Good will crabbing Posted by Reef Magazine - 13 October 2013 When the ingredients for a day include perfect Whitsunday ‘winter’ weather, a sleek navy blue powerboat and one of Australia’s most brilliant chefs cooking perhaps the country’s most storied seafood, the recipe can’t fail. Those elements came together in an afternoon in the waters off Hamilton Island when acclaimed chef Dan Hunter pulled up mud crabs from their pots and cooked them on the deck of Andiamo during Audi Hamilton Island Race Week. Truly memorable travel engages all the senses and island resorts reliably tick many of those boxes. However too often one is missing. There is, of course, the sight of blue water, the sounds of wildlife, smell of the sea and the touch of the thread count but what of the taste? Providing an opportunity for guests to taste the bounty that comes from the place is almost always an afterthought. Hotels frequently prefer flying-in lacklustre produce instead of discovering the delicious potential of what is available locally. Hamilton Island is endeavouring to be different, with a new commitment to sourcing produce from North Queensland and looking to what might live below the surface in those beautiful Whitsunday waters. Long known for his ability to articulate the ‘taste of a place’ on the plate, chef Dan Hunter is Australian cooking’s quiet achiever and was the ideal candidate to unlock the potential of the area’s local produce. Hunter made his name at the regional Victorian restaurant the Royal Mail Hotel and has now gone on to become the chef/ owner of Brae. Like any cook worth his whites, his first instinct when being invited to cook with locally sourced ingredients was to go searching for the mythic and elusive mud crab. Long a Queensland culinary cornerstone, the mud crab is becoming increasingly recognised internationally as the emperor of all crabs. Under the expert guidance of crabber without peer Matt Vickers (who it must be said resembles more a Brisbane Bronco than a passionate marine conservationist) it turns out they are not so elusive after all. Vickers explained to Hunter that mud crabs grow quickly in the warm water, are abundant around the Whitsunday islands and, unlike many seafood options these days, are in fact a sustainable fishery. It’s a good thing too because Hunter and Vickers quickly pulled from the mangrove shallows a dozen menacing looking muddies for the proceeding feast - that now had the benefit of not only being delicious but quite unexpectedly, guilt-free. Once on deck Hunter set about preparing the haul for lunch. He quickly plunged them in plenty of iced water, before salted boiling water and then picked out the rich flesh from the prehistoric looking nippers. Confident enough in his cooking to know that the ‘in-built umami’ flavour of the mud crab needs little or no adornment, Hunter set about preparing subtle dishes that not only demonstrated why he is so admired amongst other cooks, but also celebrated the exciting potential of ingredients from North Queensland. About the Author 'REEF Magazine – Hamilton Island & the Great Barrier Reef' is a magazine that showcases all that Hamilton Island has to offer, from events, to an exciting array of activities, attractions and more. You can pick up your complimentary copy of 'REEF Magazine' at any Hamilton Island hotel, and you can also access some of our feature articles right here on The Island Blog.