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Chefs' Tips: How to create a unique Christmas menu


With the silly season drawing in, it’s time to start planning your Christmas menu. This year, try and move beyond turkey, ham and pudding to create something a little more creative and unique for your guests. Shannon Martinez, chef-proprietor at Melbourne’s pioneering plant-based stalwarts Smith & Deli and Smith & Daughters, and Richard Ptacnik, head chef of Sydney’s Otto, share their tips for spicing up your Christmas menu.

Shannon Martinez


Sit down with your cookbooks and flick through the pages with a glass of wine and start thinking about what you want to create, as well as the style of the menu.

Get creative with plant-based sides

Focus on the dishes around your centrepiece. At this time of year, I love tomatoes as they’re in season. I’d suggest a salad with ultra-ripe tomatoes (have some fun and cut these organically) and char-grilled nectarines. When tossing them together, the heat from the nectarines will release the gorgeous tomato juices. Finish with a good squeeze of lemon, or sherry vinegar – this is phenomenal. There’s also the option to add on vegan feta and some caper berries.

Otto Ristorante

Add a subtle spin to classics

Australian seafood at Christmas time is a must – I find it hard to go without a beautiful lobster grilled over hot coals and finished with a touch of butter. I like to keep it simple and find the flavour from the wood embers imparts just a touch of smoke to the lobster, which really enhances the dish.

Embrace your heritage

A long-held Christmas lunch tradition in my family are crab rolls. They are light, and simply delicious. Adorning crab rolls with caviar takes the dish to the next level for me – the saltiness and subtle flavours from the caviar on top of the sweet crab meat I use in my rolls is truly a match made in heaven.



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