The Unbearable Lightness of Being Hungry


Society & Culture





April 2014
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O Tama Carey grew up "eating nothing, refusing all food", so it may be surprising that she ended up as a chef. In fact, she jokes that she was "tricked" into this career. She's made a name for herself in Sydney, through working at Billy Kwong, running pop-up dinners with Billy Kwong co-conspirator Hamish Ingham (who now heads Bar H) and for the last three years, she's been adding a contemporary twist to Italian food at Berta in Surry Hills (her Sri Lankan background leads her to sneaking some curry leaves into the dishes, occasionally). O Tama's hands-on approach means that she's reared pigs for the restaurant (an incident that resulted in her first experience with shotguns) and she's had to deal with mega beestings and chasing queen bees in the post (yes, they do get sent in the mail!) in order to cultivate honey for Berta. She also talks about coverage of women's chefs, what she refuses to eat and her upcoming appearance at Stories from the Cellar on February 23 at Elizabeth Bay House, as presented by Wildwon Projects and Sydney Living Museums. O Tama name-checks her favourite places to eat in Sydney, too – in particular, she salutes the brilliance of Brent Savage (Monopole, Yellow, Bentley).

Direct download: otamacarey.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 3:18 PM

Mike Bennie was studying law and looking for a no-brainer job that wouldn't interfere with his late nights out. He found one stacking shelves and driving a van for a local bottle shop – and it ended up being the gateway into his interest in wine. After run-ins with E Annie Proulx, the world of radio, and ditching law, he ended up as an award-winning wine writer. He's travelled the world via his wine glass – literally and figuratively: he's physically climbed a Swiss mountain - conquering 600-metre cliff drops – just to visit a vineyard and he's also endured 10-star hangovers after testing up to 40 wines a day. Mike's accessible, insightful and witty approach to the topic means that he can easily talk about the 8000-year-old wine-making traditions of Georgia – as well as whether you should get wine advice from rap music. He also covers what to look for in a wine label and why orange wine is a big deal. As an organiser of Rootstock Sydney (Feb 8-9, Carriageworks, Sydney), he talks about the impressive line-up of winemakers and chefs involved; Mike also runs through the "Bermuda Triangle" of his favourite places to eat in his neighbourhood, and the restaurant opening he's most excited about this year – the new place that Luke Powell (Mary's, Tetsuya's) will be running in Chippendale.

Direct download: mikebennie.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 4:06 PM

Andrew Levins once got offered a cookbook deal during a DJ set. This happened after he opened The Dip, the popular American-inspired eatery that he runs in Sydney with his wife, Bianca. It was namechecked for its hot dogs by Gourmet Traveller when it first launched and Levins' "hot dog expertise" has also been flexed on his TV show, Levins Eating Food, where he highlighted the most interesting dogs in Sydney (including a deep-fried Korean creation that could very well protect you from a killer hangover). Levins also has many fascinating tales about dining around America and shares his trick for making a toasted cheese sandwich with an iron. Plus, you need to hear his rundown of where to eat in Sydney and the places he wants to check out next (Pinbone and Moon Park are on the list).

Direct download: levins220114.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 2:01 PM

Elizabeth Hewson gets her inspiration from everywhere: one of the recipes in her new cookbook, "Moving Out … Eating In", comes from an incident involving a hangover. And while her cookbook tackles the reality of creating meals when you've just left home and you're nervously counting down until your next pay packet, her day job can seem like the flipside of producing inventive budget-watching cuisine. Working in PR for Black Communications, she looks after luxury food brands such as Simon Johnson provedores and Riedel glassware and hatted restaurants like Otto and Quay – which means she's had the famous Snow Egg dessert more than anyone you know. She's also experienced a lunch out in the fields, as served by Quay's Peter Gilmore and Noma's Rene Redzepi and can tell you about Austrian decanters that have been influenced by Chinese zodiac signs. She talks about what it was like creating a cookbook from scratch while in her twenties with no money, how to make brains actually tasty and she shares some of her favourite places to eat and drink in Sydney (Billy Kwong and 121BC are some of her beloved haunts).

