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‘E.A.T. Meet’ Category

  1. The Raw Sisters

    July 17, 2012 by The E.A.T. Team

    ON THE GLOBE
    Melbourne, Australia
    ON THE TEAM
    Yui Yamashita of The Raw Sisters

    Yui got in touch with us about her new project, The Raw Sisters, after our friends at the Hungry Workshop letterpress told her about The Eat Team. We sat down to chat with her at Nothern Soul cafe in Thornbury, Melbourne. Yui and her partner in crime Missy started the Raw Sisters vegan and vegetarian pop-up and catering duo with a bang–they served over 100 folks at their first gig which only whet their appetite to serve the Melbourne community. They’re brand new and the future looks bright ahead. Check out their beautiful video (see below) from the event at St. Kilda Organic Food Co-op and read on for Yui’s insights on the Raw Sisters project, eating raw, and life as an occupational therapist.

    Raw SistersC from Yui Yamashita on Vimeo.

    How did the Raw Sisters start?
    We did a raw food demo at a vegan festival that my friend and her partner organised. We did raw sushi and raw avocado juice. Some guy came up to us and asked if we wanted to do a catering event. We had no idea that we wanted to do catering but thought it would be fun, so we said yes. He didn’t get back to us for ages and then a few weeks ago he said that the event is happening soon and asked if we were still interested. We quickly made up a business card and menu for our meeting with him. We bought everything and cooked for a whole day. We’d love to do more catering, or even cooking classes. We love food and want to share our passion.

    What was the event that you did the catering for?
    St Kilda Organic Food Co-op. Unfortunately they were closing and wanted to have a big ‘Thank you’ event for all of the people who had been involved. Everyone was invited so we had to cater for kids and adults. We did raw salads, hummus and beetroot dip, garlic bread, ‘mac and cheese’, home made wedges, roast veg, sweet potato soup, Moroccan stew, carrot pilaf, and for dessert we did chocolate brownie and caramel apple cake with banana ice cream.

    Do you, and your business partner Missy, both lead a raw lifestyle?
    Missy is maybe 80% raw. In winter I’m 50% raw. We’re both vegan and we try to eat organic.

    Have you ever eaten meat?
    I used to when I was in High School. I stopped after I turned 17 or so. I went on this school trip for a month and every meal was meat! After that I said to my parents that I didn’t want any more. These days my reasons have changed to environmental issues and how eating meat consumes a lot of energy and uses water.

    Are there any meals that you used to eat that you now miss?
    No. There’s a lot of fake meat products on the market now. I went to Gasometer at the weekend and had a chicken parma. Some of the products you can buy are really processed though, so I would rather eat beans, quinoa or grains.

    Is Missy your actual Sister?
    No. I met her through a mutual friend. She went to New Zealand for High School and then came over here for Uni. She’s a photographer. We got really close and started talking about food. As you know, food connects people.

    How did you think of the name ‘Raw Sisters’?
    At work we call all the girls ‘Sisters’ and thought that ‘Raw Sisters’ would be fitting.

    What’s your job?
    I work as a Community Mental Health Worker, I’m an Occupational Therapist. It’s a totally separate thing.

    It’s not just about chopping and eating a salad, it’s about dehydrating it or making it a smoothie or thinking up new combinations.

    How did you get in to raw foods?
    I’ve always been into health and healthy foods. I found out about raw food through blogs and I’ve been eating raw since spring of last year. This will be my first winter.

    Have you noticed a difference in your health?
    Definitely! I’ve got so much more energy and feel really good inside. The general idea of raw food is that because you don’t cook it, the enzymes aren’t broken down so it’s in it’s most natural form. You get the most benefits from all of the vitamins that way. There’s different views on it, some people find it easier to digest, and some harder because it’s so raw. It depends on how you prepare it. It’s not just about chopping and eating a salad, it’s about dehydrating it or making it a smoothie or thinking up new combinations. Personally I get a lot out of eating raw food. I find it works best for me if I eat a portion of raw food and then cooked food as well.

    What would you eat on an average day?
    This might sound weird but I don’t have breakfast. For lunch I’ll make a green smoothie to start my digestive system going. If I’m working I’ll have a sandwich of sourdough bread with lots of raw food on top, maybe sliced pumpkin, beetroot, kale, avocado, with a bit of hemp seed butter. For dinner would be a salad, lentil or bean soup, or quinoa patties or something.

    Is it hard to find restaurants that cater for your diet?
    Whenever I go out I do my research. I think Melbourne is quite good with vegan food and places seem happy to take the cheese out, or whatever you ask.

    What’s your favourite food to prepare or eat raw?
    I really like my kale salad with a nutty dressing and for dessert I love raw cheesecake.

    Are you hoping one day to have a cafe or a shop?
    Yeah, a cafe would be amazing. Missy and her partner are going to move house soon and hopefully open a cafe.

    Will this become a full-time thing then?
    I’m passionate about my work so this is good as a side project for now.

    Would you like to continue to do events?
    Yeah! They’re really fun. The event that we did last time, we got to meet a lot of people and they had so many compliments. To see them making that connection with food, and talking to them about it, was great.

    Have you converted anyone to the raw lifestyle?
    I have a massive influence at work. I’m really passionate about organic eating as well so I tell all of the girls. Organic farming is so much better for the environment too. Through the events we have a little blurb about how it’s so much better for us.

    Where do you get your ingredients from?
    I get a box delivered from Ceres. They do a fair food co-op. It’s not that they grow everything there but get it from local farmers. Also, Naturally on High on High Street . We got most of our catering ingredients from there, they’re really good.

