Sat, 5 September 2015
Barbara Sweeney has made a great career out of her appetite. She's been regional editor for Good Food Guide, oversaw Cheap Eats for nine years, spends Saturdays as a 'talking cookbook' and even has been a honey judge.
In this podcast, she also chats about her fascinating assignments – from interviewing wasabi farmers to rating vinegar. (Also, did you know that 'hen caravans' existed?). There's also a time trip to the oddball retro dishes that she remembers from decades past and plus, it's hard not give your jealousy a workout when Barbara describes the staff meals she experienced when working at a hotel in Umbria.
Barbara also chats about Food & Words, the festival that she has run for several years. She runs through this year's program – which will include writer Anthony Huckstepp interviewing Sepia owners, Martin Benn and Vicki Wild, a hummus tasting by Michael Rantissi (Kepos Street Kitchen, Kepos & Co), colonial gastronomer Jacqui Newling, and yep, even me. It takes place on September 19 at The Mint in Sydney and you can find out more and grab tickets from foodandwords.com.au.
Tue, 25 August 2015
Jake Smyth knows a hell of a lot about burgers. Along with Kenny Graham, he runs Mary's – which, despite only being two years old, has quickly become a much-worshipped Sydney institution. It's easily titleholder of the best burgers in Sydney and inspires the craziest queues, even on the coldest winter nights.
David Chang, who famously said Australia screws up burgers like no other country, endorses Mary's as the exception he's on board with. No wonder Mary's sells 10,000 burgers a week between its two outlets.
Even though it was "carnage" with Jake's daughter being born on the same day that the first Mary's store opened, these two life-changing events would prove to be amazing forces in Jake's life.
He also talks about all the burger research he's done (including the worst example he's ever endured) and the unusual former lives of Mary's Newtown location, which is over a century old. He even shares some of the secrets behind Mary's amazing mushroom burger. (Jake was actually a vegan for two years, and a vegetarian for four.)
Jake also chats about the unusual things they've bartered for Mary's burgers, the Fairy's burger fundraiser and his favourite places to eat and drink (such as The Gretz and 10 William Street).
Mon, 24 August 2015
Min Chai was an “unhappy accountant” before a tragedy inspired him to change the course of his life and open N2 Extreme Gelato. He had zero experience and friends even warned him against going ahead, but his one-of-a-kind way of making flavours soon led to four-hour queues at his first store.
Min’s flavours can be wonderfully attention-seeking (such as Ferrero Reveal or Chinese Couch Syrup), cheeky and controversial (think 2 Girls, 1 Cup) and straight-up great (Buttered Popcorn, Tease Ma Malt). He’s even collaborated with everyone from Christina Tosi to Young Henrys.
He talks about the intense highlights and lowlights of running N2 Extreme Gelato and also shares some of his favourite places to eat and drink (such as Cho Dumpling King, Ching Yip Coffee Lounge and Hakiki Turkish Ice Cream).
Tue, 28 July 2015
Working at a restaurant run by the Mafia – that was no big deal for Gregory Llewellyn. In fact, whether it’s blitzing through 300 covers a service in New York, enduring sanity-testing celebrity demands for hotel riders or watching smoke clouds billow into parts of a restaurant where they definitely don’t belong – Gregory has proven himself to be an unflappable chef.
Wed, 22 July 2015
“Analiese, you’re going to have to move your car, we’re going to blow up your car.”
This has to be one of my favourite-ever interviews – Analiese Gregory is one of the most fascinating chefs that I've been lucky enough to talk to.
Not that working in food was an obvious pathway for her – in fact, having a father who was acclaimed in the industry actually dissuaded her from cooking (her dad, Mark Gregory, was the first New Zealander to receive the Meilleur Ouvrier de France, a big culinary award). And even though she made, "what lots of people consider to be, like, the worst move of my life”, she has single-handedly built an impressive CV. After working at Quay as executive sous chef, she ended up spending her days putting together one of the world's most legendary dishes – the gargouillou – at Bras in France, a restaurant on her bucket list.
