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The Unbearable Lightness of Being Hungry

The Unbearable Lightness of Being Hungry

Author: Lee Tran Lam

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

Produced by Alex Watts in the FBi radio studios.
89 Episodes
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Kylie Javier Ashton – Momofuku Seiobo
Kylie Javier Ashton has dealt with forged bookings and martini glass accidents; she's disguised Alex Atala with garbage bags, and endured countless people throwing up when she's been on the job (“you could see the frequency of the voms go up when the scampi dish was on” is one of the most memorable lines from this interview). Having survived all that, it's clear that she still loves her work and wants people to join the industry (as her involvement in Women In Hospitality, Appetite For Excellence and Grow shows). Kylie Javier Ashton got her start at Tetsuya’s, when it was ranked in the Top 5 on The World’s 50 Best Restaurants list. She's since become the award-winning restaurant manager at Momofuku Seiobo, which has been twice-named the best restaurant in Australia by Gourmet Traveller. Not a bad place for her to be, considering she didn't "even know how to carry plates" when she entered the industry. Kylie has many amazing stories to tell, and covers it all, from what it's like to actually work with David Chang, the background to Paul Carmichael's food at Seiobo and why she asks her staff to give presentations on Caribbean culture, and the reality of your restaurant being in two pieces in The New York Times: one by Pete Wells, the other by Besha Rodell. Plus: that memorable period running Duke Bistro with Mitch Orr, Thomas Lim and Mike Eggert (which followed her spell at Bentley Restaurant & Bar with Brent Savage and Nick Hildebrandt – the "hardest" place she worked). And let's not forget the time she also boxed in Cuba. I LOVED talking to Kylie for this interview and she drops some of the best lines I've heard (it's worth listening to this episode so you can discover why “I’ve just been out on Oxford Street with an eyepatch” and “I didn’t realise I was Wolverine for so long" are two of the greatest things anyone has ever said on this podcast)!
Travis Harvey – OzHarvest
Turning unwanted coconuts into 2000 curries, 10 tonnes of donated squash into soup, leftover egg yolks from 16,000 Black Star Pastry watermelon-strawberry cakes into banana curd and working out what to do with 800 kilograms of airplane food picked up from the domestic airport gate – these are just some of the things that Travis Harvey handles as executive chef of a food-rescue charity. Working at OzHarvest means he's had to be pretty creative: for instance, he takes the most wasted ingredient in Australia – bread – and transforms it into dishes like fried Lazarus bread or ramen noodles at OzHarvest's pop-up cafe at Gratia in Surry Hills. He's also encountered other inventive ways of saving waste, like Josh Niland's attempt to incorporate cobia fat and fish scales into a chocolate bar dessert. Harvey has also collaborated with high-profile talent, like Massimo Bottura and even Cookie Monster. Through initiatives like the CEO Cook-off and OzHarvest food truck, he's helped the charity send 90 million meals to people in need over its 14-year history. Prior to his time at OzHarvest, he contributed to a stove-building project in Guatemala and endured Canberra restaurants that felt like episodes of Survivor. He even worked in kitchens that practise the very opposite of what he does today: extracting collagen from chicken wings, only to throw the wings out afterwards. It was fascinating chatting to Travis – and make sure you check out his work at the OzHarvest Cafe pop-up, which is running at Gratia in Surry Hills until September.  