    Did you have a foodie upbringing?
    Not really. My Mum is such a ordinary cook. That’s maybe why I’m about experimenting and making new things. I don’t like to cook two of the same things twice. I love baking as well.

    If someone was wanting to get involved in the raw food diet, what’s an easy recipe to start them off?
    I think the juices and smoothies are a really good place to start. You just throw everything in; vegetables and green leaves. Just give it a try!

    What’s the one thing you want to do before you die?
    Travel. Build my own house. I watch a lot of Grand Designs and England and France seem open to the ‘eco’ style of living. Somewhere in Europe would be nice.

    To get in touch with Yui or book The Raw Sisters, email rawsisters@live.com.au

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  2. Heart & Halo

    July 10, 2012 by The E.A.T. Team

    ON THE MENU 
    Curry & Chai
    ON THE GLOBE
    Byron Bay, Australia
    ON THE TEAM
    Tusta, Head Chef at Heart & Halo

    On a bright and sunny Byron Bay day we sat down with Tusta, head chef of Heart & Halo, a hare-krishna inspired restaurant. His tangy home brewed chai awakened our senses (and tastebuds) and the beautiful curry really did remind us of family cookin’. It was hearty, wholesome, and downright delicious. We’ll let the photos, his description, and the interview speak for themselves.

    It’s basic human nature to look after each other.

    “Heart & Halo offers a wide variety of global vegetarian dishes with distinct Indian Ayurvedic influences. Tusta, the head chef brings over 20 years of experience and adds his own flavour and style to all meals he prepares. Tusta has travelled to many places of the world but it is his love of India that has influenced his cooking the most. All meals are vegetarian and will tempt even the most fussiest of eaters.
    Heart & Halo sources only the freshest spices, beans and grains to ensure the fullest of flavour. Only healthy oils are used for cooking and Himalayan salt is used to help improve your wellbeing.

    The best local & organic produce is used when and where ever possible to make our fabulous vegetarian meals.

    Heart & Halo offers an amazing range of great value Curries, Vegetable Baked Dishes, Hearty Lentil and Vegie Soups, Rice, Bean and Grain Dishes, the freshest salads and a selection of mouth watering drinks, sweets and snacks.

    All that we prepare and offer contains only the best ingredients including Himalayan Salt. With 84 trace minerals, your body will benefit even long after your meal is complete.

    Heart & Halo only uses oils that are good for you, not the common oils that may leave carcinogenic residue in your body.

    But above all, Heart & Halo food is prepared and served with LOVE to benefit you and our beautiful community.”

    They are always wholesome foods that remind you of home.

    Why did you decide to open a restaurant here in Byron Bay?
    I realised that local people want down to earth, quality food. There are a lot of health shops offering organic produce but they tend to be very expensive. I opened Heart & Halo to offer the local people exactly that but at affordable prices.

    Could you name some of the produce that you use here at Heart & Halo?
    We use organic Himalayan salt and cold press oils to improve my customers well-being.

    Why do you think it’s so important to use organic produce?
    It’s basic human nature to look after each other, and by growing foods organically, it’s simply looking after something that looks after us. It’s really nurturing through food. Festivals and celebrations are based around feasts and sharing, food is so important to so many cultures so it’s only right that we respect it.

    Are you vegetarian?
    Yes, by the time I was 17 or 18 I was over meat. I had worked in cafes and restaurants in Sydney and was sick of the smell, oil, and fat. There’s a huge disconnection between people and meat these days. They only see it in cellophane.

    What inspired you to open Heart & Halo?
    The idea came together after I had travelled. I’m a believer in indigenous cooking and the way it’s made with love. They are always wholesome foods that remind you of home. Backpackers come here and say that ‘it tastes like home’, which is great. I loved how diverse the diets were in India. How they live is just amazing! Too many people live on land that’s half the size of Australia, and they manage it in harmony. I believe it’s because they are all working for the same reason, whether it be a group or family unit. I was looking for something real to do, so naturally I thought of feeding people.

    So you teamed your beliefs and travel discoveries together to create Heart & Halo?
    It’s not about me, it’s about the food. There’s no ego here, not like MasterChef! I didn’t create it, I’m just passing the message on through the love and appreciation of food. I’m so thankful of the opportunity I have been given to spread the love through the food I serve.

    For more information on Heart & Halo, please see:

    Heart & Halo Good Food Bar

    Shop 4/14 Middleton Street
    (Corner of Byron Street & Middleton Streets – underneath the Budget Motel)
    Byron Bay NSW 2481

    Ph: 02 6685 6685

    Email: love@heartandhalo.com

    Special thanks to Tusta & Christie for making this happen.

    
    

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  3. Byron Bay Chilli Co.

    July 1, 2012 by The E.A.T. Team

    ON THE MENU 
    Byron Bay Chilli Sauce on OzyMex Tacos, Nachos, & Burritos
    ON THE GLOBE
    Byron Bay, Australia
    ON THE TEAM
    John Boland, Co-Founder of Byron Bay Chilli Co. & OzyMex Restaurant


    If you grow chillies you realize that the sunnier the season or the sunnier the place where you plant them, the hotter the chilli. It’s converting sunlight in to heat – like a little packet of sun.


    John “The Chilli Dude” Boland moved from California to Australia many moons ago and, together with his wife Lynne, helped pioneer a movement in Australia for chilli sauce and Mexican food. He generously invited us to come to his OzyMex shop to sample his line of epic sauces (our favorites were Fiery Coconut and Smokin’ Mango) on fresh home-made tortilla chips, tacos, quesadillas and a big heapin’ burrito. These classic culinary “hole-in-the-wall” delights reminded me of the traditional Mexican food from my hometown of Los Angeles, with a twist of that California and Australian love for fresh, healthy ingredients.

