It’s not every day that chefs get to see the farms from which their meat is sourced. But Chef Stephen Toevs, senior director of culinary development for Marriott Corporation, got to do just that, joining 18 other “Aussie Beef Mate” chefs for a seven-day immersion into the Australian red meat industry.
“Going to Australia was an easy ‘yes’ for me,” Toevs says. “And now I want to draw awareness to the fact that if you put Aussie beef and lamb on the menu here in the U.S., it will resonate with guests.”
Upon return, Toevs threw a Hamptons-worthy party to spread word of the sustainable farming practices he had learned more about abroad. A longtime champion of pasture-raised farming, Toevs is also a 20-year barbecue cookoff veteran and highly regarded menu influencer.
Here is a brief travelogue from Toevs’ adventures down under.
Day 1: Memorial Day weekend. After a long flight, Toevs landed in Sydney at 7 a.m. “I ate at a bunch of restaurants in Chinatown,” Toevs says. “The first group of Beef Mates I met were from Japan. They were so welcoming. We ended up spending the day together.”
Day 2: The Aussie Beef Mates flew up to Byron Bay, the easternmost point of Australia, for myriad farm visits, and to see a co-op slaughterhouse.
“I’ve always been close to how our animals are raised and our vegetables grown,” Toevs says. “But being there, you could see how happy and beautiful those animals were, and how much pride the farmers took in them. That shows through all the way to the plate.”
Day 3: Back to Sydney for a culinary challenge assisted by Australian Beef & Lamb’s master butchers and chefs, who spoke openly about the many ways to break apart larger muscles, how to find those fibers and seams, and using different preparation and temperatures.
Days 4 and 5: The excursion continued at Victor Churchill’s, a world-famous butcher shop, followed by a culinary class and team cooking challenge at the famed Sydney Fish Market.
Days 6 and 7: The group capped off its trip in style, enjoying vineyard wine pairings as well as a rainforest-gin distillery tasting about two hours outside Sydney.
Back Stateside, Toevs welcomed 40 guests to his home in Maryland, where Toevs paid homage to his adventure down under. He busted out grills, smokers, and prepped a variety of cuts of Australian Wagyu beef. Guests enjoyed hearing about Toevs’ travels, tried cask-strength Old Fashioneds from Kentucky’s Bardstown Bourbon, and played plenty of cornhole.
An accompanying station created by Toevs was nearly a tasting-table scrapbook of Australia: Sydney spices, Tasmanian salt, Queensland peppercorn.
“I was able to bring back those spices and tell the stories behind them to our guests,” says Toevs. “There was a lot of sharing. At one point, I had a circle of people around me and I was just feeding them little tidbits of meat—it made me really happy. Teaching our chefs and sharing the stories behind the meat to our guests is the next journey.”
To see trip video, visit: bit.ly/aussiebeefmatetrip