Travis Harvey – OzHarvest

2018-08-0400:46:18

Joe Beddia – Pizzeria Beddia
Joe Beddia makes "America's best pizza", according to Bon Appétit magazine. The chef/owner of Philadelphia’s Pizzeria Beddia has also been referred to as Pizza Jesus and the Jiro of Pizza. He shrugs off what he does as "just pizza", but people would line up many hours (sometimes even arriving before Joe got to work!) just to try his pies. He only made 40 pizzas a night – and he produced each one from scratch over the restaurant's five-year run. Joe is currently on a world tour that he hopes doesn’t make people hate him – he's been to France, Italy, eaten at Noma, and he's currently in Sydney to do a week-long pop-up at Bondi Beach Public Bar. So locals can find out whether his work can be downgraded to "just pizza". Given that sommelier James Hird (who helped tee up the pop-up) describes eating at Pizzeria Beddia as one of his favourite ever food memories, you won't want to miss Joe's Australian-inspired versions of his pies while he's here. Joe also talks about life-changing pizza experiences in Tokyo, how he ended up spending his 40th birthday with comedian Eric Wareheim and how he essentially produced his Pizza Camp cookbook using his home oven. Oh and he also memorably recaps the time he attempted a stunt with a blindfold, razor, shaving cream and no pants in the hopes of winning a trip to the Playboy Mansion and $10,000. You can check out Joe's Sydney pop-up (from July 22 to July 28, 6pm until late at the Bondi Beach Public Bar) before he opens Pizzeria Beddia 2.0 in Philadelphia at the end of the year.
Sharon Salloum – Almond Bar, 3 Tomatoes, Cook For Syria
It's not surprising that Sharon Salloum would pursue a career in food – her dad has a thing for DIY cooking devices and even pioneered a shopping trolley/fridge shelf/lawnmower barbecue. Her mother and grandmother taught her the power of food around the family table, and their recipes inspired her Almond Bar cookbook – which landed her two international Gourmand Cookbook awards. Just hearing Sharon talk about Syrian dishes is the very opposite of a hunger suppressant; it will make you want to order her food immediately. But Sharon actually decided to work in healthcare before teaming up with her sister Carol to open Almond Bar in Darlinghurst and their newish cafe 3 Tomatoes in Ashbury. Her ingredients are grounded in local postcodes – vine leaves cut from her parents' yard, fresh za'atar from an uncle's home, or visits to a Western Sydney grocer who sells home-made shanklish from neighbours or excess produce from their suburban gardens.  And given that Sharon has has strong memories of riding donkeys in her father's Syrian homeland (and eating some extraordinary breakfasts in the country), it's obvious why she has gone out of her way to find hospitality work and opportunities for refugees from the region. She's also taking part in the big Cook For Syria fundraising dinner happening on June 18 at Three Blue Ducks in Rosebery, in aid of UNICEF Australia’s Syria Crisis Appeal for Children, and you can find her sfouf recipe in the upcoming Bake For Syria cookbook. To more about Cook For Syria and how you can participate, visit cookforsyria.com.  
Samin Nosrat - Author of Salt, Fat, Acid, Heat
Samin Nosrat has written one of the most-talked-about and celebrated cookbooks of the last year, Salt, Fat, Acid, Heat. Her trophy shelf includes a James Beard Award for General Cooking and the Julia Child First Book Award. It's an amazing effort for an "uncookbook" that she's spent 15 years working on. While in college, she saved for seven months to eat at Chez Panisse, the Californian farm-to-table restaurant run by Alice Waters – this life-changing meal convinced Nosrat that she needed to work there. And although she started with entry-level duties, such as cleaning the restaurant, she was very excited just to be on staff: “I can’t believe they’re letting me vacuum the floors at Chez Panisse!” Nosrat has brilliant stories about cooking at the restaurant (the numbers on the dials had worn off the ovens, so you had to wave your arms in front of them to work out the temperature), as well as visiting the oldest pickle shop in China and meeting an eighth-generation butcher in Chianti, Italy. She's also taught Michael Pollan how to cook (and dumpster-dived baguettes with him) and writes The New York Times "Eat" column, where Nosrat has confessed to being a bread hoarder and shared a recipe for a breakfast soufflé (aka soufflazy). Nosrat is delightful to talk to and it's worth listening just to hear her description of the feasts you enjoy at Iranian New Year and the green unripe plums that her mum snacked on while they were growing up.
Eve Yeung - Noma
The first restaurant Eve Yeung ever worked at was Noma - yes, the Copenhagen establishment named the World's Best Restaurant four times. So how did she end up in René Redzepi's renowned kitchen at the age of 18? The young pastry chef actually considered becoming a competitive hockey player (a path she pursued while working at Noma) and before she was preparing desserts in the high-profile restaurant, she worked at Long Island's best bakery – making extravagant cakes to celebrate people's milestones: one staggering creation, to commemorate someone's law degree, featured a legal book of torts and judge's gavel; she's also produced cakes featuring a shark jumping out of the water as well as an '80s tribute that showed a Rubik's cube on top of a 3D Pacman game. And yes, she's even fielded weird requests for wedding cakes (luckily, her family-friendly bakery had a policy about not making "crazy nudity cakes"), so she didn't have to bake anything that was too out there. It was a contrast to her time at Noma, where she would go foraging for ants in the Danish landscape or end up painstakingly cleaning reindeer moss for the restaurant's menu. She also got to push her desserts in imaginative directions (listen to the description of the dazzling ice cream sandwich she presented to Noma staff) and got to travel to Sydney for the Noma Australia pop-up. She also end up with many standout experiences while working at Noma Mexico, too, (from learning to cook regional specialties with locals to the time she was stuck in a cool room with a torchlight on her head to finish a granita dish for the menu). Eve has some pretty exciting news she'll announce later this year – keep updated via her Instagram account. In the meantime, enjoy hearing about her experiences working in memorable kitchens across the world.