    His infectious energy and positive vibes spill over into everything he does–the sauces and food are scrumptious to say the least and the fact that he loves what he does after so many years makes us love his products that much more.

    He range of sauces range from mild and sweet to tangy and burnin’ hot. He’s a strong believer in being able to taste the ingredients of the sauce and not just a feeling of “HOT HOT HOT!”

    We loved hearing his story and we think you will too.

    Do you have any advice for anybody wanting to get into the sauce business?
    Don’t give up your day job. No, but seriously, there’s been an awful
    lot of things done in the last ten years so you have to try! There’s a
    great show in Albuquerque, New Mexico called The Fiery Foods Show and it’s a great place to meet people in the industry. Everyone is there. We’ve been a whole bunch of times.
    It’s a good starting point. You could meet with a fellow called Dave
    DeWitt, he’s the Pope of Peppers and runs the show. You just talk to
    people. It depends whether you want it to be a niche product or a main
    stream product. So long as you have a plan for your sauce.

    Did you have a plan for your sauce?
    We didn’t really know what we were doing, we just started making
    sauce. Then all of a sudden we get a call from this supermarket, so we
    were faced with the prospect of being in the shops. We had to make a
    sauce that was fairly competitive price-wise, ours is premium but
    we’re still in the mass market, not the niche market. I think in
    Australia it’s harder to be in the niche market because there are not as
    many delis – there just isn’t as much of anything. There’s fewer
    people and the distances between them are greater.

    What brought you from California to Byron Bay?
    My Mother was Australian, I came down here to meet my Grandmother and
    just loved it! All of my cousins suggested that I go to Byron Bay,
    saying that it was the top spot. Twenty-five years ago there was a real estate
    agent right across the street, I walked in there and she spent the
    whole day looking around at places and ended up buying a little plot
    in the hills. I grew up in California in the 50′s and 60′s and in many
    ways saw the best times there. Byron Bay felt like that to me. It’s
    getting busier all the time, but not too busy. The beach lifestyle was
    too attractive, plus our kids were young enough to bring over and had
    no choice! [Laughs]

    How did it develop in to the business it is today?
    We saw an opportunity at a local food market to open a Mexican food
    stall. That’s how we got started.

    Are there other Mexican restaurants in Byron Bay?
    Byron Bay had the first Mexican restaurant in Australia, ‘Mexican
    Mick’s’ it was called. It was started by an Englishman. So for a long
    time that was here and then he moved away.


    We’re hoping that a lot more
    people get to try our chilli sauce.

    Where do you make the sauces?
    We have a contract bottler which is up near the Gold Coast, about an
    hours drive away. We looked at having our own factory here but it was
    impossible; Not only too expensive, but the council limitations
    brought all sorts of issues to have a building like that here. You’ll
    find that so many sauces have contract packers.

    How much does the factory make over there, is there a certain number
    of bottles per day?

    They are made to order. We sell about 50 tons a year. Last time I looked
    that’s what it was anyway. Still small but not real small. We get
    about 2 tons made at a time.

    Did you expect Byron Bay Chilli Company to get as big as it has done?
    No, I call it an accidental business. We’re hoping that a lot more
    people get to try our chilli sauce.

    Us too, they’re delicious!
    A few of them are so different that I reckon they should be in every
    Whole Foods supermarket. There’s a place in Texas that would love to
    have our sauces but we don’t have an importer.

    For me there’s a few rules of food. Number one is that the first
    bite is taken with your eyes.

    What’s in store for the next few years for Byron Bay Chilli Company?
    We’re working with people to start a series of these Ozy-Mex stores. The good
    thing about this kind of thing [the hole in the wall shop] is that
    it’s affordable. People can pop in and buy something tasty to eat.
    What we like about this arrangement is that people get to see their
    food made so you get to know exactly what’s going in to it. I was
    inspired by one of my favorite places, I grew up very close to Tijuana on the Mexican border. We used to travel around, mainly
    for the cheap beer. There was a little hole in the wall place and in
    order to get in you had to lift the bench up and squeeze in, it was
    big enough for one person. The owner would make tacos and things while
    you waited on the side walk. I was inspired by that idea – literally a
    hole in the wall. It wasn’t so much about going to sit down and
    spending $50 to eat, it was just something for the people.

    With a hole in the wall style place you’re still close to your vision
    and closer to your customers. When restaurants get too big it becomes
    very impersonal. Maybe they lose sight of the vision a little bit…

    Well, for me there’s a few rules of food. Number one is that the first bite is taken with your eyes. There’s also a feeling that a person
    gives off, you know, the very best food is always served by mom,
    there’s love there. In some small way that’s what we try to convey
    here, even when we’re busy we still try to make people feel like
    they’re not a hassle to us – we’re here to feed them. Then, of course
    once it’s in your mouth it’s got to be good too! It should be
    reasonably healthy, and the ingredients should be ethical.

    Are chillies good for your health?
    Absolutely! I certainly reckon they are and there’s a lot of
    literature about it. They’re a digestive aid, a circulatory aid, they
    make your food taste good, and they make you happy. There’s a lot of
    vitamins in chillies. Chilli is an interesting fruit. Most people
    don’t realize this but it came to Asia after the explorers went to the
    Americas. There were no chillies in Asia prior to that time, so in the
    past 500 years these cultures have totally absorbed the chilli. To me
    it’s packed with sunlight. If you grow chillies you realize that the
    sunnier the season or the sunnier the place where you plant them, the
    hotter the chilli. It’s converting sunlight in to heat – like a little
    packet of sun.

