The Unbearable Lightness of Being Hungry

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October 2014
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Syndication

Hetty McKinnon is the creative force – and salad-making ace – behind Arthur Street Kitchen. Her one-woman business saw her taking lunch orders from locals, creating meals from scratch at her Surry Hills home, and personally delivering these salads every Thursday and Friday on her bike.

To pull this off, Hetty had to single-handedly cook 100 salads a week in her domestic kitchen, playing a game of ingredient Tetris just to fit all the required produce into her very normal-sized fridge. And even if it was plummeting with rain, Hetty would make all the salad deliveries herself – something she's been doing (without complaint!) since 2011.

During this podcast, Hetty also talks about life before her Arthur Street Kitchen adventures – such as her start in PR, and her macaron-making challenges for Remy & Lee's – as well as the cookbook she created after people kept asking for her much-loved salad recipes. The resulting publication, Community, has been a hit, but producing the title also led to Hetty's first-ever appointment with a physio – it was that gruelling! 

She also talks about the next chapter of Arthur Street Kitchen, which is moving from Surry Hills to Brooklyn; what it's been like to be a vegetarian for the last 20 years, and where she likes to eat and drink in Sydney.

Direct download: hettymckinnon2.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 2:31 PM

Nick Smith's early fascination with food was marked, literally, with a bang. A childhood cooking incident – which led to an unexpected visit from the bomb squad – did not deter his culinary interests, nor did a 10-year career in stockbroking. Along the way, he started his own catering company, became involved with Single Origin Roasters and, most recently, is the reason why people have been blitzing through bowls of ramen at the Rising Sun Workshop pop-up noodle bar and communal motorcycle garage in Newtown.

In this podcast, Nick also talks about the creative ways he's worked around the limits of – for instance – currently only having one frypan in the Rising Sun Workshop kitchen (blowtorches have been deployed) and how he went on a ramen study-binge before finalising the three types of memorable broths that he serves at the current Newtown pop-up: The Darkness, The Light and The Monk.  

The current phase of Rising Sun will wind up on Sunday September 21. Nick talks about the special dinners that will take place in the lead-up to this final date, as well as the next stage of the ramen bar. The workshop crew is waiting on the response to a development application currently before City of Sydney council. If all goes well, this noodle joint/communal workshop will rise again at the old Mitre 10 site in Newtown, on 1 Whateley Lane. Fingers crossed that these guys re-emerge soon – they've been doing great things at the current Lennox St site; plus, Sydney needs its ramen fix!

PS The David-Chang-endorsed ramen place in JR Tokyo that we discuss in the interview is Rokurinsha.

Direct download: nicksmith-edited.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 2:05 PM

Chui Lee Luk grew up in Malaysia, visiting the markets early in the day – fascinated and repelled by how "gruesome" they could be. When she moved to Australia, she was introduced to French food, thanks to "one of the weirdest competitions I've entered ever".

After a career dealing with stamp duty and commercial transactions, Chui found herself switching paths to work in restaurants – there she was, a former commercial lawyer learning how to cook from teenagers who had more culinary experience than she did. But the monumental change – and battle scars – were worth it, as Chui went on to become chef and owner of Claude's, a Sydney institution that she never let become fusty – not only did she experiment with what appeared on people's dinner plates, but Chui's innovative approach saw tonnes of dirt being transported by crane into the restaurant for an art installation, with the chemistry of the soil magically lighting up LED lamps throughout Claude's. This highly memorable experience did lead to some things unexpectedly going wrong, though – as Chui explains in the podcast.

She also talks about the under-representation of female chefs in the industry, missing French ingredients once she opened Chow Bar and Eating House, her most recent restaurant venture – a Chinese-style izakaya that has recently announced its closure, unfortunately.

We also discuss the Celestial City exhibition at Museum of Sydney and the Celestial Tables event that we're both part of – I'll be interviewing Chui for the Q&A and she'll also be presenting her pickles for a tasting session. It takes place on Sunday September 28 at 2.30-3.30pm. You can get tickets here, if you're interested.

Direct download: Chui_Lee_Luk.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 3:04 PM

Ambrose Chiang's love of food started early on – at the age of six, he was already handling big knives and other serious kitchen hardware in his family's kitchen in Hong Kong. Later, he moved to Australia, and after battling early alarm-clock starts and hill sprints, he moved on from the world of football to the world of hospitality – which proved just as gruelling as any contact sport, particularly when working at Cafe Sydney, where you could be juggling 600 covers a day. 

In this podcast, he also talks about returning to Hong Kong, where he landed a job at Amber at the Landmark Mandarin Oriental – and being a witness to the city's unique dining culture; Hong Kong had a colourful food culture, but eating out might not necessarily be about enjoying yourself, as it turned out, and diners sometimes had surprising habits.

At age 22, he's landed some notable achievements, such as being the youngest state finalist in the Electrolux Young Waiter of the Year competition (he talks about what it's like to serve Nick Hildebrandt and other industry heavyweights for the contest) and he currently works at Momofuku Seiobo, one of the best restaurants in Australia, and in Ambrose's opinion, also home to the best ramen in Sydney (sorry guys, it's also available as a staff meal, but you can enjoy vicarious servings of it via Ambrose's Instagram).