Eve Yeung - Noma

2018-04-0600:50:35

Jock Zonfrillo - Orana, Bistro Blackwood
At age 11, Jock Zonfrillo started working in restaurants - initially, as a dishwasher. "I very quickly surmised that I was on the wrong side of the flying frying pan."   Only a few weeks in, he became a chef, an experience that would take him from Scotland to the rest of the world: from cooking for Prince Charles in Paris (assisting Marco Pierre White, who attempted to enter France by sticky-taping his photo on top of someone else's passport – true story) to Australia, where a four-hour life-changing conversation with an Aboriginal busker in Sydney opened him to the world of indigenous food and led him to opening Orana in Adelaide. It's currently rated as the best restaurant in Australia, according to Gourmet Traveller's 2018 national food guide. His work for the Orana Foundation - which seeks to showcase, document and make knowledge about native food accessible, while also ensuring Aboriginal communities directly benefit from the promotion of these ingredients - led to him winning the Food For Good award for the 2018 Good Food Guide. "It’s 60,000 years of knowledge that nobody's really paid attention to," he says. Learning about how Aboriginal people "had a relationship and understanding of the land, 50,000 years before the pyramids" has been pivotal to his work with Orana. (Discovering how Aboriginal people cook mangrove seeds, for instance, is just one example of the innovative nature of indigenous food.)   Plus, we cover Jock's incredible start working with Marco Pierre White (and how he secretly slept on the restaurant's change room floor just to get by), his favourite places to eat and drink in Sydney and how he's excited about Clayton Wells' upcoming eatery, A1 Canteen in Chippendale.  
Myffy Rigby, Palisa Anderson, Trisha Nelson – Live at Rootstock
Good Food Guide editor Myffy Rigby, Chat Thai and Boon Cafe co-director Palisa Anderson and an actual legit winemaker, Trisha Nelson who runs Ajola in Lazio, Italy, joined me for a chat recorded live at the most recent Rootstock food and wine festival at Sydney's Carriageworks. So, we talk about memorable experiences with booze, totally nerd out about agriculture (given that Trisha produces organic wine via a vineyard in Italy and Palisa runs the Boon Luck Farm in Byron Bay), how to deal with people who freak out when they encounter "natural wine", the best places to drink in Sydney (and beyond) and also the incredible stories that Myffy's written about for the Good Food print section in the Sydney Morning Herald (she recounts some of Lennox Hastie's near-death experiences in Europe, which are as flat-out dramatic as something out of a movie). We also cover Trisha's surprising career path to becoming a winemaker, and how working alongside Rootstock co-founder Giorgio de Maria at Berta played a part in her making wine in Lazio. You can read Myffy's writing at goodfood.com.au and the Good Food Guide, check out some of the wines we talked about at Chat Thai (in particular the Circular Quay branch) and find Trisha's wine at 10 William Street and via Giorgio de Maria's online wine store, http://www.giorgiodemaria.com. PS The wine we try during the podcast is Ajola's lovely Bianco Trilli 2016: it is a direct pressing of moscato left on the skins of procanico. Procanico is the local strain of trebbiano in that part of Lazio and it turns a lovely pink colour when it ripens. PPS Thanks to the Rootstock crew for inviting us and to Emma Hutton at The Cru Media for her help with making this podcast possible.
Morgan McGlone – Belles Hot Chicken
Morgan McGlone's fried chicken has scored a standing ovation. At an event run Noma's Rene Redzepi, no less. Feeding the top chefs at MAD, the famous Copenhagen food symposium, is just one of many memorable instances of Morgan's eventful career. Long before he launched Belles Hot Chicken, Morgy started out cooking for huge volumes of Japanese tourists at a revolving restaurant in Sydney as well as working for Luke Mangan and Merivale. He staged for Pierre Gagnaire in Paris and assisted fashion photographer Todd Barry in New York – models apparently turned up to Barry's shoots because the food was so good. Morgy returned to Sydney to open up Flinders Inn, which happened to be located on the worst site in the city. "If the rent is really cheap, there's a reason why it's really cheap," says Morgy. There were issues with the bathrooms (which may have cost more than the restaurant) and no one could park near Flinders Inn.  Despite some highlights – cooking for George Michael, staging Taste of Young Sydney events – the restaurant sadly had to close. "When your first restaurant is a failure ... psychologically, it was a massive blow," says Morgy.   Morgy rebounded by working for Sean Brock at Husk in America. Morgy learnt what true farm-to-table dining was (his story of dealing with the Mennonite farmers, who didn't even use phones, is fascinating). Morgy's experience cooking in the South would end up inspiring the launch of Belles Hot Chicken in Australia. Morgy is amazing to talk to – it took four years to line up this interview and maybe I'm biased, but I think his many compelling stories make this podcast worth the wait.
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