With more than 25 years of experience, Executive Chef Trent Whelan returns to his passion for humble yet bold Italian flavours with the opening of Hobart’s newest restaurant - Tesoro Modern Italian.
Q: Where did you grow up, and what inspired your love of cooking?
I grew up in the Yarra Valley, Victoria. It is a region of Australia that is now a well-known wine region, but in the 80s and 90s, the Yarra was a farming region and home to many Italian families. Those original Italian influences led the region to become known for amazing handmade passata and bespoke charcuterie. To this day, I still love making my own passata and salami.
Q: Can you tell us about your career history and memorable achievements?
My career has taken me to so many amazing destinations and I have worked across numerous hotels and resort brands including ParkRoyal, Disney and Grand Hyatt.
My recent memorable moments have been leading the team at Melbourne Italian restaurant Mr Carpano before I was given the opportunity to relocate to Hobart to take on the Executive Chef role at Mr Good Guy Bar + Kitchen.
Q: Tassie has a reputation for being a gourmet destination, but what makes it stand out from Australia’s many others? As a chef, why did you decide to move here?
Tasmania is a well-kept secret. I see it as the food bowl of the Australian mainland. Tasmania boasts the world’s cleanest air, is the home of farmers markets and small growers that are all engaged and passionate about working together.
And of course, we have exquisite seafood and the best beef in the world, right on our doorstep. The real question is why wouldn’t you move here. Actually, ssshhhh, keep it a secret!
Q: What is your cooking philosophy?
Whomever I cook for, I treat them like family. Cooking should not be complicated. It should come from the heart and with love.
Q: Tesoro translates to ‘treasure’ in Italian. Why do you think this is a fitting name for the Tesoro dining experience?
The naming of the restaurant came together beautifully actually, as we had already started collecting an amazing abundance of local ‘treasures’ for the menu, sourced from our friendly Tesoro family who just happen to be some of Australian’s best artisan producers and growers.
We now affectionately refer to our dry-aged Tasmanian meats, charcuterie, specialised cheeses and other local surprises as our ‘treasures’.
Q: So what makes Italian food so special?
Italian food since the Renaissance period has brought people together. This was a time when new foods and spices from the New World were introduced to Italy, and the Italians (as they do best) really took these ingredients and made them their own.
This passion for food and passion for gathering with family still resonates today. For me, that is the very core of why Italian is the most popular cuisine in the world.
Q: The Tesoro menu is packed full of amazing Italian dishes – from traditional antipasti to family-style feasting boards. What signature dishes should the Hobart dining crowd single out?
Go all out and start with some must-try small plate options to share. Then house-made is what we do best.
Tuck into our fresh pasta and pizza, made on-site daily, or our dry-aged beef, which we believe is the best beef in the world.
Q: What is the one Italian ingredient you can’t live without?
Purple garlic, which is locally grown.
Oh and ripe, spray-free tomatoes.
Sorry, I could go on and on!