Analiese Gregory is not intimidated by the impossible. The New Zealand–born chef has managed kitchens at some of the top restaurants around the world, foraged in the French countryside with a Michelin-starred legend, navigated the medinas of Morocco in search of fresh camel meat, and moved her life to the wild island of Tasmania on a whim. In her new cookbook, How Wild Things Are, she details her unorthodox journey from fine-dining kitchens to a rugged, untamed place at the bottom of the world.
In 2017, when Gregory accepted the job as head chef at Franklin in the island capital of Hobart, she was feeling directionless. She regretted leaving her position at Michel Bras’ eponymous eatery in Laguiole, France, where her days were spent motoring around the French countryside sourcing the best ingredients. The idea of returning to a competitive kitchen in a big city left her riddled with anxiety. Tasmania’s salt-crusted bays, rolling grassy hills, lush rainforests and sharp granite peaks, meanwhile, offered the perfect place to slow down, to disappear from the world. “I have to admit that I romanticize things,” she says, “but the idea of moving to this small Australian island to be a hermit appealed to me.”
She was equally enchanted by how the locals live and cook off the land. Ingredients on this small isolated island are hard to come by — unless you know where to look. When a new friend invited her on an excursion to Fortescue Bay to dive for abalone, she was intrigued. Her pal opened the boot of his car and pulled out a wok burner, linens, Japanese ceramic bowls, chopsticks, sake and fermented sauces. “Before, I’d find abalone and take it home to prepare,” Gregory notes. “This was a new way to cook. I realized this was my kind of proper Tasmanian living.”
Now when she meets a fisherman who knows of a secret cove or hears of a friend of a friend who is a hunter on neighboring Bruny Island, she never hesitates to tag along. One thing inevitably leads to another, which is what she loves about Tasmanian life. “When you’re in the wild, you have to adapt,” she adds. This could be scraping sea salt off a rock, using ocean water as brine, or substituting seaweed for parsley. If you adjust your mindset, Tasmania is a chef’s paradise.
After having no fixed address for her first year and a half in Tasmania, Gregory impulsively bought a 110-year-old farmhouse in the remote Huon Valley. She was instantly consumed with bucolic notions of swimming in the nearby river, farming the land, and raising goats, pigs and chickens. The property, some 45 minutes from her job, had peeling paint, an overgrown lawn and no modern amenities to speak of, but it was the hideaway she’d dreamed of.
Two years into her tenure as head chef at Franklin, Gregory decided to hand in her resignation in late 2019. Under her direction, the eatery had become known as the pinnacle of Tassie cooking and earned two Chef Hats (one of Australia’s highest culinary accolades). But with that success came unwanted attention. Gregory was working long weeks, spending her rare days off traveling for events or sneaking into the kitchen to feed the sourdough starter. Her farmhouse became a rural crash pad, and her goats were escaping out of protest. “I moved to Tasmania to get away from the attention and constant juggling, but it followed me here,” she notes.
Just months after she left Franklin, the coronavirus pandemic shut down the island and much of the world. Like many, she suddenly had nothing but time on her hands. She started volunteering at an organic farm and taught herself how to sow seeds and grow her own produce. She foraged for wild mushrooms and windfall apples. She made her own cheese and charcuterie. She began cooking lunch at a friend’s wine bar on Fridays, making whatever tempted her that day. At last, she was living the life she had envisioned.
When Gregory had the chance to stay in one place, her perspective shifted. “Prior to this, I thought I would take a couple months off then take over another restaurant,” she explains. “But as I settled in, I started to wonder: What if I cooked here?” Now, she’s giddily working on her next impossible project: turning a century-old pigsty (literally) on her property into her dream restaurant.
The small space, which she hopes to have completed this spring, is surrounded by a fruit orchard and has just enough room for a kitchen, a wood-fired stove and an intimate 10-seat farmhouse table. Gregory plans to grow most of the produce herself — potatoes, yams, broad beans, garlic and herbs are already sprouting — and procure goods from local producers. Between her neighbors, she has access to milk, honey, vegetables, cider apples and English pigs. Her friends next door are French wine importers who grow their own grapes. And a local stylist has agreed to design the restaurant space in exchange for salami. The whole project has become a community effort, and everyone wants to lend their skills. As Gregory attests, it’s very Tasmania.
If anyone is up for the daunting task of turning a pigsty into a destination-worthy restaurant on an untamed island at the bottom of the world, it’s Gregory. This next venture, nestled in her own backyard, is a far cry from the cut-throat kitchens she’s helmed — but that’s precisely her intention and her excitement is palpable. In fact, she’s learned that she performs best when she’s outside her comfort zone. “That’s when I push myself and accomplish something I’m proud of,” she says. “I’ve started to recognize that feeling and I quite like it.”
Sea Urchin Farinata
Makes 2 servings
Sea urchin love the cold salty waters of Tasmania. Here, chef Analiese Gregory serves the spiny creature’s briny custard-like uni on a chickpea flour pancake with a smear of crème fraîche. “My favorite way to eat sea urchin is on any kind of crispy vehicle — crostini, crumpets or freshly griddled blini,” she says. If you can’t find uni, consider ribbons of smoked salmon, flakes of fresh crab, or cured meats like prosciutto or coppa ham. MAKE AHEAD Batter can be made up to a day in advance and refrigerated overnight.
10 sea urchin lobes (uni)
100 grams (about 1 cup) chickpea flour
½ tsp. kosher salt
2 Tbsp. olive oil
2 ounces crème fraîche
dill sprigs and young samphire tips, for garnish (optional)
flaky sea salt, for sprinkling
1. Preheat oven to 475°F.
2. In a medium bowl, gently wash uni in cold salted water. Drain well.
3. In a separate bowl, whisk flour with 1 cup water until smooth. Whisk in salt.
4. In a cold 9-inch cast-iron skillet, add oil followed by batter. Bake about 12 minutes, until pancake is just set and golden brown on bottom.
5. To serve, smear pancake with crème fraîche then top with uni, dill and samphire. Sprinkle with sea salt. Serve whole or cut into wedges.