21 Apr. 2022
Himanshu Sharda grew up in a village in the Himalayan mountains of India. His father died when he was three but had always wanted his child to have a good education. Himanshu's grandmother ensured he was sent to one of India’s most famous boarding schools in Dehradun. His teachers there were Australians, and Himanshu’s interest in the country was piqued. After studying hotel management and working at five star hotels in India, Himanshu arrived in Australia in 2004. His first role was at Balgownie in the Yarra Valley.
He went on to work all around Melbourne with such esteemed chefs as Gary Meehigan in a variety of roles and has returned to the Yarra Valley to take up the role of Executive chef at RACV, overseeing Banyalla and Riddells Green, and the function spaces of the resort.
Himanshu was born in Naugaon, in the Himalayan mountains. The village lived by the paddock to plate concept that is so popular in modern Australian restaurants now. They were completely self-sufficient, grinding their own flour, pressing their own oil and sourcing their food from crops and flocks which sprung from the fertile mountain soil. “I was born in a humble country family where the majority of our business was apples, but we grew a lot of other produce, from red kidney beans to fruit like peaches, prunes and plums,” he says.
With a passion for wine, Himanshu loves that the Yarra valley gives him access to some high quality pinot noir makers. “We use a lot of local suppliers,” he says. “And of course, we have a lot of local wines in the wine cellar.”
Himanshu uses Yarra Valley berries, Buxton trout, local olives, and native finger limes in his dishes. His latest menu also uses native paperbark plants. Barramundi is wrapped in the paperbark and then cooked, a nod to indigenous bush cooking techniques.
Himanshu is full of praise for the bounty of the Yarra Valley. “Fruits, vegetables… Summer is the perfect time for tomatoes. And berries, I love berries.” He loves to cook desserts using peaches, apricots, plums. “Summer is the best,” he says. “It's a time when you have the maximum amount of local fresh produce.”
Himanshu’s grandmother used to cook a roast chicken dish with a sauce using fresh herbs, turmeric, cumin, coriander and more of the nine spices available in their region. He has recreated the dish using lamb and it’s now on the menu at Banyalla as a tribute to his homeland and his grandmother.
A family of six would be served the Naugaon Lamb Loin, inspired by his birth village, with pickled cucumber and amaranth, a nutritious, gluten-free grain. For dessert, Himanshu would offer them his favourite, a cherry souffle or a classic Bombe Alaska, because he knows that people love it.
“I really enjoy the view. The people at RACV are very connected and they work like a family, which is quite cool. We get a lot of local produce as well which is really amazing.”
“Banyalla is my baby because that's what showcases me as a chef - refined dining. Banyalla is a native shrub, and what we've tried to do here is we've tried to keep it local, food which belongs to Healesville.”
Himanshu thinks that the Yarra Valley is an important piece of the cultural jigsaw puzzle that is Melbourne. “When we talk about Melbourne we always talk about the Yarra Valley, when we talk about food and wine,” he says.