Hi Danielle, tell us a little about yourself...
My name is Danielle Alvarez and I’m a professional chef (most recently Fred’s which I opened with Merivale) here in Australia, an avid home cook and cook book author (always add lemon, book 2 out in Nov. ’23). I was born in Miami, Fl to Cuban parents so the sun and beaches are in my blood. I have lived in Sydney for the past 8 years and live in Bronte with my partner, Dan and puppy Ripley.
How did your career in food start?
My mom and grandmother were amazing cooks and I always wanted to help in the kitchen. No one in my family had worked in hospitality so it was a really big decision to say I wanted to enrol in culinary school and become a chef. This was after studying art history in university and working in that space for several years before deciding to turn my hobby into career.I went to culinary school in Miami and then moved to the Napa Valley in California for my first restaurant job at The French Laundry, a 3 Michelin star restaurant in gorgeous wine country. This is where I discovered the beauty of farm to table cooking and I’ve never looked back since.
Does anyone in your family cook? If so - what is your favourite thing they make?
I come from a long line of amazing cooks. My mom’s “arroz con pollo” is famous in our family. It’s like a saucy paella, Cuban style. She has the magic touch and no one can make it as good, definitely not me! The secret ingredient is she finishes it with a splash of beer.
Must-have pantry staple? Good olive oil (I could drink it from the bottle).
Favourite cooking tool? And why?
My zester! Lately I’m into my little bartender's citrus zester which cuts little strips of citrus zest from the peel rather than light little flecks like you get with a microplane. I’m loving the distinct lemon flavour you get when you bite into a bigger piece of zest.
Do you have a favourite cookbook? What’s your most cooked recipe from it?
The Simple Art of Perfect Baking by Flo Braker. I adore cookbooks but love a vintage one most. Her recipes always work perfectly and her chiffon cake recipe is the gold standard. When you can’t be bothered to cook -but need to eat -what do you make?Even on the days I want to cook the least, I can still muster a simple pasta. It’s usually a cacio e pepe or spaghetti with garlic, anchovies, chilli, lemon and parsley. Mostly because those are ingredients I will always have on hand.
Friends have popped over unannounced - what’s on the menu?
This is the perfect place for snacks and a good reason to always keep nice ready-to-eat ingredients around. Really good tinned sardines or anchovies have saved me in a pinch before. This I would serve with soft butter and sourdough (something which I also always have). Time allowing I would whip up some gougeres, cheesy French puffs which are heaven with a cocktail or glass of champagne or toast up my sweet and salty nuts which are simple and addictive. That with a bowl of olives tossed in nice olive oil is something I would be proud to serve to unannounced or announced guests!
Fruit galette with a scoop of delicious ice cream. Any fruit really (as long as it’s in peak season) atop buttery, crispy, crunchy pastry is my idea of heaven.
It's the holiday season - what’s your favourite cocktail?
I love a negroni any time of year but when it’s really warm out, a negroni sbagliato is more fresh (by the addition of Prosecco) but equally delicious.
Best place in your city to eat?
Bar Vincent (other favourites include: 10 William Street, Ante, Café Paci, Paski, Lankan Filling Station, Poly)
Best food instagram accounts I follow... Gill Meller, Hugh Corcoran, Adam Liaw, Julia Bussutil Nishimura and Melina Hammer.
I chose the Franklin shirt because... It fits so beautifully. I have pretty broad shoulders so button up shirts always seem to pull at my back but not this one. I love the bold stripes and the cotton is so soft, breathable but still sturdy.
I’ll be wearing it... As my work uniform. The great thing is I know it can go from working hard in the kitchen to socialising with guests after an event. It makes me feel good and gives me confidence.
Top 5 picks from Irving & Powell:
Danielle's Prawn salad with dill and crème fraiche dressing
A dish made for the Australian summer
50g crème fraiche
1 small garlic clove, peeled and grated on a microplane
2 tbls. chopped chives
2 tbls. chopped dill
1.5 tsp. jalapeño hot sauce (optional)
¼ tsp. fine sea salt + more for cucumbers
1 tbls. fresh lemon juice
80g cucumber, sliced thinly on a mandolin
1 tsp. sugar
1 tbls. white wine vinegar
1 green shallot, thinly sliced
500g cooked Australian prawns
1 head baby cos, sliced thinly
- Combine the crème fraiche, mayonnaise, garlic, chives, dill, hot sauce (if using) ¼ tsp. salt, lemon juice with 2 tsp. water in a blender and blend until smooth. Pour into a jar or small bowl and seal and keep in the fridge until ready to use. This can be done several hours in advance.
- In a small mixing bowl, combine the sliced cucumbers with a good pinch of salt and toss together. Set it aside for 15 minutes. After this time, pour the cucumbers over a sieve and rinse under cold water. Rinse out the bowl and dry it. Squeeze the cucumbers to get as much water out as possible and then add to the bowl. Toss with the tsp. of sugar and the tbls. of white wine vinegar. This can be done a day in advance. Just before serving, toss the pickled cucumbers with the sliced green shallot.
- Peel your prawns leaving the tail on.
- Spread the sliced cos on the base of your plate. Top with the peeled prawns. Drizzle with the dressing and top with the pickled cucumbers. Top with extra black pepper and serve cold.
Follow Danielle on instagram here