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Cooking With Intent

An amazing meal is like any unforgettable cultural experience – it awes and inspires. It’s generous in experience, and it sparks both contemplation and joy. But it’s also rare; the mastery of an exceptional dish is akin to great art.

Which suits Fred’s Head Chef Danielle Alvarez just fine. Great art is a love of the young chef, and in another life the American-born Cuban may have taken her degree in art history and run headfirst into a gallery with it.

Instead she chose to channel her creativity into the kitchen. And after honing her cooking skills under the tutelage of Alice Waters – owner of famous Californian restaurant Chez Panisse and grandmother of the farm to table food movement – the softly spoken and seemingly ever-calm Alvarez is bringing her own brand of art to Sydney’s Oxford St. 

With a passion for sustainability, and along with assembling a team of like-minded chefs and staff, Alvarez has spent the last year carefully curating a list of local farmers – fruit, vegetable, dairy, poultry, fish and meat – who will provide the bulk of Fred’s ethically produced and all-natural fare.

Then, from what is available at any given time (be it weekly or daily), Alvarez will craft a menu designed to showcase the integrity of the freshest ingredients.

“I want the relationship with the farmers to be about them telling me what’s great this week,” Alvarez explains. “Then from our larder and pantry and cool rooms, we can write the menu.”

Alvarez says that because of how this process will work – getting word from suppliers in the Blue Mountains and The Hawksbury amongst others – the menu will be ever-changing and steer away from ‘signature dishes.’

“This kind of food is less about the idea than it is about the ingredients. Of course there will be an element of inventiveness, but you’ll also see classic combinations; lovely old time flavours really simply put together.

“For example, you might see roast pork loin and apples, only it’s the best pork we’ve been able to get and the best apples, so in that sense it should taste different to anything you’ve ever had.”

Adding to the natural essence of Fred’s, Alvarez and her team will be cooking on free standing Tuscan grills and a large, custom-made, hearth. “Cooking with fire is first and foremost about flavour. But in addition to that, I like using it because I think working with an open flame makes you a better chef.

“You have to use all your senses. You have to really think about creating the perfect environment to cook different produce. It’s not like switching on a gas burner; it’s really engaging.”

The thoughtfulness behind cooking with fire mirrors Alvarez’s, and Fred’s, overarching ethos – nothing is by accident and everything has a purpose. The food, of course, is chosen very carefully, as is the handmade crockery on your table and the art on the walls. Everything at Fred’s aims to connect you – to an artist or farmer, the earth, to the people around you… 

“I don’t think we communicate with each other as well as we used to,” says Alvarez. “But I like to use food as a way to counteract that.

“We’ll be working from an open kitchen, and I hope that people will feel comfortable coming and saying hi. The way you cook for your friends and family – with so much love and thought behind it – that’s what I want people to feel like at Fred’s; that they’ve come to our house and been taken really good care of. I’d love that.” 

Fred's welcomes walk-ins and reservations. Call +61 2 9240 3000 or book online.