bending. Seth is also all about reuse and getting maximum bang for your buck from the produce with minimal wastage. He recently made a sauce from squid innards – he’ll come up with a way to use everything.
Q: You’ve recently changed your food offering. How has the changed/affected the business?
A: It’s been great. There’s a balance in understanding your customer base and where we are geographically and the kind of tourists we get. People know us for the tasting menu and they come for that amazing experience – it really is an unrivalled experience in WA food. Then there’s the people that don’t know Wills Domain and don’t know what to expect and come for a tasting or a family lunch and catch up with friends so a tasting menu may not suit that environment. Our sharing menu is more like a feast and really takes us back to where we started from – not platters, but Wills used to be about sharing food – conversation and good times. We wanted to offer that and take it back to the grass roots to all those years ago.
Q: What’s next at Wills?
A: More exciting food and more innovation. While the “hot” food hype at the moment is native ingredients a lot of that produce is not supplied locally anymore and comes from overseas, which is disappointing. We are going to stick with our guns and continue to support our local farmers and produce. Seth’s technique and food knowledge is where Wills will shine.
Margaret River in particular is perhaps the premier wine region in Australia in terms of the quality and dynamism of its restaurant scene."