She also juggled living in a house with 24 stagiaires – and their many dramas (car-ruining and otherwise!) – when working at Mugaritz in Spain. At the world-renowned restaurant, no idea was classified as off-limits, so she got to consider the surprising connections between live squid and hip hop, or carry out fascinating and out-there experiments with mould. “OK, well I’m still alive, so now I can feed this to other people,” she says in the podcast. Analiese also nailed a dish that Mugaritz had been trying to create for four years.
In this interview, she also chats about her unforgettable time running a pop-up restaurant in Morocco – where everything (yes, even rubbish) needed to conveyed in and out of the city via donkeys. There were no cars – and there were no suppliers. But the produce within her kitchen-stocking reach was staggering – such as camel milk and more types of honey than you could contemplate.
Wed, 8 July 2015
Here, Matt not only serves the classic American dish in both the Maine and Connecticut styles, but even includes a vegetarian egg-nori version that unexpectedly teleports you to Japan. (This roll is a delicious butter-mayo bomb, by the way.) The menu also includes raw milk Wisconsin cheese with jalapenos and fish rillettes – but the stadium headliner here is the iconic crustacean.
In this podcast, we talk about how this sea animal went from being seen as a low-class food (eating lobster was once considered as lowly and desperate as consuming rats) to the luxe product it is today. Matt debunks the myth that they're immortal creatures (although they can live for more than 100 years) and describes where you can find “the worst lobster on the planet”.
He also covers what should go into a proper lobster roll, why they go well with "fat buttery chardonnays" and why (despite the backlash) he decided to track down lobster from America instead of using Australian produce.
Also in this episode, Matt talks about his unexpected career in hospitality (in his early days, on the bus to work, he'd give himself a crash course on the grand crus of Burgundy) and how he went on to start much-loved Sydney small bar, Love Tilly Devine.
Fri, 19 June 2015
The fan base for Black Star Pastry is pretty large – after all, its stores attract long lines, have scored many Sydney food awards and even drawn the attention of an Argentinean TV show (its crew called up and asked for an updated pavlova).
Black Star Pastry's success may seem unlikely when you consider that its creator Christopher Thé originally had a BA in Psychology and was also told the original Newtown location was "cursed" when he moved in; the DIY attitude that powered the first store meant that he pretty much built the patisserie from scratch, using his parents' retirement money.
But the former pastry chef for Quay and Claude's eventually built up such interest for his work that a spin-off Black Star Pastry store opened in Rosebery and a pop-up has appeared at the Powerhouse Museum. Demand for his signature strawberry and watermelon cake has spiked exponentially – not long ago, he was selling half a tray of these a day; now Black Star Pastry buys around a ton of watermelon a week to cover the thousands of strawberry and watermelon pastries that are sold. (The revenue from the cake alone is basically enough to cover 40 people's wages at the company).
Christopher shares many other amazing stories about running Black Star Pastry – including the incredibly personal story behind the design of the Rosebery outlet and the inspiration behind the Anzac Day cookie packages – to his surprising army ambitions, collaborations with local designers and keeping watch over former charges who have gone on to their own thing (look out for John Ralley's Textbook Patisserie).
Sat, 25 April 2015
Where do you even begin when listing Dan Barber's achievements? You could point out that he's the award-winning chef behind the Blue Hill & Blue Hill At Stone Barns restaurants in New York. Or note that Time included him in their list of the World's 100 Most Influential People (with a write-up by Ferran Adria, no less). Or name-check the fact that he advises President Obama on nutrition.
He's also the author of The Third Plate, a fascinating book that any food-curious person should read (it was definitely one of my favourite books of last year, but probably way more importantly, it just won a James Beard Foundation award). He also features in the new show, Chef's Table, by David Gelb who made Jiro Dreams of Sushi. It will probably be the next Netflix show to completely derail any good intentions you have to get anything productive done. (The series also features his “lost brother”, Ben Shewry of Attica.)
In this podcast, I talked to Dan Barber about The Third Plate – the fascinating people he features in the book and how he ended up writing an unlikely page-turner about soil, agriculture and other key influences on how we eat, and what should feature on the menu of the future (such as "rotation risotto"). He also talk about how he's a "wheat nerd" (he has created his own signature wheat); whether dealing with the President means encountering a lot of Secret Service agents, and how eating sustainably means we need to rethink our attitudes about abundant yet unpopular ingredients – a belief he's really taken on with his wastED pop-up.