    You make your own corn chips too?
    Yes. We make 10 products in total. We’re looking at a few other
    things, for example combining some of our sauces with other things to
    create new flavors. There’s a bunch of things we hope to do in the
    future. I think we’ve captured a good range of chilli sauces and added
    our own signature to them.

    We love your bottle labels. What inspired them?
    It’s a little bit of paradise. It’s fun and clean.

    Which sauce is your favorite?
    I probably reach for the hottest one these days. I really like it on
    so many things, like poached eggs. I don’t have a favorite child, I
    like them all. Sweet chilli, I reach for that a lot. It just depends
    what I’m eating.

    Do you have a sauce with every meal?
    I’ve always got a basket with one of each sauce in it. We just leave it out.

    Where can people living outside of Australia buy your sauces?
    Come to Byron Bay! We do sell online but postage is very expensive.

    Huge thanks to John for this interview and generosity. For more information and recipes to use his delicious sauces, check out:

    http://www.byronbaychilli.com/

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  4. Life’s Simple On The Flower Farm

    June 21, 2012 by The E.A.T. Team

    ON THE CANVAS 
    Flower Farming
    ON THE GLOBE
    Cradoc, Tasmania, Australia
    ON THE TEAM
    Sam Calvert

    You don’t have to have a degree to succeed so long as you put the effort in and make it work.

    For three weeks, we had the extreme pleasure of living on the farm in Tasmania with our dear friend from Leeds University, graphic designer Jess Nicholls and her boyfriend, flower farmer Sam Calvert. If we’re being totally honest, we spent a lot more time playing with Sally “Fish” Fisher the sheepdog, drinking copious amounts of latte round the fire, and sampling culinary delights around this foodie island than we did working. But we did spend a couple days creating bunches and bouquets for Mother’s Day and our time there was a one-of-a-kind experience we’ll never forget.

    As a huge computer nerd and internet entrepreneur, I’m on my computer almost all the time (well, when I’m not traveling that is!) and though I love it and don’t want to change, it was refreshing to see and experience this lifestyle. It’s hard work but its straightforward, and when the weather’s good, you’re outside with the dirt and the wind and the sun really experiencing the beauty of the place. During winter, you zone out and get into the pattern of creating bunches, listening to Triple J, Australia’s unbelievably good radio station, and having a ton of laughs with the rest of the farm hands. You’re up and at it at 8am, no need to shower, dress fancy or wear makeup, just head out the front door and into the farm shed out back. Warm up with a hot cup of tea and a fresh buttered crumpet every few hours and the work day ends at 4:30. It’s a great space to rest your mind and work your body. A couple of the workers came to do just that after experiencing a burnout in more mentally challenging working conditions, such as nursing and teaching.

     

    What’s the history of the Bloomin Good Flowers farm?
    Dad was a forester so he spent a lot of time away from home. Mum was a dental nurse so she was out of the house a lot too. They both wanted to do something closer to home. They researched some options before recognizing a gap in the flower market. Dad grew trees and Mum loved gardening so it ‘bloomed’ from there. This must have been about 23 years ago now.

    So, in the beginning they both worked and ran the farm on the side?
    Yes, until they decided to expand, that’s when Mum quit Dental Nursing. Dad never completely quit: he still does his forestry.

    What’s your favorite part of running the flower farm?
    The outdoors, being out in the open air is good. I get to work to my own hours sometimes. It’s really satisfying growing something from nothing and seeing the end product. I find it really rewarding.

    Is this what you wanted to do when you were little?
    Growing up on the farm I knew I would always have the opportunity to do this. When your family has a business, a kid can feel forced in to it but for me it was the opposite. If anything my parents made sure that I explored other avenues rather than going straight from school into working on the farm. I didn’t know what I wanted to do until well after I left school. I thought that I wanted to get involved in the hospitality industry, but after a couple of years I realised that it wasn’t for me, so came back to the farm.

    Are you known locally as ‘Sam the Flower Man’?
    No, just Sam. Although most people know me as Calv.

    Does running a flower farm compromise your masculinity?
    When I was little I used to get teased quite a bit about the farm, kids can be cruel! Now everyone appreciates it.

    Did you bring your teachers flowers in school?
    No.

    How about girlfriends?
    Yeah, a bit of that went on.

    Which of your flowers are the bestsellers?
    The most popular would have to be tulips or lilies. We grow tulips for 8 months of the year. You are able to control them making them easy to force and manipulate. I can know to the day when tulips are going to be ready to pick, whereas lilies can range.

    It has taught me that if you’re willing to put the time and effort in, you can achieve anything.

    Do you feel that forcing flower growth out of season might be ethically wrong?
    No. It’s all about trying to produce flowers out of season. Customers can’t get access to them out of their natural season so the demand becomes higher. There are a lot of farms that grow flowers in their natural season as they don’t have the facilities to force the growth. The process of freezing the bulbs and placing them in hot houses is known as ‘vernalization’.

    Is there a lot of competition in the flower farm business?
    There’s only us and one other farm in Tasmania that produces flowers out of season.

    Can you see yourself doing this forever?
    I guess so. I enjoy it but it’s very hard work. It’s a 24/7 job so it can take its toll but if all goes well, I’d like to think that I would carry on for a while yet.

    I love Tassie! I think it’s the lifestyle and people, it’s very relaxed. We’ve got the beaches, mountains, national parks, the weather – it’s all of Australia’s best bits in one state.

