At home with… Stephen Elder

As previous head chef of Le Montage and Excutive Chef of Sheraton in Nha Trang, executive chef of Dede’s at the Point and Watergrill at Sydney’s Rowing Club, Stephen Elder, is the master of the elegant event and delicious date. We chat about what’s on the menu for Valentines Day.

What is the most romantic meal you have ever had? And who with?

The most romantic meal I have had was when I was living in Bali with my wife, I had arranged to have a table for two set on a cliff top. The food was simple, steaks, grilled prawns and whole fish cooked on a charcoal BBQ served with some salads. The seafood was spectacular.

When did your romance with food begin?

I have always wanted to cook and be around food, I made cakes and dinner when I was younger. I have always loved going to the different markets to see what is around and what is new. It also helped that my older brother start his apprenticeship as a chef and that cemented my passion for food.

Abbotsford is one of the quieter suburbs of the Inner West, what do you like most about it?

Abbotsford is very multi cultural and good for families. I love the older style housing that I see when driving to work and I think it is great that you can get to Abbotsford by bus and ferry.

Is there a meal guaranteed to get to somebody’s heart?

I would probably cook pork belly, whether it be roasted, braised or stir fried. I have friends who phone me to see when I am cooking pork belly so they can come around for dinner. Additionally, I love making something sweet to finish off a great dinner. Brownie, nougat, ice-cream, truffles. I have been known to have guests ask if I was married after they have tried these.

What is the most erotic ingredient in your pantry?

Cornflour, it thickens, it coats ingredients, can sometimes make a mess everywhere.

You have catered for weddings and other events, do you have any anecdotes of people doing something particularly sweet/loving/kind whilst in your establishment?

Hard to say really because there are so many wonderful ideas people have for their wedding day and all are well executed and look great. Wouldn’t like to get myself into trouble here by suggesting any were better than each other because they are all wonderful!

Mediterranean-Style Fish Stew: Mussels, baby octopus, crab, prawn, white fish fillets, smokey bacon

Serves 6


65ml olive oil

200g smoked bacon, diced

3 cloves garlic, halved

2 long red chilli, chopped

1 onion diced

1 red capsicum diced

1 yellow capsicum diced

1 green capsicum diced

5g turmeric ground

15g smoked paprika

4 strands saffron

400g crushed tomatoes

2000ml chicken stock

3 large potatoes, peeled and halved

Salt and pepper

3 blue swimmer crabs, halved

42  mussel, cleaned

18 prawns

6x 150g white fish fillets

20 chopped parsley


Heat the oil in a pan, add bacon, garlic and chilli and fry for a minute, then add the onion and fry for another minute.

Add the capsicums, turmeric, paprika and saffron and continue to fry for 2-3mins.

Add the stock and bring to boil, reduce the heat and cook for 30mins.

Add the potatoes and season, allow to simmer for 10min until the potatoes are cooked.

The base is best made at least one day before.

To serve, heat the base stock, add all the fresh ingredients and cook, this will take about 10mins. Sprinkle with chopped parsley.