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The Unbearable Lightness of Being Hungry
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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.
100 Episodes
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Caitlyn Rees – Cirrus, Fred's, Momofuku Seiobo
How to make cider from 300-year-old pear trees, what it's like to work alongside Dan Barber at one of the world's best restaurants and how it feels scoring Gourmet Traveller's Sommelier of the Year award – Caitlyn Rees can give you a first-hand account of all of these standout experiences. When she was at Fred's in Sydney (where she served fascinating wines from the Adelaide Hills to Armenia), she was singled out by Gourmet Traveller as Australia's best sommelier in the magazine's 2018 restaurant guide. And because she won Melbourne Food and Wine Festival’s Hostplus Hospitality Scholarship, she ended up doing time at three places on her worldwide wish list: Relae in Copenhagen (a Michelin-starred restaurant that upended her expectations about how chefs and wait staff should work together), Dan Barber's Blue Hill at Stone Barns in New York (her behind-the-scenes stories about this acclaimed restaurant are truly amazing) and helping Eric Bordelet in Normandy, the ex-Arpège sommelier who collects fruit from centuries-old trees to make his famously great cider. She also talks about the "rough red" that her grandfather made (and how it was her first encounter with booze), her time at Momofuku Seiobo (another wish-list job of hers), why she left Fred's (even though she loved working there) and what she's currently doing at Cirrus. Plus, a tragic story about suitcase wines and we hear her list of favourite places to eat and drink in Sydney (including the restaurant where she's spent practically all of her birthdays).
Carlo Mirarchi – Roberta's, Blanca
A near-death experience in Australia plays a surprising role in the launch of Roberta's, the much-loved New York pizzeria. When Carlo Mirarchi almost drowned on the NSW coastline, it inspired him to rethink his career path – and galvanised him to help start Roberta's in Bushwick. In 2007, it opened with such a minimal set-up (there was no gas and staff had to boil water in the wood-fired oven), so the chef often prepped food at home before getting to the restaurant. Despite its lo-fi beginnings, Roberta's would end up ranked #6 on list of 20 Most Important Restaurants by Bon Appétit and Mirarchi himself was named Best New Chef by Food + Wine. Roberta's would also inspire a frozen pizza range, an LA location and, when it was targeted by Pizzagate conspiracy theorists, its team responded in the best way possible: by launching a beer named Pizzagate. Mirarchi also runs Blanca, an ambitious Michelin-starred restaurant that has been reviewed by Pete Wells twice. The chef talks about what it's like to be on the other side of a New York Times review, plus: where he's had the best pizza in the world (“it changed my life”), whether pineapple is a legit ingredient on pizza, and we cover the origin story behind his collaboration with Lennox Hastie for Firedoor's fantastic Fireside series last month. For this occasion, Mirarchi brought Roberta's to Sydney via the Fire & Slice pop-up event, which took place at Firedoor and involved the Gelato Messina crew helping out on tiramisu-making and other duties. Also: shout-out to Lauren and Claire for listening to this podcast!
Adam Wolfers – Etelek
"You can't f--k with the matzo ball soup." That's what Adam Wolfers learnt from his grandmother. Etelek, his pop-up restaurant, is inspired by the chef's Eastern European background. It's a history that draws on memories of his grandmother tending to six pots on the stove at a time, as well as his grandfather Julius' time as a concentration camp survivor (an extraordinary tale that's been documented by Steven Spielberg). Carrot schnitzel, scallop pretzel puffs and honey cake with wattleseed honeycomb are just a few of things you’ll find at Etelek, which is running at Potts Point until New Year's Eve. It's named after the Hungarian word for food and the pop-up has previously travelled to Melbourne and Canberra, and featured locally at Ester, Casoni and The Dolphin, gaining a following for its parsnip schnitzel and amazing langos bread. Even the most anti-carb person will be converted by Adam’s dishes, which has basically served as an atlas of bread from Yemen, Hungary, New York over the years. In fact, he uses a sourdough starter from his time at Monopole and made his name working in other Brent Savage restaurants, such as Bentley and Yellow (Adam helped turn Yellow into a vegetarian hatted restaurant, known for its eggplant steak and pickled kohlrabi and enoki). Adam also talks about his previous life as a jetsetting European handball player (in fact, he had to get his hip replaced after a career-ending injury) and, given the brilliant "everything bagel" that was on his menu, he weighs in on the neverending New York vs Montreal bagel debate, too. Plus, we chat about coming up through the ranks while mentored by Peter Doyle, Mark Best, Pasi Petanen and Brent Savage; his history with Bar Rochford's Louis Couttoupes, and whether Adam's langos bread is like Hungarian pizza. Make sure to check out Etelek before it winds up its Potts Point pop-up on New Year's Eve and keep an eye out on Instagram to see what Adam and Marc Dempsey have planned for Etelek in 2019.

Adam Wolfers – Etelek

2018-12-2400:58:09

Jowett Yu – Ho Lee Fook, Mr Wong, Ms.G's, Canton Disco
Jowett Yu was working at Tetsuya's – then in the Top 5 of the World’s 50 Best Restaurants – but couldn’t even afford a bed. It was a wild time (just listen to the memorable "pep talk" that head chef Martin Benn gave when the restaurant reached #4 on the list) and the kitchen was full of upcoming stars: Daniel Puskas (Sixpenny), Clayton Wells (Automata), Phil Wood (Laura), Luke Powell (LP's Quality Meats) and Dan Hong – who Jowett bonded with, because they basically had the same haircut and similar cultural backgrounds. Together, Dan and Jowett would go on to open Lotus, Ms.G's and Mr Wong together. At Lotus, there was the momentous night they launched David Chang's Momofuku book (and cooked for both Chang and Alex Atala), Ms.G's involved a memorable American research trip (where Jowett ate something that resulted in the "best 30 seconds of my life") and Mr Wong, which was an "intense" experience where he'd finish work at 3am and clock in again at 9am.  Jowett then opened Ho Lee Fook in Hong Kong (an experience that earnt him a "lecture" from his mum and a major grilling when he put her dumplings on the menu – but even she ended up a fan of the restaurant). Here, the chef has experimented with fascinating vegetarian dishes, like typhoon shelter corn and celeriac char siu. More recently, he's launched Canton Disco in Shanghai. Jowett also talks about growing up in Taiwan (and his visits to his totally boss grandmother's farm: she could look at an egg and tell when it would hatch – and be totally right) and his love of Hong Kong's Belon (he compares chef Daniel Calvert's cooking to the rise of Beatlemania). When you consider that Jowett ended up in the kitchen as a 14-year-old because he essentially didn’t want to be a dishwasher (and he made the smart move avoiding a career in journalism, too!), there's no doubt that he's had a fascinating career.
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.
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