Chat with a chef: ‘Tuna and swordfish are amazing to cook and eat’, says Ben Way of Little Beach Boathouse

Chef Ben Way (right) of Little Beach Boathouse. Photo by Sally Dunwell.

Ben Way is the executive chef and owner of Little Beach Boathouse in Port Stephens, NSW. The UK-born chef has worked in several fine dining restaurants in Newcastle and the Hunter Valley and, in 2021, he and his wife opened Medowie Social. We spoke with Ben about his passion for using sustainable tuna and swordfish and how the Port to Plate cookbook showcases local seafood produce.

When did you start as a chef and why?

I began my training at 15 in the UK where I worked in a large 5-star hotel under some fantastic guidance from senior chefs. This role cemented my passion for cooking.

Using sustainable tuna and swordfish is a passion of chef Ben Way. Photo by Sally Dunwell.

You were born and raised in the United Kingdom. How did you end up working in Port Stephens and the Hunter Valley?

When I made the decision to move to Australia in 2005, I ended up in Port Stephens to stay with family friends while I settled into living in a new country at 19 years of age. I landed a role at a seafood restaurant in Nelson Bay, where I met and worked with some wonderful chefs who I still call friends today. After a few moves around the state, I ended up in the Hunter Valley where I worked my way up to head chef at Muse Restaurant and really refined my fine dining cooking skills.

I moved on to head a few other hatted restaurants around Newcastle and the Hunter before the opportunity arose to return to Port Stephens where I co-created the Little Beach Boathouse in 2013. Managing my own business taught me so much more about the industry and gave me the opportunity to source the best fresh and local produce to serve to my customers.

You are committed to working with sustainable seafood, including tuna and swordfish. Why is that important for chefs and customers?

This became my passion and drive within the restaurant, and I continued to learn about the importance of sustainable seafood. I quickly realised that if we look after our oceans and the incredible species within it, we can create a future of plentiful supply for the next generation of chefs and food lovers. Not only are tuna and swordfish amazing to cook and eat, the collection of them from our oceans is well regulated and monitored by authorities to ensure they are sustainable.

Chef Ben Way (left). Photo by Sally Dunwell.

Can you tell us about the inspiration behind the Port to Plate cookbook? Why did you get involved?

When I was approached by Lynda Sloan [creator and author] to be involved with the Port to Plate cookbook, it was hard to turn down. I was so excited to be a part of this community initiative to showcase some of the incredible seafood available to us in the Port Stephens area and to promote our beautiful region as a culinary destination. I was lucky enough to work alongside some of our region's most talented and skilled chefs as we shared ideas and thoughts on dishes and recipes.

What are your tips for cooking tuna and swordfish?

Tuna and swordfish are so versatile, their flavour profile lends itself to all styles of cookery that can be adapted to any seasonal menu. When cooking tuna, hot and fast is the key. Try not to overcook your tuna—serving it raw or seared is where you get the best out of this fish. Swordfish can handle big flavours (eg char-grilled) so it's worth exploring different combinations, let your imagination wander and get creative with your additions.

What is your favourite tuna or swordfish recipe or meal?

Sashimi tuna would have to be my number one. I love tuna in any form but for me, eating it raw with a good quality light soy, or a simple and non-intrusive ponzu dipping sauce is really where it's at.

A great recipe I have used involves curing the swordfish belly and serving it cold and cubed with light spring garnishes.


 

Get the Port to Plate cookbook to learn about the species available from Port Stephens and the best ways to cook them.

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