The Unbearable Lightness of Being Hungry

Patrick Friesen originally thought he was going to be a doctor. He also planned to be in Sydney for a short spell - but luckily for Australians (and their appetites), he did a U-turn on both points and we're now fans of the talented chef and his menu-ruling work at Merivale's many venues: Ms Gs, Work In Progress, Papi Chulo and the upcoming Queen Chow (which you may know via Insta-stalking its #enmorechinese hashtag).

In this podcast, we talk about the true story behind his ‘Phat Pat’ nickname, the food scene in Canada (where he grew up) and how he ditched microbiology lectures to pursue food and spend his (then) life savings on eating solo at Per Se at age 19.

Patrick has also gone on some mega research trips for Merivale - from his Michelin-star-blitz through Hong Kong (with Dan Hong and the Mr Wong crew) to fat-burning his way across Nashville with Morgan McGlone (Belle's Hot Chicken, Husk). “We ate more food than anyone’s ever eaten in three days,” says Patrick. 

We also hear about his recent Japan trip, where he spent a bomb on dinner at a sushi joint (only for it to be over in a flash), felt sick (in the best way possible) at the fish markets, and also endured a two-hour-long queue just to try Shake Shack. Aside from his Tokyo adventures, we also chat about other border-crossing meals he's had – like the Phnom Penh chicken that's not from Cambodia (a secret discovered via fellow chef Jowett Yu) and where he's smashed the best burgers in the world.

Patrick has pretty strong opinions on buns-and-patties and it's one of the many topics he'll be exploring for March Into Merivale (we have fun running through his golden rules for burgers). He's also tackling Instagram, guilty pleasures and other special dining events for the Merivale program (which has its launch party on Wednesday February 10, and runs from February 14 to March 20).

We also chat about what he cooks at Papi Chulo (from his insanely good cauliflower dish with romesco, parmesan and brown butter crumbs), the indestructible curly fries, and his local twist on American-style barbecue. Plus, a preview of Queen Chow, what you do when the price of avocado skyrockets, how a hunt for gossip accidentally led him to the co-head-chef role at Papi Chulo; and we finish up with his favourite places to eat and drink in Sydney.

Direct download: Patrick_Friesen.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 8:09am EST

From producing macaron wallpaper for Adriano Zumbo to making dynamite-stick lights for ACME - and creating the "zombie-proof" exteriors for Momofuku Seiobo - Luchetti Krelle has been behind the attention-hooking designs for Sydney's noteworthy restaurants, bars and eateries.

Co-director Stuart Krelle has worked on hospitality projects of all budgets and styles - from the mega-pop charm of the Hello Kitty diner to an installation of toy soldiers parachuting down into Single Origin's Surry Hills cafe. The company has even managed to turn hidden parts of the Hinky Dinks bathroom into clever spots for wine storage. And toilets can sometimes be a surprising talking point - as he discovered when there was controversy surrounding Luchetti Krelle's design of the urinals at Ananas (yes, even bathrooms can be controversial)!

Last year, his company won a Restaurant Bar & Design Award in London for its cartoon-evoking look on ACME.

Stuart talks about the highs and lows of making a venue look good - and what it's like when things get down to the wire and you have to finish the interiors before Mick Jagger turns up for the launch of your bar.

Direct download: Stuart_Krelle.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 9:10am EST

Mike Eggert studied environmental science - a career path he returned to, in a way, when he cooked feral animals for a Pinbone/Young Henrys event for 2015's Good Food Month (an occasion that lead to a truly spectacular, poncho-staining food fight).

After detouring from his studies and becoming a chef, he went on to work at many acclaimed Sydney restaurants – such as Oscillate Wildly, Sepia, Duke Bistro (with Mitch Orr, who is his co-host on The Mitchen podcast) and Billy Kwong (which is where he met his future Pinbone co-head-chef Jemma Whiteman).

Along with Jemma and front-of-house ace, Berri Eggert (who is also Mike's sister), the trio gained a devout following with their Pinbone restaurant in Woollahra. In fact, when they announced the closure of its location in 2015, diners were willing to wait an hour and a half just to get in for the restaurant's famous brunch (and not just any diners - Quay's Peter Gilmore was spotted lining up on the footpath). Mike actually had trouble closing the fridges near the end, because they were so packed with prep and produce for the final weekends.