Direct download: ambrosechiang.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 7:08 AM

Hanz Gueco has discovered some pretty surprising things as a chef. Orange juice can be the best part of a $300 meal. You can get sent home for the most unusual reason when working at an establishment in Japan. And there's a sneaky way to get around America's legal drinking age of 21 that does not involve a false ID.

In this podcast, Hanz also describes what it's like to be the sous chef at one of Sydney's most inventive restaurants – Cafe Paci – which is run by acclaimed chef Pasi Petanen (who, besides being widely respected in the industry, is also known for his Finnish roots and menu fondness for rye).

Hanz also chats about how he got to this point in his career, after notching up cameos at impressive institutions locally (Rockpool, Marque, Est) and overseas (Manresa, Ryugin), and as a bonus, he covers how to "win" at Instagram.

He is also a contestant in the Electrolux Young Chef of the Year program and discusses what it's like to be a part of the competition and how he feels about being judged by such heavyweights, like David Thompson of Nahm.

After Hanz talked to me for the podcast, he was named as a finalist in Electrolux's Young Chef of the Year competition. The winner is announced in mid-August. Good luck, Hanz!

Direct download: hanzgueco2.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 2:40 PM

Andrew Bowden is the "lord pastry master of Hartsyard". You may know him as Andy Bowdy if you follow him on social media, where you can see the next-level desserts he makes for the hatted Newtown restaurant. This includes his ever-changing soft serves and pies – which incorporate everything from deep-fried cheesecake, wasabi peas, toasted bourbon marshmallow and duck fat choc chips – and his spectacular bespoke cakes (one particular creation was bartered for 18 cheeseburgers from Mary's). One of these concoctions still takes the title for the best cake I've ever eaten.

He didn't start off wanting to be a chef, but he managed to get there through some unlikely steps. Despite some unfortunate incidents with knives and unco-operative lettuce, Andy has had some great adventures in the kitchen (including a memorable dance session that led to emergency vehicles turning up at the restaurant where he happened to be busting his moves). Andy also talks about how he ended up at Hartsyard with head chef Gregory Llewellyn, his inventive dessert experiments, his mentors and his favourite places to eat and drink in Sydney. 

Direct download: andrewbowden.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 1:35 PM

When Ferran Adria – one of the world's greatest chefs – was recently in Sydney for a day, I was lucky enough to get a chance to interview him.

In the car ride from the airport to his hotel, I got to ask him about whether he actually eats plane food; we went into detail about elBulli 2005-2011, his spectacular seven-book set about the ground-breaking restaurant's last chapter; whether he still considers himself a punk (he used to blow up tomatoes and claim it was a "punky" phase he was going through); what he cooks at home and what's next for elBulli.

Thanks to Phaidon and Kate & Co PR for making this interview possible.

Direct download: ferranadriainterview.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 1:41 PM

Not many people look into a wine glass and see a career. When Richard Hargreave was at Quay in his first-ever serious sommelier role, he was juggling a business degree – with plans to graduate and land a "grown-up job". He never ended up going down that road and ignoring the "grown-up" path has definitely paid off. In fact, Richard was named Sommelier of The Year at the latest Sydney Morning Herald Good Food Awards for his work at Momofuku Seiobo – a restaurant so great that people have forged confirmation bookings to try to get a much-coveted spot there. It's no surprise that Richard is gaining much-deserved attention and applause for his inventive drinks program; not only does it cover note-worthy wines and sake, but it also includes house-made sodas, custom-crafted brews and juice pairings (think konbu tea, pumpkin and mandarin juice and other next-level beverages). He chats about his upcoming Sunday Wine Sessions events at Momofuku Seiobo, momofuku.com/sydney/seiobo/sunday-sessions, which he's running with the equally booze-savvy Mike Bennie; the series is an attempt to take the "reverence and stiffness" out of enjoying wine ("it's just another beverage," says Richard; no one gets that stuffy about beer, after all) and will cover everything from fermentation, festive drinks and the curious phenomenon of suitcase wines. Richard also talks about his many other drinking adventures (such as sweet-talking Customs into smuggling bottles home and visiting a spectacular vineyard in Aveyron, France), what he thought about Premier Barry O'Farrell losing his job over a '59 Grange and the restaurants he's most excited about trying next (namely, the latest projects by chefs Luke Powell and Nic Wong). 

Direct download: richardhargreave.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 3:56 PM

Renee Creer is doing something unusual in Australia – she's selling locally grown green tea under her label Perfect South. She's taken an unusual route to get to this point – a journey that involves a visit to an 800-year-old tea shop in Kyoto, becoming a tea master, and enduring the occasional "tea high" from too many tastings in one go. Renee's teas are now served at Rockpool and Cornersmith and she's also one of the organisers of the Sydney Tea Festival, which takes place at Carriageworks on August 17, sydneyteafestival.com.au. During this podcast, she talks about "man tea" and "lady tea", how to serve a killer brew, where she gets her loose-leaf fix in Sydney and whether or not she'd drink panda-poop tea.

Direct download: reneecreer.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 1:59 PM

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