Gerald Melieres – Le Bistro Gourmand

What do you love about living in the Southern Highlands?

It’s quiet – but only in appearance. It can be quite vibrant at other times. You don’t have the stress of the big city! However, there are moments of excitement. And naturally, it’s very beautiful of course.

What do you think makes this region so special for food & wine?

I believe that because there is less stress, people can enjoy food & wine better. It’s easier to think about pleasure here than in a big city. When people come here, they are at ease. Their pace is different, they’re not in a hurry. That’s why the come here! They come here to relax, and we are supposed to bring them the excitement.

What local seasonal produce are you using on the menu at Le Bistro Gourmand at the moment?

First of all, the beer that is made in Moss Vale from the Taphouse is the only beer we serve. For the rest, we have eggs from a local private farm, all the meat comes from a butcher from here, the bread comes from here. We don’t use any of the big factories. Everything we can find locally, we take. We prefer local products – for a few reasons. Number one, because of course it helps the people and the region. Let’s try to help each other! But secondly, because I am most sure of the quality. And for me the quality is first. As long as I can afford it, I want the best! Here, you can control the quality better when you know where it’s coming from. For example, for the eggs, I know them. I know the lady and the guy, and I even know the ducks and the chickens! Not their names… but I’ve met them before! When I go to the farm, I see them and they say “quack quack quack” – I don’t speak duck, I think they’re saying hello. We are quite careful here with selecting our produce.

What are your top 3 tips for people visiting the Highlands?

What I always tell people is that they should try different places. Sometimes people get attached to one place. For example, people come here to Le Bistro every time they visit the Highlands. And while I appreciate that, I believe it’s a mistake. People are not really trying to discover. If they find something that they like, they go there always. I’d like people to try other places! And then the whole area becomes a venue, and not a place. For example, I’d like the people who go to Berrima not to go to there because they saw in the paper that Eschalot is very good. No! You go to Berrima because it’s a nice place, and one day you try Eschalot, and the next day you try Magpie Café. Then you try Josh’s, and all the rest. I want people to understand that every area is a venue. This means that the people can come more often. That’s what some businesses here don’t understand. They try to fight for customers, when in fact we should all be fighting for the area. I always say that if tomorrow we get 1 million people here, then we’d share them. No problem! It’s because, especially at the moment, we only have 100 people, so everyone fights to get them. Let’s make the whole region a venue, a destination, and let’s have a certain standard for every restaurant and café. Let’s represent something, and the people will come not knowing ahead of time where they want to go. That is the fun! For example, when I’m in Paris and I’m deciding where I want to eat, I never decide on the restaurant. I choose an area, and I go there and wander around to smell and see… and then I find something I like. It’s the same for wine too. And this is how we learn and develop our palates – by discovering places and trying new things.

What is your food philosophy?

It is a very straightforward philosophy. The food has to be simple, the food has to represent what we write on the menu, and the main ingredient has to be obvious. Here you will never see something and not know what you’re eating. We don’t put fancy flowers on top or anything like that. Secondly, I believe that in the world there are millions of cooks and chefs, and there are a very few people who can create food. So I believe in recipes, and not trying to make up something new.

Gerald Melieres, Owner and Manager of Le Bistro Gourmand, Bowral