Pinbone also had a great rep for embracing dietary requirements, instead of grumbling about them behind diners' backs; and it also was responsible for the Instagram-ruling maple bacon and pumpkin tart, which began quite accidentally, but ended up on the cover of Gourmet Traveller.

Mike also talks about where Pinbone is currently at and the 2016 restaurant openings that he's most excited about.

Direct download: Mike_Eggert.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 6:55am EST

I chat to Magnus Nilsson about his epic new publication (The Nordic Cookbook, which has 700+ recipes that he collated from the region - including 400 recipes that he personally tested at home and features some of the 8000 photographs he took of the area), whether he believes as many World's 50 Best judges actually visit his tiny restaurant Faviken, why a sandwich can tell you a lot about a country's cuisine, what it's like to eat puffin and the recent time he got pulled over by American cops.

Direct download: magnusnilsson.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 10:20am EST

Annabel Crabb once put a laptop in the oven and it wasn’t even the worst thing she’s ever cooked.

Rare culinary slip-ups aside, the host of Kitchen Cabinet is brilliant at mastering recipes (she’s just released an excellent cookbook, after all). And her food-transporting game is pretty strong, too – for her ABC TV show, she once carried a honey fig semifreddo cake to Senator Nick Xenophon’s place, with zero melting tragedies. Getting serving implements through airport security is another matter, though. “You try and take a cake fork anywhere – you’re in massive trouble,” she says.

Despite this obstacle, it’s impressive what Annabel is able to achieve on her cooking show, despite not having a traditional studio kitchen set-up. She’s so savvy that she once managed to make ice cream in a hotel room.

Taking dessert to someone – the premise of her show – can act as a great Trojan horse for getting into sought-after places (such as Joe Hockey’s “notorious” share house, where former opposition leader Brendan Nelson lived in a shed for $80 a week; “it’s the funniest, weirdest story,” she says).

Food to make and take is the focus of her great new cookbook, Special Delivery (Murdoch Books), which she’s co-written with her Kitchen Cabinet recipe consultant and life-long friend, Wendy Sharpe.

Food offerings can be a not-so-secret code, a direct message that conveys a lot – as Annabel explains in the book, sometimes it can mean ‘Congratulations’ or ‘I come in peace’ (to politicians) or ‘Lord, this meeting might be grim – let’s have some cake while we’re at it’.

In the podcast, she says: “Often when you’re in situations where you can’t think of anything else to say to somebody – like when maybe they’ve had a death in the family or they’re very sad about something and you’ve run out of the constructive things to say – sometimes you take something that shows, in a wordless way, that you’re thinking about them.”

It can also be fun, too. And her cookbook includes a recipe for a soufflé you can travel with and advice on how to present haloumi without the ‘am I eating a cold thong?’ feeling.

During this podcast, Annabel also covers the extreme lengths she endured in making a relevant dessert for Motoring Enthusiast Party Senator Ricky Muir for this season of “Kitchen Cabinet” (donuts, as it turned out, were impossible to pull off). She also shares a funny behind-the-scenes revelation about serving Clive Palmer a cake that would have been served on the Titanic.

It was delightful to chat to Annabel – and I love that a Canberra journalist who landed a “accidental second career as the host of a political cooking show” would end up being the person who talks most extensively about food out of everyone I’ve interviewed on this podcast.

 

Direct download: Annabel_Crabb_2.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 8:42am EST

“There’s no $10 steak, that's for sure,” says Ben Greeno.

There's nothing standard-issue about his upcoming ventures with Merivale, which is no surprise – Ben is far from a standard-issue chef. (In fact, there's question about whether The Paddington – the 'pub' he's opening for the hospitality group – is even actually a pub. And the chicken shop that will follow is not going to be your average takeaway outlet, either.)

So there are many dynamite reasons why people are majorly excited about this acclaimed chef's next moves.

After all, Ben was Rene Redzepi's first employee when the Danish chef opened Noma. “It was one of the hardest jobs I’ve ever had,” says Ben.

