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.

Produced by Alex Watts in the FBi radio studios.
87 Episodes
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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.
Ben Shewry – Attica
Ben Shewry's Attica is ranked #32 in the World's 50 Best Restaurants list and it's Restaurant of the Year in the first national Good Food Guide – but according to his son Kobe, Attica is "not bad" for a restaurant that doesn’t have a burger on the menu. Many years before Ben gained international acclaim for Attica's uniquely Australian dishes (from his inventive take on avocado on toast to a savoury pavlova), he was shaping margarine sculptures for hotel buffets and cooking New Zealand's biggest nachos for drunk students. While living in New Zealand, he met his wife Natalia over scones and they eventually moved to Australia together. After a memorable honeymoon in Sydney (a highlight was Janni Kyrsitis's “punk” dessert at MG Garage), he worked in Melbourne before eventually becoming head chef at Attica in Ripponlea. “When I took over, the restaurant owed $250,000," he says. "It was just in a dreadful situation. We had nothing." He was only 27 and a new dad – and starkly aware of the restaurant's debts, the need to make the restaurant viable and provide for his family. "That’ll make you do crazy things. It really will. It’ll make you do things that you never thought you were capable of. Good things as well," he says. The next five years involved "having no customers, having wolves at the door all the time, taking out all of the credit cards under the sun to pay people". Some key things turned around the restaurant's fate – Ben's determination and invention as a chef, endorsements by influential people such as David Chang and Rene Redzepi and Attica landing on the World's 50 Best Restaurants longlist. "Man, did it have an impact," he says of the moment that Attica appeared in the 51-100 rankings. “That was the moment from when it went from being a little neighbourhood restaurant in Ripponlea to this global thing.” The runaway appetite for Attica reservations meant that bookings were filled for nine months out. It took me 14 hours to edit this podcast, and I spent most of that time with a smile on my face because Ben is so enthusiastic, inspiring and full of life. He shares so many fascinating stories about his career's highlights and true lowlights – and how they've emphatically shaped him. Catch him at Attica, or upcoming events in Sydney at Rootstock (November 26, Carriageworks) and The Dolphin Hotel in Surry Hills (December 13).

Ben Shewry – Attica

2017-11-1801:51:58

Sarah Doyle – Bodega, Porteno, Continental Deli Bar Bistro, Wyno
Sarah Doyle has played a pivotal role in Sydney's hospitality scene. But there was a time she worked three jobs just to help keep Bodega running. It was the first restaurant she opened with husband and chef Elvis Abrahanowicz, fellow co-owner and chef Ben Milgate and their business partner/sommelier Joe Valore. And it was a game-changer – its fun, punk, loud focus on good food and good times was a contrast to the mannered French fine-dining scene that was reigning in Sydney hospitality at the time. But the queues came – and they took the chance to follow it up with Porteno. “I think you’re really going to struggle here,” a customer told them. And when they found themselves short of money to buy cheesy sauce at Harry's Cafe de Wheels, they wondered if they'd made a dangerous gamble. “What have we done?” Sarah wondered. "We put everything into this."   But a rave review by Terry Durack in The Sydney Morning Herald led to Porteno's blockbuster following – which has sparked more venues for the team: Bodega 1904 at the Tramsheds, Porteno splitting into a special events venue and a stand-alone restaurant, Wyno, the wine bar next to Porteno, and Continental Deli Bar Bistro, which is known for its canned treats – like the Mar-tinny cocktail and Neopoli-tin gelato. Then there are the other businesses they've helped back – like LP's Quality Meats, Mary's and Stanbuli. Sarah has many fantastic stories from her 11 years in hospitality – from her early days working at Australia's Wonderland to her amazing ability to land the mid-century Marie-Louise salon site for Stanbuli and her career highlight of seeing one of her idols dine at Porteno.   Plus, she shares her unique perspective of being a long-time vegetarian who works in restaurants famous for their meat dishes, her unlikely career path to becoming a well-known figure within hospitality and where she likes to eat and drink in Sydney. PS Look out for Continental's cameo at the Newtown Locals Aussie barbecue at Newtown Festival this Sunday.
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