Australian summers and barbecues go hand in hand. One man who knows a little more about this popular method of cooking than most is Rafael Tonon, head chef at Mr Busby’s, Dalwood Estate.
Born in Brazil with Italian lineage, he grew up in a family of restaurateurs and chefs. His earliest memories are of working alongside his Nonna in her kitchen, making traditional pasta from scratch.
Tonon has called Australia home for the past 16 years. During that time he was executive chef at the Publica Group in Sydney, worked under Pete Evans at Hugo’s and for Massimo Mele’s catering business, and had brief stints at Sydney restaurants Fei Jei and Barrio Chino.
His summer preference is to cook seafood on the barbecue because it’s “light, quick and easy when entertaining guests”. When cooking for friends and family at home, Tonon also prefers cooking in what he describes as “a more progressive sharing style”.
“As a Brazilian, when it comes to barbecuing it’s all about socialising,” he told Food & Wine. That means – for the cook, anyway – keeping things simple and preparing in advance.
“My top tips? Firstly, make sure your barbecue is as clean as possible,” he said.
“Also, pre-heating your barbecue is a must. I would recommend cooking over coals or wood for a great flavour experience. And use the freshest produce from your local butcher or fishmonger.”
When it comes to cuts of meat, he is partial to a rump cap.
“It’s an old favourite as it has a beautiful cap of fat which crisps up when barbecued. Also, chicken hearts are a little unusual but if you’re willing to give them a go, you won’t regret it.
“Wagyu skirt is also great. It’s packed full of flavour. Ask your local butcher for the freshest produce available. If you’re looking for something special, I would recommend trying Victor Churchill butcher in Woollahra.
“And if you’re time poor, try to find primary cuts where you can simply seal, rest and serve. For example, a beautiful scotch fillet, making sure it’s not too thick.”
When it comes to sauces or marinades and proteins, Tonon says it’s simply a matter of personal preference.
“On a steak, I would only use salt and pepper however when cooking some squid, over coals, I would marinate with chilli, oregano, lemon zest and garlic for something different and yummy.”
As for slow cooking, it’s “awesome”, he says. “We do a lot of smoking for our restaurants MEET and Mr Busby’s where we cook brisket for 12 hours on low temperature to maximise tenderness and moisture while creating a delicious smoky flavour.”
- Tonon shared this simple barbecue rub recipe for chicken wings cooked in a smoker: 6 tbs sweet paprika, 2 tbs smoked paprika, 2 tbs brown sugar, 2 tbs sea salt, 1 tbs ground black pepper, 2 tbs dried oregano.
Mr Busby’s is open Saturday and Sunday, 8am to 4pm, 700 Dalwood Road, Dalwood. It’s a Brazilian-inspired, family-friendly restaurant on the banks of the Hunter River with an emphasis on slow food. Everything is made from scratch using seasonal, local produce and quality ingredients.