Direct download: lizziehewsonpodcast.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 2:09 PM

"You should be dead." That's what Adam Humphrey's doctor once told him. Despite the physically exhausting nature of his work, the co-head-chef and co-owner of Sydney's Arras has survived life in the kitchen with some pretty amazing tales to tell. Early on, his achievements include scoring against a famous UK goalkeeper, being a pastry chef in a Michelin-starred restaurant at 18 and denying Antonio Banderas some requested carbs. He currently runs the hatted restaurant Arras with his wife Lovaine, and his inspired creations include sushi bread, "Tomato Soup & Friends", a dessert that resembles a spilled-over Negroni – not to mention the most Willy-Wonka-style petits fours plate in Sydney. Adam shares his many stories, as well as his favourite places to eat and drink (The Bentley, The Wedge and Sixpenny are just a few of the establishments where he likes to spend his time).

Direct download: adamhumphrey.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 6:10 AM

There's no doubt that Jaime Wirth has rebooted the idea of Sydney pubs. Via his Drink N Dine empire, he's transformed many old-man drinking holes into places where you can find a deep-fried Golden Gaytime, Kingston Kreme donuts and someone under the age of 55. It hasn't been an obvious – or easy – career path for this former DJ. He's weathered drive-by shootings, firebombs and some seriously unappealing encounters with greasetraps to ensure that places like The Norfolk, The Abercrombie and The Forresters run pretty smoothly. It's no surprise, then, that he has some pretty amazing stories to share.  

Direct download: jaime_wirth_final.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 2:47 PM

Here's an interview I did last year with Joanna Savill, editor of the Good Food Guide and director of Good Food Month (previously known as Crave International Food Festival).

Direct download: joannasavilledited.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 3:53 PM

What's it like to stage a dinner in the back lot of Opera Australia? Or throw a random soup party in a park and hope you don't get busted? Kristen Allan would know, as these are some of the guerilla culinary events she's organised with Full Circle (the team also behind The Eat-in pop-up restaurant in Chippendale earlier this year). She also runs excellent cheesemaking workshops at Cornersmith, so she's also an expert on ricotta, labne, and all things curds and whey – and in fact, can personally tell you what's more unappealing than eating maggot-riddled cheese (you'll be surprised by her answer!) or the lovely story behind the most expensive cheese she's ever bought. Kristen also chats about her unusual career path into the world of food, her time at much-loved Italian restaurants Vini and Berta, and her involvement with Cornersmith's newest establishment – opening in August.    

Direct download: kristenallan_h.m4a
Category:food -- posted at: 2:42 PM

Christina Tosi is a James Beard Rising Star Chef and the creative force behind the popular Momofuku Milk Bar bakeries in New York. But she's taken an unusual path to get to this point. She studied electrical engineering and, even when she ended up in the kitchen of the award-winning WD-50 (as a pastry chef, not an engineer!), she chose to take an unexpected next step: working as a cashier and resolving unsexy problems – such as unclogging toilets – at the newly started Momofuku. In fact, it was a boring paperwork problem that sparked her creative collaboration with Momofuku's David Chang. She went on to challenge his belief that "dessert is for wusses" and continues to prove to be the exception "to any assumption you make". We talk about her career; her famous creations, such as "crack pie" (it's "the dare of all dares to just have one slice and just walk away") and Australia's connection to it; the local flavours she fell in love with during her trip here, and much more.

Thanks to Bloomsbury (publisher of Christina's book, "Momofuku Milk Bar") and Crave Sydney International Food Festival for making this interview possible. It was recorded (in a crowded props room during my lunch hour – very glamorous!) while Christina was in Sydney as a festival guest last year.

Direct download: christinatosipodcast.m4a
Category:food -- posted at: 11:32 AM

Naomi Hart ended up in hospitality by accident. But her unintentional career path has taken her to some interesting places – such as a New York restaurant where she almost dropped a table on Tom Hanks (he was very nice about it) and the stylish coat-check woman was straight from a Bill Cunningham photograph (in fact, she was often the subject of his lens). After working in LA, she came back to Australia with her husband Gregory to start Hartsyard, a Newtown eatery that quickly became known for its big flavours, its popularity with locals (the Porteno crew are regulars) and its famous mascot – George, the eyepatch-wearing duck. She's had many adventures working as a waitress and restaurant manager, and she reveals quite a few entertaining examples in this podcast.

Direct download: ULBH_Hartsyard.mp3
Category:Society & Culture -- posted at: 11:36 PM