Eric Kayser is a fifth-generation baker who has been described as the "the world ambassador of French bread". He has more than 110 stores worldwide, with recent openings in Mexico and Thailand, and his accolades stretch across many borders, too: he's been awarded Best Baguette in New York and Best Croissant in Tokyo.
In this interview, I chat to him about his early interest in experimenting with flour; having to abandon romantic dates to fulfil his baking duties; what it was like trying to maintain his culinary skills while on military service and how far he has travelled with starter.
Eric Kayser is also the author of a new book called The Larousse Book of Bread, so we chat about his recipes and how he has responded to the backlash against gluten.
Dan Barber and Eric Kayser were recently guests of the Melbourne Food & Wine Festival. Thanks to their publishers (Hachette and Phaidon) for making these interviews possible.
Mon, 30 March 2015
Mitch Orr got into cooking after realising there were plenty of perks to studying food tech in high school (such as being the only dude in the class). Scoring an extra lunch as a byproduct didn’t hurt, either. Jamie Oliver’s TV show only added to the appeal of mastering recipes.
Mitch went on to become 2010 Josephine Pignolet Young Chef of the Year while at Sepia, picked up Time Out‘s Best New Talent and People’s Choice Award honours while running the kitchen at Duke Bistro with Thomas Lim and even landed on the shortlist for Cleo Bachelor of the Year.
And despite the heavy amount of cred on his CV (and staging for Massimo Bottura), he isn’t one to take things overly seriously. His Half Baked stoner dinner with Dan Hong and Levins, where he served instant noodles and “bong water” is an example of how fun and rebellion rules his creations.
In this podcast, he also talks about what it’s like to finally run his own place, as co-owner and head chef of the excellent (and perfectly named) ACME, a place he wryly describes as #notanitalianrestaurant. He also reveals what he really thinks of customer feedback and being scored by Terry Durack.
Also discussed: what really upsets him in the kitchen (it’s hilarious and surprising), what to do with a zillion litres of extra egg whites, and where he likes to eat and drink in Sydney (“anytime anyone asks me where to go, I always say 10 William Street and Ester“) – this list includes both high-end favourites like the “phenomenal” meal he last had at Sixpenny and the knockout desserts at Bentley, as well as Faheems Fast Food, and yep, even KFC.
Mitch also runs through the places he most wants to try next (which includes Automata, Clayton Wells’s restaurant which is due to open in July) and the local chefs that inspire him, such as Elvis Abrahanowicz from Porteno, Dan Hong of Ms G’s and Mr Wong, Dan Puskas of Sixpenny and Ben Greeno of Momofuku Seiobo.
PS Here’s a link to the Junkee article about Mitch’s fave Sydney eats that I refer to in the podcast.
Mon, 16 March 2015
In the year since I first talked to Andrew Levins on my podcast, he's notched up some major achievements – such as becoming a dad and accidentally ending up as face of the opposition to Barry O'Farrell's lockout laws. He also closed The Dip (where he found himself making 200 burgers in an hour) and landed on the other side of food-reviewing game – writing criticism as editor of TwoThousand.
In this guise, he's really tested himself – such as enduring a Vegemite-crust-stuffed pizza so that we don't have to (he calls it “one of the worst things I’ve ever eaten” ) as well as expanding the geographical reach of TwoThousand to some of his favourite postcodes outside the inner city. This includes heading to “Sydney’s greatest suburb” and sharing with readers the details of his Cabramatta Happy Meal (take note: the sugarcane juice stand he recommends is knockout-level good) or the place in Sydney where you can eat baos that are like burgers.
And speaking of buns and patties, he talks about some of his most memorable reviews (such as his take on The Burger Project), plus being sent overseas by California's tourism board to document his “favourite fast food place in LA”, the piggy fries at Oinkster and the place where Levins knocked back the "best tacos of my life” at 4am, AKA “one of the best meals I’ve had in my life”.
We also chat about the unexpected second life of his cookbook, whether he misses cooking commercially, the grossest thing he’s ever had to do as a chef, and where he likes to eat in Sydney with his son, Archie (Pinbone, ACME and Moon Park to name a few of their fave hangouts).