    Do you hope that the farm continues to be passed down through the family?
    That would be great! At the moment though it’s tough in all industries due to the global crisis. If I can keep the farm successful long enough to be able to pass it down, that would be ideal.

    What does it take to run a successful flower farm?
    Hard work. Long hours. I’ve found that you need a good crew, you can’t do this by yourself. You also need a lot of luck as there’s so many little things that could go wrong.

    Why should customers buy your flowers over anyone else’s?
    A lot of flowers these days aren’t fresh. At florists or supermarkets the time from picking to being sold could be anything from 10 to 14 days. Here you know they’re fresh. We guarantee them so if people aren’t happy, we offer to replace them. Over the years we’ve built up a good customer base, they know ours are the freshest and tend to last the longest.

    Do you think there will always be a demand for fresh flowers?
    I like to think so. There will always be Mothers Day, Valentines Day, etc. As much as people like to buy other things for these occasions, there will always be a demand for flowers. Weddings and funerals will always happen, I doubt flowers will ever truly be replaced.

    Have you had to make many sacrifices for the farm?
    Well, there’s no such thing as a day off. I don’t get any of the public holidays off. It always seems like I’m at work so I feel like I sacrifice a lot of my personal life. I’m passionate about sport but can’t always find the time to play. It’s a lifestyle choice. You have to be prepared to give up what other people working in 9-5 jobs might take for granted, like weekends and public holidays. There’s always something on the farm that could or does go wrong, so you’re always at work. Flowers don’t know when it’s Christmas Day, I haven’t had one of those for about 8 years!

    If you want to start a small business you’ve got to be willing to go through the ups and downs. You’ve got to be passionate about the business too. If you don’t enjoy it you don’t put the effort in, so you won’t get anything out of it.

    Have the flowers taught you anything?
    I was self taught. I had no qualifications in horticulture or agriculture. They’ve taught me that if you’re willing to put the time and effort in, you can achieve anything. You don’t have to have a degree to succeed so long as you put the effort in and make it work.

    What’s the craziest thing that’s happened on the farm?
    A few things I guess. A while ago we had the drug helicopters land here looking to do a drugs bust. They did searches for Marijuana in the hot houses. There’s been a few funny injuries too. I remember when Dad and Ben were building the hot houses, Dad nailed his hand to the wood. Looking back that was pretty funny.

    Are you running the business side of things as well as the farm?
    I do the day to day processes. The management side is also run by me but my Dad oversees it and gives me ideas. So I guess I’m running it, yeah, but with a bit of guidance.

    Do you have any advice for anyone wanting to start a business?
    If you want to start a small business you’ve got to be willing to go through the ups and downs. You’ve got to be passionate about the business too. If you don’t enjoy it you don’t put the effort in, so you won’t get anything out of it.

    Who has been the most inspirational character in your life so far?
    Denzel Washington.

    What is it about Denzel that you admire?
    His talent. He was one of the first African American actors to win an Academy Award too, he’s a pioneer! I wouldn’t be half the man I am today without Denzel or Michael Bolton.

    Have you got a preferred song that you like to listen to whilst bunching a bouquet?
    Put on anything old school, up-beat and 80′s and I’ll be happy!

    What hearty food do you eat daily to make sure you don’t go hungry whilst working?
    It depends on the season. In winter I like a good pie or noodles – anything hot. In summer I tend to eat a lot of salad rolls.

    Could you please explain what the job involves for anyone wanting to work on the farm whilst in Australia?
    Our farm is great for travellers wanting to get visas. The time of year to apply would be October to March/April. It’s dirty work, so you have to be prepared for that. We’re always on the lookout for keen people wanting to help out.

    What makes a perfect employee here on the farm?
    You have to have common sense and a lot of it! It helps if you’re practical and the outdoorsy type, it’s a dirty job.

    What do you think makes the Cradoc area and Tasmania in general so special?
    I love Tassie! I think it’s the lifestyle and people, it’s very relaxed. We’ve got the beaches, mountains, national parks, the weather – it’s all of Australia’s best bits in one state. For some reason it’s got a bad reputation so people stay away but it’s got so much to offer.

    If you’re in the area, Bloomin’ Good have a flower stall at the Salamanca Market (7am-3pm).
    You’ll find them opposite the Republic Café on the corner of Montpellier Street.

    http://www.bloomingoodflowers.com/

    Tel: + 61 (0) 439 681 654
    Email: bloomingoodflowers@hotmail.com

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  5. Eat Meet: Chef Michael Elfwing at Hilton Kuala Lumpur

    May 14, 2012 by The E.A.T. Team

    ON THE MENU 
    Smoking Allowed, Seafood Soup, LERØY Salmon Trout, Chocolate Tart “Michel Chaudon”
    ON THE GLOBE
    Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia
    ON THE TEAM
    Master Chef Michael Elfwing

    I’m quite disciplined with myself and what I want, if there’s something that I want, I make it happen.  You just have to stay focused.

     


    Chef Elfwing is the head chef at Senses Restaurant at Hilton Kuala Lumpur. Originally from Sweden, he studied the culinary arts in Australia from age 16 after being inspired by his father, who was also an international chef.  He’s worked with the legendary Chiong Liew at Grange in Adelaide, and at the world-famous Fat Duck restaurant with Heston Blumenthal, among others.  He’s published his own cookbook, which features his gorgeous photography.  His Senses restaurant has won several awards including the prestigious 5-Star Diamond Awards as one of the Best Restaurants in the World and Hospitality Asia Award for Best Western Cuisine.

