Pembrokeshire born and raised, Kiren Mainwaring has gone on to great things in Western Australia. With wife Kelli, he is the chef and owner of two of the states best restaurants, Dear Friends and Co-op Dining. But he hasn’t forgotten his coastal roots. He’s seen in this short film with Rich Keam (Taste Master WA) catching and cooking Western Rock Lobster.
Wouldn't mind getting out to Perth and trying Kiren's favourite restaurants!
Were you always interested in becoming a chef?
“I’ve been learning to cook since I can remember. My mum was a vegan and hated to cook, so after my first bacon sandwich I taught myself to cook. When I was about 15 I worked at the hotel Alt-yr-Afon (Wolfscastle country hotel) on weekends and school holidays as a plate runner for the silver service restaurant. I was hooked. I loved the kitchen environment.”
Where did you train?
“After finishing school and realising I wasn't going to be the new bassist for Metallica I asked Andrew Sterling the owner of the hotel if I could train in the kitchen and that's how it started. I probably didn’t think I’d be where I am all these years later.”
Pembrokeshire is a long way from Perth, what prompted you to move?
“Back in 1988 I came to Perth to visit my nan. I went from a cold rainy winter in Wales to surfing everyday on some of the most beautiful beaches I’d seen. It was heaven. I always dreamed of moving to Western Australia and we made that happen.”
How would you describe your style of cooking?
“ It's hard to describe as a style of cooking. It’s more a way of thinking about what we use. A produce driven approach using foraged and small farm ingredients and then a range of traditional and modern cooking techniques. A combination of my heritage and what the produce requires.”
In the film we see you using a lot of local produce and of course the fresh caught rock lobster, do you cook with local produce in your restaurants?
“We do. As much as I love the likes of the rock lobster and those hero ingredients I also like to but the spotlight on those ingredients people don’t always think about. On a Tuesday night at Co-op we have an experimental vegetarian night, which is a five course set menu using only vegetables picked that day. I forage things like the samphire locally but we also use vegetables from Perth City Farm which is minutes away in East Perth. It's a very popular event.”
Restaurants are hard work, what do you do to relax?
“We live in the Perth hills which is a special place. A relaxing Sunday would be taking the dogs for a walk to the farmers market at Kalamunda. One of the best in the state. Gathering some goodies and enjoying good food with good friends. It’s those simple things in life that sometimes get forgotten”.
Other than your own, what are your favourite restaurants in WA or elsewhere?
“There’s so many, but I love Restaurant Amuse, Red Cabbage, Petit Mort, Clarkes of North Beach and of course Divido. These restaurants are all incredibly exciting, professional and a real credit to the dining scene in Perth”.