Chef’s Roll has been working with True Aussie Beef & Lamb since 2015 – and we have seen and tasted, firsthand, the incredible product Australia produces — from grassfed beef to pasture-raised lamb. We’ve worked with hundreds of chefs who have also praised the product and added it to their menus. Today we’re featuring one of those chefs.
A graduate of the International Culinary Academy in Pittsburgh, Executive Chef Thomas Horner began his career with Marriott in New Orleans and has since climbed the corporate culinary ladder with stops in Florida and Seattle, in addition to the California desert. Along the way, he’s collected the Golden Scepter Award from the Southern California Restaurant Writers Association, and twice been a guest chef at the James Beard House in New York.
On March 2017 Horner returned to the Pacific Northwest taking on the Complex Executive Chef role at the Westin and W Hotel in Bellevue, WA, where his passion for cultivating sustainable, local fare continues.
Hey Thomas, thanks so much for being willing to let us catch up, now two years after our first interview! How have the past two years treated you?
I’m back in my favorite part of the country, the Pacific Northwest. Opened a hotel, started a farm and had our inaugural MISE conference for hotel Chefs – keeping busy as usual.
You’ve been in and out of corporate hotel positions for two decades now. How have you seen the role of a Corporate Executive Chef change during that time?
It is constant change and with the Marriott/Starwood merger, it has been a dynamic time in our hotels with many brands and unique opportunities. The chance to open the newest W Hotel in North America in some time is exciting and this one is a game changer in the hotel world. Being part of a mix-use space called Lincoln Center South, with really talented Chefs, inventive concepts and products it raises everyone’s game in our building.
Aussie Grassfed Beef Flap
kale pesto, romesco, chanterelle quinoa, blackberry demi
Given the demands of the job, is it difficult to make quality time to spend with your family?
I always realize that time is not infinite, my son is now taller than me. You have to have balance. In a Chef’s life, long days are sometimes the norm. I make it a priority to get away from the kitchen and unplug. Spending time around the wood fire at the farm always brings family time into perspective.
You’ve been interested in sustainable food practices for years. How has your understanding of the subject grown?
I’m living it at Misty Clover. We have fruit trees going in the ground next month, baby chickens starting to feather, building swales, dropping mushroom plugs, laying out animal paddocks and building hugelkultur beds. It’s funny to me, with all the work that comes with producing high-quality food, the reality is it is all about what you don’t see, whats working down in the soil. Overall, I’m pretty confident I’ll have plenty to cook with this summer.
Can you talk about your partnership with True Aussie Lamb and Beef? What do you love about their products? Do their values align with yours?
Its quality is number one. When you see and feel the ranchers’ passion for finding improvements to create happier and healthier animals, you quickly realize that they discovered their purpose. If you don’t believe that how you feel and how well you perform is generated from what you eat, with all the scientific proof, you’re just not paying attention to yourself.
I’m sure you’re aware of True Aussie’s own commitment to sustainability. Is that part of the reason you started working with them?
Sustainability is a big deal for me. As a chef, it saddens me to see beautiful food go to waste. As a steward of the land, I recognize the effort that goes in to it. I preach often that chefs have the ability to change the world by simply partnering only with good stewards of the earth. The True Aussie Beef & Lamb program does exactly that. Talk to any Aussie rancher and they will tell you the importance for the nutrient dense grass and keeping that healthy is that only way for the happiness and health of the grazing animal. A familiar phase is that most know is “sheep lay in green pastures”, that is because that green grass satisfies the animal and it can relax. We’ve known that for over two thousand years. So as we continue to grow into a global community, Australian stewardship is the best designed approach to achieve that level of sustainability that I have seen.
You’ve shared a recipe with us below. What inspired it and earned it a place on your menu?
Grass fed products are certainly on the rise. So creating dishes in a format that is recognizable will always help bring the next wave of guest to go towards the grass fed movement. It also is a little nostalgic for me growing up with a grandmother who was a butcher. We always had extra ground available and meatballs is a fun family meal that we could make together. The richness of the cream and the umami of the mushrooms complement the lamb and bring sweetness to the dish.
Aussie Lamb Meatballs, Smoked Chanterelle “Stroganoff”
Buttered Barilla® Orzo | Lemon Parsley Pesto
by Chef Thomas Horner
AUSSIE LAMB MEATBALL
1 1⁄4-1 1⁄2 lbs Ground Lamb
1 Egg, lightly beaten
1⁄4 c Onion, finely chopped
3 cloves Garlic, minced
1⁄2 c Panko Breadcrumbs
1⁄4 tsp Salt
1⁄4 tsp Pepper
1 tsp Lemon Zest
2 tbsp Fresh Parsley, chopped
- Mix all together in a bowl.
LEMON PARSLEY PESTO
1 c Parsley
2 Lemons, zested
5 cloves Garlic
Oil, as needed
- Add Garlic and oil in a processor, add oil and chop. Add Parsley and Oil as needed.
- Finish with Lemon Zest and Oil as needed.
SMOKED CHANTERELLE “STROGANOFF”
1/3 c Shallots, chopped
1/2 lb Chanterelles Mushrooms, torn apart and lightly smoked
1/8 tsp Nutmeg
1/2 tsp Dry Tarragon or 2 tsp Fresh Tarragon, chopped
2 tbsp. Pickles, chopped
1 c Sour Cream, at room temperature and whipped before adding
Salt & Pepper, to taste
Learn more about the wide range of top-quality offerings from True Aussie Beef & Lamb by visiting their website.