Your tastebuds can thank the French cooking of Etienne Karner’s mother for his interest in fine food. Although the German-born Karner took up his first apprenticeship at age 20 in a traditional German kitchen, it was peeling potatoes and stirring sauces in his mother’s kitchen that sparked his gastronomic journey that has brought him to Sydney as the new head chef in the Park Hyatt Sydney’s Dining Room.
Cooking is more than just a job for Karner – it’s a passion. During his time in Paris in Micheli-starred kitchens he would spend his days off touring other award-winning restaurants – “I could not afford to eat there but I would look at the menus,” says Karner – and spending all his money on cookbooks.
His career has taken him form Germany through to France, the United Arab Emirates and India before bringing him to Sydney where he is launching a seasonally-led menu at the stunning waterfront hotel. “Right now we are already looking to spring. We work closely with suppliers and farmers and they guide us on which produce we should use when. The rest is easy, [because] to make a dish you need a few star ingredients and the rest falls together. Consistency is the hardest thing, it is easy to make a dish, but to make that dish a hundred times exactly the same is almost being perfect.”
Luckily for Karner practice has made perfect, especially when it comes to his signature dish at the Dining Room, the kangaroo tartar. “Using kangaroo meat in a dish turned out to be more difficult than I thought. Eventually I tried it in a tartar with a soft quail egg and truffle mayonnaise and served it along with warm potato beignets. It all worked really well together and our guests love it,” says Karner.
Something that Karner feels differs when you’re dining in a hotel is that the guests are feel more comfortable requesting exactly what they want, especially when it comes to dietary requirements “We want to deliver a great experience regardless of how challenging their request is. You just expect that from a five star hotel kitchen,” says Karner.
“When I worked in Dubai for the Burj Al Arab Hotel we had many strange requests. Once I had to organize a seven-course degustation for a family in their villa for 12 guests, however one of them wanted all seven dishes to be liquid - but still the highest standard. It wasn’t easy but we made it happen,” says Karner.
But it is that welcoming attitude that Karner likes about high-end hotel kitchens, which is why he is so stoked to be shaking the pans at the Park Hyatt.
Luckily you don’t have to be staying the hotel to dine on the harbour front and enjoy the new spring menu that launches tomorrow.