Shaun Barney Kelly

With his culinary career spanning more than a decade in highly regarded restaurants such as St. John Restaurant in London, Saturne, and Au Passage in Paris, and as head chef at the Australian Embassy, also in Paris, Shaun Kelly happily exchanged his kitchen knives for gardening tools and took on the role of master gardener at Le Doyenné. His distinctive perspective and sensibility, deeply influenced by his experience as a chef are what sets him apart from traditional market gardeners.

The idea for Le Doyenné, this unique and enchanting farm-to-table restaurant which I had the opportunity to visit last year, came about after two Aussie chefs, Shaun and his friend/business partner James Henry visited the site in Saint-Vrain, a little town about an hour outside of Paris. It was a disused barn with expansive walled garden adjacent to Chateau de Saint-Vrain. In the late 20th century, it underwent a transformation into a wild animal park, showcasing lions, tigers, and giraffes. Now their rare breed black pigs are taking over the former tiger enclosure. Dating back to the time of Napoleon III, the potager was marked on maps but lay dormant for six decades.

“The space dictated how it would evolve. To make it worthwhile for out of town visitors it needed to be a real food producing farm, something different, not just a restaurant in the countryside with a herb garden.”

In 2019 whilst the restaurant was under construction, Shaun and James supplied some of Paris’ best chefs with the fresh produce grown in Le Doyenné. Now the potager has reached the production size that is fitting for the restaurant.

As the master gardener of Le Doyenné, Shaun embraces regenerative agriculture practices. The goal is to not only capture carbon but also nurture nutritious, flavourful vegetables while leaving the environment in a better state than when it was found. Le Doyenné strives to be a leading example of sustainable agricultural practices, viewing it as essential for the well-being of our society and the planet. By foregoing traditional tilling methods, Shaun prioritises gentle decomposition through compost and mulch, effectively capturing carbon and safeguarding age-old microbial communities. To date, Shaun has overseen the planting of various fruit trees and shrubs, along with the cultivation of a wide range of heirloom vegetables and herbs.

Le Doyenné’s kitchen has captivated everyone with imaginative yet meticulously crafted dishes that pay homage to their artisanal suppliers and the fresh produce harvested directly from the fertile soil of its potager, earning a very well deserved award of Best Restaurant of 2023 from Le Fooding.

Who Shaun Kelly
Home is Saint-Vrain, France
Family origin Eumundi, QLD
Occupation Owner and master gardener of Le Doyenné
Currently I’m obsessed with my Cocker Spaniel
Currently I’m listening to Talking Heads
One day I must visit Mexico
Go to meal Spicy Asian food
My piece of Sydney None of Sydney but West End in Brisbane
Favourite spice Jalapeño

Shaun’s Food Waste Tips

Make jelly out of leftover lemon rinds by boiling them into a stock, add equal part sugar and reduce it down.

Posted: Apr 18 2024
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