Dominique Portet L Apero 176509

The People Behind the Plate : Head Chef, David Ball

People Behind The Plate

8 May 2022

The very first time David Ball set foot in the Yarra Valley in November 2021 he’d already been employed as head chef at Dominique Portet. Due to Covid travel restrictions, his interview and site tour of the restaurant and winery had been conducted via Zoom from Hobart, where he had been executive chef at The Glass House. “It was a very different interview process than I'm used to,” he admits.

Dominique Portet Head Shot David Bal 176906

David’s career has taken him around the world. “Cooking is something I've always wanted to do,” he says. “This is the only job I've ever had.” At 15, he started an apprenticeship ina Michelin Starred kitchen with Raymond Blanc at Le Manoir aux Quat'Saisons in the UK. “Raymond distilled that passion for produce and food and I've just followed that around. That's how I've always managed to land jobs - I've met somebody rather marvellous and they've got this fabulous thing that they want to do, and off we go.”

What David loves most about the Yarra Valley & Dandenong Ranges

He’s really enjoying the drive through the region and watching the vines changing colour, “the amazing yellows and reds,” as the Summer transitions to Autumn. David has friends who have worked in the region who’ve given him lots of tips so he’s looking forward to exploring and foraging for mushrooms in the near future.

David’s first food memory

He remembers his mother baking Christmas cakes when he was a child. Every year in November his mother would wrap the cakes in newspaper while they cooked and “the whole house would smell amazing.” It’s an enduring “wholesome Christmassy food memory.”

Pastries (and Christmas cakes) are not really David’s forte, he’s much better known for specialising in modern seafood dishes. In the UK he focused on modern Japanese cuisine, then in Hobart it was seafood, straight from the docks. At his new Yarra Valley home he is busy developing relationships with companies who can deliver fresh seafood within 24 hours of the catch.

David’s favourite season to cook in is Summer

“I'm a bit green fingered,” he says. David loves to garden and says that a lot of his free time is generally spent pottering around outdoors. “I'm a tomato fiend, I have a bit of a tomato problem. I tend to grow quite a few different varieties and they make me very happy.”

David also loves the abundance of produce in the Summer months. “I love the chilies and the aubergines, courgettes and courgette flowers. Summer - it's a good season. You get to sit outside and eat, so what's not to like?”

What David would feed a Melb family of 6….

“At the minute I'm loving mussels so I’d do a take on a mussel dish from Normandy with curry leaves. The house that we’ve moved into has a 40 year old curry leaf tree in the garden. I'm bringing the leaves to work to cook the mussels in and it's amazingly fragrant.”

He’d serve it with a crusty baguette and a vino. “Ben and the boys make some pretty good plonk,” he says with a laugh. He suggests a rose for a good summer wine, or the sauvignon blanc.

For dessert, he’d present a fig leaf creme caramel. “It’s a take on the classic creme caramel. We take the green leaves from the fig and we infuse them into the milk. It's like coconutty, caramel, custard deliciousness.”

What David loves most about being at Dominique Portet

“They’re good humans,” says David of the family who own and run the winery. He respects their entrepreneurial nature and says they’re genuinely good people to work for. “They really do take the time to make a nice glass of wine and put real energy into what they do and passion. I think it's so important.”

The Dominique Portet family have put their trust in David Ball and he is dedicated to creating a fabulous dining experience for everyone who visits.


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