9 February 2024

Five minutes with Francesco Mauro, Three Blue Ducks Nimbo

| Claire Sams
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Francesco Mauro

Italian-born Francesco Mauro has made his home near Tumut for several years, after wanting to move back to the countryside. Photo: Roslyn Clare Photography.

Who are you?

My name is Francesco Mauro and I’m the head chef for Three Blue Ducks at Nimbo Fork Lodge in Killimicat.

Can you tell me about your venue?

We’re a little bit different when compared to some other restaurants in the area, as we’re more of a fine dining place. We use local produce where we can, but it’s all Australian products. There is nothing that comes from overseas.

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What does your day-to-day look like?

Some days are pretty similar, and they usually start with emails and meetings. I pick up some items – meat, fish or whatever the day requires – and start the prep work. Some things are done on set days, while other things are done every day.

I also have a chat with our apprentice and the other team members about things like what’s going on [at the restaurant] and any dietary requirements.

How did you get involved in the hospitality industry?

Growing up at home, my dad was always making salami and curing meats from our pigs. I was six or seven when I first went with him and I fell in love with the process – butchering is how I first started [cooking], really! My dad used to take me and my brother hunting or fishing until I was around 12, and then he started taking me every summer to a celebration in town where we’d cook for a thousand people every day for about a month. It was all charity – nobody got paid for their time – and I started to like the chaos in the kitchen.

A man standing in front of a pan on fire

Francesco says the restaurant uses local products where possible – and Australian products always. Photo: Three Blue Ducks/Facebook.

How did you get your current job?

When I came to Australia I was 19 years old and worked at a chicken shop and some other places before going to Southeast Asia. When I came back to Australia, I did a course studying Asian cuisine and more specifically, Japanese food. I also worked at a place called Mr Crackles in Darlinghurst for a few years – it was a very busy place, but I had lots of fun – then moved to Melbourne where I worked for three years before COVID.

After a while, my wife and I decided we wanted to move to the country, because we both come from small towns. Eventually, I saw they were looking for a head chef [at the restaurant] and I applied for the job. The rest is history and I’ve been there for almost two years now.

What are the top menu items that really show what your venue can do?

We use Snowy Valley trout and we do two dishes with that. One is a ginger trout entree that we serve on a quinoa cracker with aoli, dill and some more herbs, and for a main we have a whole butterflied trout that we grill and we serve that with an olive oil-based sauce, sorrel and tomato.

Another one of my favourite dishes is our pork chop. I reckon we do the best pork chop in the region, for sure and we serve it with an Asian-style capsicum jam and a nectarine, radicchio and kale salad.

But we’re going to change the menu in March, so it will have a few different things and others will stay.

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What is your approach or philosophy to cooking at home?

I have that belief that, when possible, you should source your own food, because I grew up in an environment where we went to the shops very little. We’d have chickens, rabbits, pigs and things, and then we’d hunt and fish.

My wife and I have started a veggie garden, so soon enough, we’re going start to have our own veggies. We have chickens, so I don’t buy eggs either, and we’re going to get two miniature goats to help me with the grass – as for milk, I’m not sure how much they’ll help. We try to get as much as our own stuff as possible, rather than going to buy things from a supermarket.

What TV show or movie are you watching right now?

I just finished watching Peaky Blinders and I also watched a documentary, called Blackfish, about killer whales in captivity at SeaWorld in Florida [in the United States].

I am really passionate about manga. I’m watching each episode of One Piece as the episodes come out, and reading the manga, as well.

Three dishes photographed from above and several glasses

Francesco recommends ordering the trout or the pork chop. Photo: Three Blue Ducks/Facebook.

Where was the best place you’ve eaten at?

I’ve had great experiences in so many places so it’s hard to pick. I think the best thing that I ever had in Australia was three years ago, and it was George Calombaris’ restaurant called The Press Club.

What is your favourite food to eat?

Probably ramen, but I guess Japanese and Vietnamese are the cuisines that I like the most.

An easy one to finish – what’s your go-to coffee order?

A large soy cappuccino – not too hot, but with the milk nice and frothy.

Three Blue Ducks Nimbo is located at 330 Nimbo Rd, Killimicat. They’re open from 6 pm until 8:30 pm Wednesday to Friday, 12 pm until 2 pm and 6 pm until 8:30 pm on Saturday and from 12 pm until 3 pm and 6 pm until 8:30 pm on Sunday. For more information, check out their website or Instagram page.

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