Maybe you don’t know where Dunkeld, Australia is (it’s three-plus hours west of Melbourne), but you should get to know Royal Mail restaurant, and especially its chef Dan Hunter.
Hunter started his cooking career in Melbourne, working with Phillipe Mouchel and later Jeremy Strode of Langton’s, where he learned the importance of produce and their seasons. In 2002, he moved to Verge, where he had a chance to explore the creative side of being a chef.
By 2003, Hunter had become interested in what was happening in food in Spain and so he moved to Barcelona to be closer to the action. He spent a year and a half in the kitchen of the Michelin-starred Caelis restaurant just as the world was starting to take notice of the style and quality of cuisine coming out of Spain.
While in Barcelona, Hunter realized that one of Spain’s most interesting and innovative chefs was Andoni Luis Aduriz of the two Michelin-starred Mugaritz. In January 2005, he moved to San Sebastián and began a three-month stage at Mugaritz. Hunter was hooked and at the end of his stage he took up the position of chef de partie. By 2006 he was sous chef and soon after took on the role of head chef, which he held for a year.
During his time in Spain, Hunter had the opportunity to work special events with some of the world’s most well respected chefs and restaurants, including el Bulli, The Fat Duck, L’Arpege, Martin Berasategui, wd~50, Alinea, and Charlie Trotter’s to name a few.
In 2007, Hunter returned to Australia and moved to the regional village of Dunkeld, Western Victoria, to be executive chef at the Royal Mail Hotel. Although far-flung, the location of Royal Mail has allowed Hunter to develop his own gardens and to form close relationships with local producers. A true acolyte of Aduriz, Hunter works closely with his dedicated garden and kitchen team to produce a unique style of food that blends modern technique with an immense respect for nature, produce, and seasonality.