At its best, Australian cuisine is delicious without being fussy - the food is pleasantly multicultural, with the wholesome flavours of nature Every nation has its culinary identity, but countries in the New World have always suffered from a kind of identity crisis in the kitchen. In North America and Australasia, the style of cuisine depends heavily on the input of a predominantly migrant population and the countries they represent. In Australia, this means a substantial influence from Britain and Ireland, then Italy and Greece, and since the mid-1970s Asia, in particular Vietnam, Japan and China. As the continent continues to define its national persona and culture, the lack of an established tradition can sometimes be an advantage. For example, Australia's chefs do not feel the constraints of a strictly local tradition and are free to get brazenly creative. What is more, they have some of the world's best products to work with. The weather also plays an important role in defining Australian cuisine. The climate can be Mediterranean or tropical, depending on which state you are in, but is on the whole temperate, and this makes for an outdoors dining culture. Prawn on the barbie, beetroot in the burger and red sauce on the meat pie are all part of the al fresco effect. Remember, this is a country where families sit down to eat a traditional European Christmas lunch in 40-degrees Centigrade weather. Hong Kong may not have a great many Australian restaurants, but the city does boast plenty of antipodean chefs plying their trade and showing us their brand of creativity. In just a year, Australian Dane Clouston, executive chef at the JIA Boutique Hotel in Causeway Bay, has built a reputation based on some of the most innovative dishes served in Hong Kong. He believes most Australians learn to use a barbecue as part of their childhood education. Teague Ezard, the renowned Melbourne chef who has opened the stylish Opia restaurant at the JIA, said: 'Getting handed the tongs from your father for the first time is a rite of passage for an Australian child, so any barbecue brings back fond memories. 'Most Australian chefs take the traditions of cooking, whether it be French, Greek or Italian, and push the boundaries and expand the flavours to create the Australian style,' he added. The art of French cooking was particularly useful, he said, because its practical cooking techniques were understood worldwide. Chef Clouston said multiculturalism was the core of Australian food. 'Being from an isolated part of the world, we take pride in exploring that world and using it as an influence in our cuisine,' he said. 'The definition is great products, multicultural cuisine and fresh ingredients.' Johnny Shen, executive chef at Lan Kwai Fong's Wooloomooloo restaurant, said produce was an essential in the definition of Australian cuisine. 'While many restaurants find themselves battling over themes and fancy sauces, we get down to the business - delicious, simple food that is expertly prepared with a straight-to-the-point approach,' chef Shen said. Christian Abell, JW Marriott's food and beverage director and first Asia-Pacific-based Marriott Chef of the Year winner, liked to define Australian fare as 'just simple, fresh food'. He said that if he was to host an Australian food promotion at the hotel, it would consist of fresh seafood and vegetables. Al fresco dining is a very Australian tradition.