    But he’s so much more than a pile of fancy titles and accolades.  He’s warm, innovative, passionate, creative and inspiring to say the least.  He’s humble about his extraordinary feats and talents, and willing to admit there’s always more to learn.  He has an infectious energy and he continues to work hard to earn the fruits of his labor.  Tasting his culinary creations assured me of that.  He was kind enough to let me interview him, snap some photos, and prepare some of his classic dishes for me.

    Needless to say, I was blown away by Chef Eflwing’s food as well as his character.

     

    ~ What I Ate  ~

     

    Smoking Allowed………..  

    Table smoked Tasmanian ocean trout, Nordic deep sea shrimp with sour cream & chives

    Unbelievable texture, melt-in-your-mouth trout.  The presentation is so unique–watching the smoke seep out as the jar is opened, smelling the soft wood chip smoke as it makes its way towards you, and the unbeatable taste.. top-notch combination.  Truly delights your Senses. 

    Seafood Soup  

    Seared cod, slipper lobster, Scottish diver scallop, saffron potato & roast roma tomatoes

    Another brilliant presentation–first you’re served the cod, lobster, scallop and potato so you really see what’s in the soup.  Then they pour the soup over it all, piping hot, as the aroma fills your nose.  A perfect, hearty soup for winter.

    LERØY Salmon Trout

    Organic salmon trout from the pristine fjords of Norway served with a sea garnish of edible sand, fresh clams & Dutch grey shrimp, smoked potato purée

    Another fantastic presentation.  Bursting with fresh ocean flavor.  ”Edible sand” concoction unlike anything I’ve seen or tasted, paired perfectly with the potato purée.  A sophisticated harmony of delights from the sea.

     

    Chocolate Tart “Michel Chaudon”  

    Exclusive to Senses by Parisian chocolatier Michel Chaudon.

    This handmade chocolate simply transformed into a light & warm  chocolate tart with vanilla ice cream

    Extremely innovative dish inspired by a larger traditional tart.  Smooth, silken molten chocolate and creamy light ice cream.  A classic.

     

     

     

     

    How long have you been living in Malaysia and working at Senses inside Hilton Kuala Lumpur?

    Eight years, it was the 1st of July, 2004 that I started here.  I’m Swedish but I worked 7 years in Australia before coming here.  I worked in Adalaide before with Chiong Liew, and Kuala Lumpur wanted to “bring papa home” because he’s Malaysian, so they asked me and Kelly Brennan to open and run Senses, based on legendary KL chef Chiong Liew‘s themes.  It has changed a lot since opening, because of the clientele: people go to Chiong Liew’s personal restaurant to eat Chiong Liew’s food: he cooks about 20 dishes and it has been that way for 10 years.

    But here, the Malaysians request new meals.  You have to listen to your customers.  That was something I had to learn, I came from the very stubborn, determined Chiong Liew mentality because I learned from him, that “this is my dish, nothing can change.”  The Malaysians are very loyal in that they like coming back to a place, but they don’t want the same thing time and again–they want different dishes from the same chef.  We might think we know how things work based on previous experince, but its always changing.

     

    What are your favorite ways to integrate aspects of local Malaysian food or culture into your creations?

    I think I learned a lot about Malaysian food, and its integration of Malay, Chinese, Indian aspects while working with Chiong Liew in Australia.  We opened Senses with the concept to cook gourmet Malysian food, but the locals were saying, “I don’t need you to cook shark fin or bok choi for me here, I can go to the local Chinese restaruant for that.”  We had all these beautiful lychees and mangosteens, and they’re saying, “I’ll just get that at my corner market, can you please give me some rhubarb? Something special from your culture?”

    Smoking Allowed, my signature dish–the one served in a smoke-filled jar, is certainly Scandinavian, but it uses ocean trout from Australia.  I wouldn’t be allowed to use a Norwegian salmon for this because of the texture and fat content, I had to test and try to find the right fish.  So that’s why I integrate different foods from different places, to get the best ingredients from where they are in the world.  I buy local, but I don’t buy the typical Asian vegetables.  My fish is imported from Japan or Australia, but a lot of this is because of customer demand, because they want something special, something they cannot find on the streets.

    Cheong’s food is very modern Malaysian: if you’re Malaysian, you might understand where his food is coming from, but you might not like it because it’s not prepared in the traditional ways.  The locals are very protective about how a laksa should be, but every single person makes it a different way.

    My food is a bit more straightforward, it might be refined, but the flavors are very recognizable and familiar.

     

     

    What do you eat when you’re not at work?

    I tend to cook at home on my day off.. I lock myself in my home on my days off.  It’s taken me years to be this relaxed.  Some chefs are all over the place, every two years a new place.

     

    What will you do after you’re finished at Senses?

    Right now Senses and the Hilton here is my plan and my life.  We’re going to renovate, we’re actually going to have a new restaurant and new bar.. this is a hotel that doesn’t stand still.  We’re going to move more towards a western, European restaurant.  When I want to leave again, I will move back to Australia.  I have citizenship there as well.

     

     I never planned to stay this long but I like it and I’m happy so.. why move?

     

    We met an Executive Chef in Thailand, and he is in charge of managing the chefs but no longer cooks.  Are you cooking still?

    Yes,  we have 160 chefs and 8 outlets at this hotel, so we have an executive chef here too–but I said to myself.. I don’t want that job, I don’t want 220 headaches.  I am spoiled, lucky even, that I am just one head chef in one restauarant.  I never planned to stay this long but I like it and I’m happy so.. why move?

     

    Was it your dream to become a chef when you were younger?

