DiscoverThe Unbearable Lightness of Being Hungry
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.
95 Episodes
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Christine Manfield – Tasting India, Universal
$10,099 – that's how much someone is asking for their copy of Christine Manfield's Tasting India cookbook on Amazon. Sure, India Today called it the book to give native newlywed couples once they head overseas, so it's a prized publication – but luckily, the new updated version of the award-winning book is much more budget-friendly (and includes new chapters on Hyderabad, Punjab and Gujarat, too). While Christine Manfield is known as the acclaimed chef behind restaurants such as Paramount, East@West and Universal, we spend a lot of this podcast talking about her travels to India – a country that she's constantly visited for more than two decades. She has vivid stories of spice markets (and mountains that are literally fragrant with cardamom being grown) and the home cooks she's met, whose  dishes she documents in her cookbook. Plus, we cover the regional (and religious) differences that shape the food on the plate. And what you have for an Indian breakfast (it is way better than toast and cereal). It was also great to talk to Christine about gender representation in the industry (particularly after she was a judge in the S.Pellegrino Young Chef competition last year and was quoted in the Herald as saying: "Where the f--- are the women?"). And I loved hearing about how Christine is still recognised on the streets of India because her Gaytime Goes Nuts dessert appeared in the finale of Masterchef Australia in 2012. (The dish is not only delicious, it's also a statement in support of the gay community, too.) You have a rare chance to eat Christine’s food again because she’s running Tasting India dinners across Australia in November, at much-loved restaurants such as The Agrarian Kitchen outside Hobart, Anchovy in Melbourne and Lankan Filling Station in Sydney. For details, visit Christine Manfield's website.
Christine Manfield – Tasting India
$10,099 – that's how much someone is asking for their copy of Christine Manfield's "Tasting India" cookbook on Amazon. Sure, India Today called it the book to give native newlywed couples once they head overseas, so it's a prized publication – but luckily, the new updated version of the award-winning book is much more budget-friendly (and includes new chapters on Hyderabad, Punjab and Gujarat, too). While Christine Manfield is known as the acclaimed chef behind restaurants such as Paramount and Universal, we spend a lot of this podcast talking about her travels to India – a country that she's constantly visited for more than two decades. She has vivid stories of spice markets (and mountains that are literally fragrant with cardamom being grown) and the home cooks she's met, whose  dishes she documents in her cookbook. Plus, we cover the regional (and religious) differences that shape the food on the plate. And what you have for an Indian breakfast (it is way better than toast and cereal). It was also great to talk to Christine about gender representation in the industry (particularly after she was a judge in the S.Pellegrino Young Chef competition last year and was quoted in the Herald as saying: "Where the f--- are the women?"). And I loved hearing about how Christine is still recognised on the streets of India because her Gaytime Goes Nuts dessert appeared in the finale of Masterchef Australia in 2012. (The dish is not only delicious, it's also a statement in support of the gay community, too.) You have a rare chance to eat Christine’s food again because she’s running Tasting India dinners across Australia in November, at much-loved restaurants such as The Agrarian Kitchen outside Hobart, Anchovy in Melbourne and Lankan Filling Station in Sydney. For details, visit Christine Manfield's website.
Bo Bech – Geist
"The most interesting place in Europe to eat” – that's how Noma's René Redzepi described Bo Bech's first restaurant, Paustian. The Copenhagen venue was located in the last building Jørn Utzon ever designed – and the Sydney Opera House architect was one of Bech's regular diners. (You need to hear the story behind the dish that Bech created for Utzon, which the chef talks about near the end of the podcast.) "When I stepped into the kitchen at the age of 24, my world flipped." Bech became a chef at a relatively late age – enduring terrible food during a peacekeeping mission inspired him to improve on what was available. To convince a bank manager to loan him the money to launch Paustian, he had to revert to some pretty unusual means (it did involve food, though). Paustian is the focus of Bech's first self-published book, What Does Memory Taste Like (which features a signature avocado dish that gets 80-something pages of coverage). His second restaurant, Geist, is more accessible in style – the type of place that Bech would want to be a frequent customer. It's covered in In My Blood, his new book, which is like an autobiography of the restaurant. It features architect's drawings and furniture sketches among the 100 recipes. It also covers rage and other inspirations behind his food (like his lifelong battles against endives and salmon). We also chat about his recent dinner collaboration with Lennox Hastie and his favourite places to eat in Copenhagen. You can find In My Blood at chefbobech.com.

Bo Bech – Geist

2018-10-2000:47:05

Su Wong Ruiz – Momofuku Ko and Momofuku Seiobo
“It was probably the singular worst experience of my life, because Noodle Bar will kick your ass.” Sure, Su Wong Ruiz's first go at working for David Chang's Momofuku restaurant empire wasn't the biggest success. (“My ass was completely flattened by that experience,” she says.) But over time, she became part of the acclaimed, three-hat-earning launch team for his Momofuku Seiobo restaurant in Sydney (Chang claimed this was his first venue "where the front of house is equal to, if not better than, the kitchen team"). Then Su went on to work for Momofuku's Ma Peche (where she met future Seiobo chef, Paul Carmichael) and Momofuku Ko, which has been called Chang's most ambitious restaurant. “Dave is a very particular type of coach and tormentor – he’s really good at it,” jokes Su. So it was fascinating to hear her talk about the unexpected challenges and standards set by the influential chef, as well as her strong working relationships with Ben Greeno (Seiobo's first head chef) and Sean Gray, who rules the kitchen at Momofuku Ko. I also enjoyed hearing how ultra-creative Sean's dishes are – like the cold fried chicken, for instance, and how things went down at their recent collaboration at Melbourne's Marion bar. Plus, Su's insights on delivering good restaurant service – and dealing with trolls – are really fascinating. It's especially interesting because her career started on the other side of the pass: when she "conned" her way into a job as a cook while visiting New Mexico. She also shares her favourite places to eat and drink in Sydney and New York.
Su Wong Ruiz – Momofuku Ko, Momofuku Seiobo
“It was probably the singular worst experience of my life, because Noodle Bar will kick your ass.” Sure, Su Wong Ruiz's first go at working for David Chang's Momofuku restaurant empire wasn't exactly a success. (“My ass was completely flattened by that experience,” she says.) But over time, she became part of the acclaimed, three-hat-earning launch team for his Momofuku Seiobo restaurant in Sydney (Chang claimed this was his first venue "where the front of house is equal to, if not better than, the kitchen team"). Then Su went on to work for Momofuku's Ma Peche (where she met future Seiobo chef, Paul Carmichael) and Momofuku Ko, which has been called Chang's most ambitious restaurant. “Dave is a very particular type of coach and tormentor – he’s really good at it,” jokes Su. So it was fascinating to hear her talk about the unexpected challenges and standards set by the influential chef, as well as her strong working relationships with Ben Greeno (Seiobo's first head chef) and Sean Gray, who rules the kitchen at Momofuku Ko. I also enjoyed hearing how ultra-creative Sean's dishes are – like the cold fried chicken, for instance, and how things went down at their recent collaboration at Melbourne's Marion bar. Plus, Su's insights on delivering good restaurant service – and dealing with trolls – are really fascinating. It's especially interesting because her career started on the other side of the pass: when she "conned" her way into a job as a cook while visiting New Mexico. She also shares her favourite places to eat and drink in Sydney and New York.
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.  
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