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The Unbearable Lightness of Being Hungry

The Unbearable Lightness of Being Hungry: Lee Tran Lam quizzes chefs, critics, bar staff and other people from the world of food about their career highlights and lowlights, war stories and favourite places to eat and drink in Sydney.

Sep 4, 2014

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.