A Culinary Journey Through Parma, Italy

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Hello, my name is Gabriel, and I am the co-owner and Culinary Director of Estancia, in collaboration with executive chef and co-owner James Orlowski. This is the story of my culinary journey that spans continents, cultures, and cuisines, culminating in the opening of Estancia. Join me as I share my experiences and inspirations that have shaped the culinary vision of our restaurant.

Today, I am excited to take you along on my most recent trip to Italy, where I immersed myself in the vibrant traditions and rich cultural heritage of Parma and beyond, but first a little about myself.

Discovering a Passion in Brazil

My journey began in Brazil, where I accidentally discovered my passion for cooking. Originally, I planned to become a lawyer, but life had other plans. Born and raised in a family of cooks, I found myself in the kitchen, learning the art of combining ingredients from my grandmother, a retired chef with over 40 years of experience.

The first few years were challenging. Mornings started at 8 AM at culinary school, followed by long shifts in the kitchen. In Brazil, kitchen work often wrapped up around 1 AM. My first brigade was at the prestigious Chez Philippe, renowned as the best French restaurant for over a decade. It was here that my love for French cuisine began to take root.

Embracing Change in Australia

After five years at Chez Philippe, I sought a change. Friends in the hospitality industry recommended Australia, and soon, jobs were lined up in Sydney. My first gig was at Icebergs in Bondi, where I worked for the group in various venues, including Cranky Fins, Hotel Harry, and several local pop-ups.

An opportunity to join the team at Frenchies Brasserie in Sydney was a turning point in my career. Managed by a head chef with three Michelin stars, this role deepened my respect for food, wine, service, and management. My time at Frenchies was instrumental in my growth, leading to a role as Group Head Chef at Bird and Bear Group. It was here that I partnered with Chef James, managing multiple kitchens in Sydney and Newcastle.

The Inspiration of Italy

My culinary exploration took me to Parma, Italy, where I immersed myself in the rich traditions of Italian and Mediterranean cuisine. Eating at Osterias for lunch and dinner, I captured ideas and inspirations to bring back to Estancia. The roots of Italian cuisine, with its emphasis on quality ingredients and simple, yet profound flavors, resonated deeply with me.

Arrival in Parma: First Impressions

The moment I arrived in Parma, I was struck by its charm. Nestled in the heart of the Emilia-Romagna region, Parma boasts a mix of historical architecture and vibrant street life. As I roamed the narrow, winding streets, I felt an immediate connection to the city’s rhythm and soul. The warm, golden hue of the buildings, the bustling piazzas, and the inviting storefronts set the perfect stage for my culinary adventure.

A Stroll Through History

Parma’s rich history is palpable. I spent my first afternoon exploring the city’s historic center, marveling at landmarks such as the stunning Parma Cathedral and the Baptistery of Parma, both showcasing intricate details and artistry. The cobblestone streets led me to hidden gems, where every turn revealed another piece of the city’s storied past.

Parmigiano-Reggiano: The King of Cheeses

No trip to Parma would be complete without indulging in its most famous export: Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese. Visiting the oldest Parmigiano-Reggiano handcrafted cheese factory in Parma was a dream come true. I witnessed the production process firsthand, seeing the passion and craftsmanship that go into creating this “King of Cheeses.” Tasting the freshly cut Parmigiano-Reggiano, with its granular texture and nutty, robust flavor, was an experience I’ll never forget. It’s no wonder this cheese has been cherished for centuries.

Prosciutto di Parma: A Delicate Delight

Next on my list was the renowned Prosciutto di Parma. I headed to a family-run prosciuttificio, where I was welcomed with open arms and hearty smiles. The air was filled with the intoxicating aroma of curing ham. I learned about the meticulous process of selecting, salting, and aging the pork legs, resulting in the delicate, melt-in-your-mouth prosciutto that Parma is famous for. Paired with a glass of local Lambrusco, it was a symphony of flavors.

Exploring Local Markets

To truly understand a city’s culinary heartbeat, you must visit its markets. Parma’s markets are a feast for the senses. I spent hours wandering through stalls brimming with fresh produce, artisanal bread, and an array of cured meats and cheeses. The vendors, with their friendly banter and infectious enthusiasm, added to the experience. I couldn’t resist sampling everything from balsamic vinegar to homemade pasta.

Dining Like a Local

In Parma, every meal is a celebration. I dined at several trattorias and osterias, each offering a unique taste of the region’s culinary heritage. One memorable meal included tortelli d’erbetta, delicate pasta parcels filled with ricotta and herbs, drizzled with sage-infused butter. Another highlight was a rich and hearty risotto alla Parmigiana, perfectly cooked and bursting with flavor.

A Detour to Tuscany: Bacalà at Pozzo Di Bugia

My culinary journey also took me to Tuscany, where I dined at the prestigious Pozzo Di Bugia. The highlight of this visit was the Bacalà, a traditional salted cod dish that was prepared to perfection. The combination of delicate, flaky fish with a rich, savory sauce was nothing short of exquisite. This meal was a testament to the culinary artistry that thrives in every corner of Italy.

‘A perfect photo representing my time in Tuscany’

The Birth of Estancia

In 2023, Chef James and I decided to combine our strengths and culinary visions to open Estancia. When we discovered that the Osteria at Briar Ridges was available, we seized the opportunity without hesitation. Our goal was to create a restaurant that embodies the essence of Italian and Mediterranean cuisine, inspired by my culinary journey from Brazil to Australia, and enriched by the timeless traditions of Italy.

Reflecting on the Journey

As I bid farewell to Parma, I felt a deep sense of gratitude. This journey was more than just a culinary exploration; it was a profound connection to a place that honors its traditions while embracing the future. The flavors, the people, and the stories of Parma have left an indelible mark on my heart and will undoubtedly inspire my work at Estancia.

Estancia is more than just a restaurant; it’s a culmination of years of hard work, passion, and a deep respect for the culinary arts. From the bustling kitchens of Brazil to the vibrant food scene in Australia and the traditional Osterias of Italy, each experience has shaped the flavors and ethos of Estancia.

We invite you to join us at Estancia, where every dish tells a story and every meal is an experience. Whether you’re a longtime food lover or a curious newcomer, we promise a dining experience that celebrates the rich tapestry of culinary traditions that have inspired us.

Until next time, happy eating!


‘Flan Di Zucca, pumpkin was in season at the time, topped with delicious Parmigiano cream.’
‘Bacalla at the prestigious Pozzo Di Bugia, Tuscany.’


‘Hand made tagliatelle al funghi where chefs get lost, incredible set up at Eataly, hospitality store and a delicious eatery. Italians favourite dish.’


To share some of our favourite dishes too cook, here is our acclaimed fermented cherry tomato recipe. Estancia’s taken on a classic pomodoro sauce.

8 punnets ripen cherry tomatoes
300ml extra virgin olive oil
50ml red wine vinegar
2 cloves garlic
1 bayleaf
1/2 tea spoon sugar
1 tea spoon salt

Combine all ingredients into a tray where the cherry tomatoes could be mostly submerged in olive oil.

Pre heat the oven at 180c for 15min

Wrap the tray with aluminium foil and bake it for 1H

Remove from the oven, allow it to cool down for 20min and blend half of the sauce to emulsify your pomodoro

Combine both parts and you have a delicious sauce base for many dishes. Kids would love it with spaghetti meatball or simply just the sauce.

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