And after working at Michelin-starred kitchens in Europe (and running a supper club in London, where he fed 10 people at a time from an apartment), Ben ended up at David Chang's Momofuku outposts in New York – and later headed the award-blitzing team that opened Momofuku Seiobo in Sydney.

He talks about all of this in the podcast – plus, the dish that outlasted the famous pork bun at Seiobo, and that wild time they had when recreating Momofuku Ssam Bar's seminal 2007 menu for Good Food Month in 2014.

This year, Ben joined Merivale – and it probably doesn't hurt his employment prospects that CEO Justin Hemmes name-checks Ben as one of the best chefs in the world.

So Ben also chats about his plans for The Paddington (which opens on Tuesday), with a menu that is inspired by three fantastic on-site rotisseries (where he'll be roasting everything from lamb to celeriac), and the research he's done for the upcoming takeaway shop (including the time he ate 100 euro chicken in France with Hanz Gueco).

Ben also talks about his standout experiences at L’Arpege and his anticipation for the future Merivale venues for Patrick Friesen and Danielle Alvarez (“It’s gonna be one of the best openings of next year for sure," he says about her planned restaurant, Fred's.)

Direct download: Ben_Greeno.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 11:58am EST

Within the first minute of chatting, James Hird mentions the time his sister got caught up in a Chilean coup in Uruguay at the age of 11 – so you know it's going to be a good interview.

And while overseas escapades in India and France played a role in shaping James' ideas about eating and drinking, there's no doubt that the local landscape strongly influences his outlook about what should end up on our dinner plates or in our glasses.

After starting a law degree, James became an accidental sommelier – not that his commitment to wine was ever in doubt. He recalls sucking empty bottles of 1895 Madeira after service one night, at an early stage in his career.

Over time, James would become involved in opening Buzo, Wine Library and Vincent – and after years of uncorking wine and pouring well-picked bottles, he was named 2015 Sommelier of the Year in the Good Food Guide.

James admits that, “I think about wine pretty differently.” For him, you can narrow wine down to place and people – like music, you just have to find the genre you’re into. “A place over a 10-year period is going to produce a style or a riff you might like. And then within that, you might find a person that you really like their interpretation of that place.”

Being able to zoom into a region and really get a sense of its character and culture is a key part of the Rootstock Sydney festival that he co-founded. This year's installment of the artisanal food and wine event has gone truly next level, with added pavilions on coffee, cheese and indigenous ingredients, and around 80 producers on call to talk about what they do. Oh, and James also has to work out how to rotate a cow with a forklift and create earth ovens from scratch for Rootstock Sydney. And Magnus Nilsson's going to be around for breakfast, too.

As well as chatting about the festival, James also discusses his amazing travels this year – including his pilgrimage to Pizzeria Beddia, a pizza parlour so great that it sells out its pies by around 6pm (Bon Appetit name-checked it as "the Best Pizza in America", after all). And he also covers the time he spent at the Noma pop-up in Tokyo with Rootstock co-conspirator Mike Bennie – and the surprising record that their table guests managed to set.

Don't miss Rootstock Sydney, which takes place from November 28-29 at Carriageworks. Tickets and info available from rootstocksydney.com.

Direct download: James_Hird_v2.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 9:26pm EST

When Ben Sears was working at Cutler & Co, the “biggest highlight” was when Quentin Tarantino came in for dinner. He's picked up quite a collection of memorable experiences throughout his career – from the time he worked at L’enclume, with its remote location (and tourist-magnet appeal as home of the sticky toffee pudding) to his burnout from having to make The Age's Dish of the Year way too many times, and his final spell as head chef at Claude's, when it closed after 37 years.

“That was one of the weirdest services I’ve ever done – by far,” he says.

In this podcast, he also talks about the low-budget and punk way that he opened up Moon Park with his partner and co-head-chef Eun Hee An and Ned Brooks, their business partner and floor manager. It definitely involved a visit to K-Mart.