    Yes, I would say.  I’ve always loved reptiles and fish, so I was interested in marine biology and the like, but cooking was more instantly gratifying and when I was 15, 16 it seemed like an easier choice to study cooking than marine biology.  Since I was young, my  father was an international chef, and I would visit him wherever he was and it was always a kind of holiday to see him cooking on those big cruise ships.  My dad was working as a chef at Carnival cruise ships company when Hurricane Katrina hit.  The company offered to house people for free but they had a huge problem with criminals on board, so he quit and moved to Australia.  I visited him there, just thinking it was a vacation, and I was wowed by all the sunshine.. endless sunshine!  So it made me think, maybe I should study here, so I studied at culinary school there from age 16.  Most of my inspiration came form seeing my dad, working all over the world, traveling.  It all started from there.

     

    I saw you featured on Molecular Gastronomy, can you explain what molecular gastronomy is and how you use it?

    Your basic french training is always in the background in your mind as a chef.  My food, in terms of molecular, is definitely.. well, I spent a month at the Fat Duck with the legendary Heston Blumenthal, and that showed a side of molecular gastronomy that really appealed to me.  Heston’s style is more about time and temperature, and he is very precise with this.  You’re not adding foreign ingredients for a texture that’s not there–the Spanish chefs change a lot of texture: you have a familiar flavor but the texture is strange.  I would love to go and eat it, but it’s not the kind that I enjoy cooking.  Smoking Allowed is vacuum cooking, which is old-fashioned already, but its very precise, and so very fool-proof, so you get a very consistent product every time you do it.  But we haven’t made a trout into a shaving foam texture, so it’s still a fish.  The edible sensibilities comes form my inspiration from Heston.

     

    Who are some of the coolest people you met here?

    Mel Gibson, Louis Hamiltion (he had two-well done tenderloins, french fries and heinz tomato ketchup) because we have the Formula 1 races.  Sebastian Vettel who won Formula 1 for the past two years, he comes every year, I was lucky enough to give him one of my books.

     

    Have you ever had any failures that you felt you could not overcome?

    What can I say.. cooking is very personal, because YOU are the one choosing the ingredients, serving the dish.  Sometimes you care if the guest doesn’t like it because you might believe in it so strongly and like it so much, but after 15 years in the kitchen, I think you learn to be humble.  Not everyone can like what you like.  You have a lot of failures testing recipes, but you test it–if its not good, you don’t serve it.  Testing is a different type of failure–it doesn’t hurt as much.  Being very much hands-on you eliminate a lot of that.  I haven’t had any serious failures I think.  I’m quite disciplined with myself and what I want, if there’s something that I want, I make it happen.  You just have to stay focused.

     

    For more information on Chef Elfwing and Senses Restuarant, please visit:

    Hilton Kuala Lumpur Hotel

    3 Jalan Stesen Sentral, 50470 Kuala Lumpur

    Federal Territory of Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia
    03-2264-2264

     

    Special thanks to Chef Elfwing, the Senses staff, and Sabrina Loh for making this happen.

    
    

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  6. Eat Meet: Dr. K Sato’s Architectural Landscapes in George Town

    May 13, 2012 by The E.A.T. Team

    ON THE CANVAS 
    Architectural Paintings & Illustrations
    ON THE GLOBE
    George Town, Penang, Malaysia
    ON THE TEAM
    Dr. Sato Katshiro

    “Sato draws like no one else is the world, it’s very unique.”

    - Khoo Lye Huat

     

    Image courtesy of Dr. K Sato

     

    By profession, Dr. Sato is an architect and has worked in architectural design firms in Japan for 20 years.  After obtaining his PhD in Engineering, he was associated with various universities in Japan and Canada as a professor.  He is now a key member of the Penang Art Society.  Dr. Sato’s drawings are currently exhibited in the Heritage Hotel, Penang.

     

    I met Dr. Sato by pure chance, on a morning run in the fantastically historic and artistic city of George Town in Penang.  I spotted him sitting under a bridge, sketching the city scape.  A few meters later, I passed a woman doing the same.  I jogged on for a while with the two of them on my mind, and on my way back I worked up the courage to say hi.

    I’m so glad I did.  Dr. Sato turned out to be an extremely friendly, knowledgeable, and experienced architect and artist–the woman sat a few meters away drawing was his wife.  Apparently they do that together every weekend.  I can hardly imagine a sweeter ritual.

    I told him about The Eat Team and asked if we could interview him.  He invited us to join him at Penang’s Cultural Street Fair, where we got to see several of his finished paintings, meet some of his family and friends, and chat to him about architecture, living in Malaysia after retirement from Japan, and being a teacher.

    I was mesmerized by the dreamy motion that Dr. Sato’s watercolour style gives off.  He has a truly brilliant way of capturing the vibrance and energy of the bustling creativity that makes up George Town.  Don’t you think?

    Take it away, Dr. K!

    Where are you from?
    I’m from Japan.

    How did you come to live here in Penang?
    Conditions in Japan aren’t ideal after the natural disasters so we decided to relocate. I moved here 4 years ago to retire.

    Why Penang?
    I was attracted the Georgetown because of the mix of buildings. The contrast between old and new structures is interesting. It’s a very multicultural place with a great atmosphere. I hope to stay here for the rest of my life.

    So do you still have family back in Japan?
    Oh yes, I have 4 children who still live there. They visit sometimes.

    Do you ever go back to see them?
    I hope to visit sometime soon to see my family and paint.

    How do you choose what to draw or paint?
    I used to be an architect so I like to draw buildings as I understand structures.

    How long does each painting take?
    They each take around 2-3 hours.