Ben jokes that their first patrons were really just "Ned’s friends" and downplays Moon Park's food as “Korean nonna food, gussied up for the masses” – but their venture ended up being shortlisted for Best New Restaurant by Good Food Guide and Time Out Sydney and the chefs were also nominated for Best New Talent in the Gourmet Traveller Awards.

We also chat about Korean food and culture (including the amazing traditions of Pepero Day and Black Day – and how Korean food is about a zillion years ahead of the game) and we also bring up Kim Jong-Un’s haircut once or twice.

And finally, Ben shares his favourite places to eat and drink in town – including the place he name-checks as "the best restaurant in Sydney".

Direct download: Ben_Sears.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 12:54pm EST

Claire van Vuuren and Mitch Grady did not plan to become chefs. She wanted to be an artist and he thought he'd be a golfer. Luckily for Sydney diners, their career paths got redirected – and the pair met while working at renowned Sydney institution Claude's, where they bonded over practical jokes.

They went on to open Bloodwood in Newtown – a venue that marked the tectonic shift towards young chefs running casual-but-brilliant places that they personally enjoyed, instead of the high-end fine-diners that had defined "good food" in Sydney.

During this podcast, they also talk about the battles and highlights of working in the kitchen – from the incidents that have landed them in hospital to the thrill of running your own venue, where guests will walk right up to you and tell you what they really think. Mitch covers what it's like to be a non-drinker while running a bar that has award-winning wine lists and Claire talks about the challenges endured when women are significantly outnumbered by men in the industry.

They also chat about organising the upcoming instalment of Newtown Locals. This year's set of collaborations for Newtown Festival sees Black Star Pastry, Brewtown and N2 Extreme Gelato becoming a dessert super-group; Hartsyard and The Stinking Bishops teaming up to create the ultimate Beer Poutine; Bloodwood, Mary's, Bach Eatery and Old Town Newtown joining forces on a Chicken Waffle Cone; and Oscillate Wildly and Bloodwood nailing the Veggie Corn Dog business. Plus, there'll be offerings from Earl's Juke Joint, the Courty, Rising Sun Workshop, 212 Blu and Mike Bennie as well. Make sure to check it all out on Sunday November 8 at Newtown Festival.

 

Direct download: Bloodwood.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 10:46am EST

Luke Powell was very young when he snuck into the world of food – he was enrolled in culinary classes at 15 (despite being far below the 17-year minimum cut-off) and by 19, he found himself in the kitchen at the prestigious Rockpool, while crashing at the dodgiest hostels in his off-hours.

Throughout his career, he’s witnessed amazing things – the strangest party trick performed by a head chef in New Zealand; staff tackling 10-kilogram zucchinis at Mugaritz in Spain; and many memorable incidents at New York’s Blue Hill at Stone Barns – including an encounter with a Jewish pig farmer whose mother had yet to learn of her son’s choice of work.

Locally, Luke’s CV is impressively well-rounded: after being head chef at fine-dining institution Tetsuya’s, his next move saw him slinging burgers and making trash-can bacon at the extraordinarily popular Mary’s.

And after some time with Mat Lindsay at Ester, he finally got to open his own place: LP’s Quality Meats. In this podcast, Luke charts all the fascinating directions that his career has taken – and explains why a Southern Pride smoker that cost as much as a small car (and is just as big) is the nerve centre of his restaurant.

He also talks about one of the “top 5 best things I’ve ever eaten in my life”, handling the minefield of dietary requirements and his favourite places for dining and drinking in Sydney.

Catch Luke at the upcoming event, Burgers, Ribs & Beers: The Ethics of Fast Food, which takes place on October 13 at The Lab, Level 1, Legion House, Castlereagh Street, Sydney, for Good Food Month.

And huge thanks to everyone who has ultra-generously spread the word about the podcast, including Pinbone’s Mike Eggert, who name-checked it in episode 6 of The Mitchen; and Chris from MAB vs Food, @KEboyts and Lisa Goldberg from The Monday Morning Cooking Club, who all left super-nice comments in the iTunes store. You’re all legends! And if you like what you hear and also feel like dropping a (hopefully nice!) review on iTunes or telling your friends about this podcast, that would be hugely appreciated (but not expected)!

Direct download: Luke_Powell.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 11:17am EST