    What materials do you use to create them?
    I mainly use pencil, pen and watercolour.

    Do you know many other artists here?
    Yes. I sit and sketch with my Japanese friend every weekend in Georgetown.

     

    For more information on Dr. Sato, please visit his websites:

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  7. Eat Meet: FINDARS Founders in Kuala Lumpur

    May 9, 2012 by The E.A.T. Team

    ON THE CANVAS 
    Comic Books, Illustration, Painting
    ON THE GLOBE
    Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia
    ON THE TEAM
    無限發掘 FINDARS

     

    In Kuala Lumpur, our couchsurfing hosts discovered a group of artists who established a gallery and studio, called 無限發掘 FINDARS, to work together, inspire one another, and showcase their creativity.  It’s a space that’s open to the community and to different types of art, as well as an independent music label and studio.

     

    It made me pretty damn nostalgic for days spent in the studios at art school, working late into the night with your best mates by your side.  We loved seeing the sketchbooks of painter Beng Tze, who, along with the other founders of FINDARS honed their crafts many moons ago at Malaysian Institute of Art.

     

    We were lucky to interview one of the founders Lim Keh Soon, who makes some of the freshest (and most twisted!) illustrations I’ve seen.

     

    How old are you?
    32.

     

    What brought you to KL?
    I grew up close to here and moved to the centre 10 years ago to study.

     

    What did you study?
    Illustration at the Malaysian Institute of Art.

     

    So, we are here in ‘Findars’ art space. How did the project start?
    I met Beng Tze and Min Lik, we work together with a few other artists and share the rent for the building. We put on shows when we can. The group started in February 2008. There’s 6 of us – Me, Wong Eng Leong, Wong Min Lik, Tey Beng Tze, Bannai Roo, and Rainf.

     

    Do a lot of people purchase your pieces?
    We had another space near the central market where people would come in and buy but not so many collectors come to this location because its a bit more off-the-beaten track.

     

    Have you been able to make money?
    Not so much. We all have other jobs too. I work a few days a week as a part-time teacher, teaching art to 19-and 20-year old students, the rest of the time I spend here as the studio is good for my concentration. I used to work alone at my house but it wasn’t good for inspiration. Around 3 years ago I made a comic book, inspired by Japanese Manga, and published 130 copies. I sold them by myself, mainly to friends.

     

    Would you say you were more of an illustrator than a painter?
    Yes, but I have always been interested in painting so I have been doing a lot of that recently.

     

    What’s the art scene like in KL?
    The most happening time is the show opening. They are ongoing but the audience is usually quite conservative.

     

    Are there lots of artists in the city?
    Not compared with Indonesia, that’s known as an art hub for South-East Asia.

     

    What is your favourite style of drawing, or thing to draw?
    Characters. Not the normal style of character drawing though. Something abnormal, cut-off or something.

     

    What’s the inspiration for your current piece?
    Moving here I find I have a proper space to work. I love to see the scenery and sometimes try to include local news. My most recent piece was inspired by the Prime Ministers slogan, “You help me, I help you” I named it “You eat me, I eat you”.

     

    Is this piece, your painting called “You Eat Me, I Eat You” for an upcoming show?
    No. I plan to do a solo show and possibly produce another comic book this year.

     

    What materials do you normally use?
    Acrylic paint. I don’t sketch or plan, just go straight in with paint. Most of them I imagine and then paint. For some I use real objects and then paint around it.

     

    How long do your large paintings usually take to complete?
    Around 2 months.

     

    How do you know when a piece is finished?
    Well, this one isn’t. I still need to refine. Sometimes it’s boring though looking at the same piece, so I do some drawing instead.

     

    FINDARS regularly hosts exhibitions and live music at their gallery in Kuala Lumpur.  Fore more information, check them out on the web at the following places.

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  8. Eat Meet: Ko Lanta Ink

    March 31, 2012 by The E.A.T. Team

    ON THE CANVAS 
    Custom Tattoos
    ON THE GLOBE
    Ko Lanta, Thailand
    ON THE TEAM
    Mr. Sitt & Wel, Tattoo Artists
      
     

     

    Palm trees, blue skies, clear water, sand crabs, fruit shakes, and happy tourists on rented motorbikes.  That’s what we found on Ko Lanta, a gorgeous island off the southern peninsula of Thailand.

    We also found Mr. Sitt and Wel, two of Thailand’s most talented tattoo artists.  Thailand is an extremely popular tattoo destination, especially for westerners: sometimes a chance to get a permanent souvenir of their holiday, other times an opportunity to get a custom design at an affordable price.

    We loved chatting with these two.  A brilliant mix of talented and humble, we talked to them about how they got started in the field, tattoo culture in general, traditional Thai tattoos, and what makes them tick.

    Introducing Mr. Sitt:

    Where are you from?

    Hat Yai.

     

    Do you live locally on Ko Lanta?

    I live in the shop.  Well, when you work as many hours as I do …I might as well live here.

     

    You’re a tattoo artist, where are your tattoos?!

    (Laughs) I don’t like so many.

     

    How did you get into tattooing?

    I studied Engineering in Bangkok, but a lot of the companies closed so I could not find a job after I graduated. So I have never worked as an engineer. I taught myself tattooing.

     

    Did you enjoy Bangkok?

    Yes, for that time it was nice. There are many people and many things to do. Now I go there on vacation for a week, maybe 3 days and it’s too busy for me.

     

    How did you change from engineer to artist?

    I couldn’t find a job with my engineering degree. I was looking for one for 3 months and one day I looked in the mirror after a shower and saw my first tattoo (a phoenix on my upper arm to celebrate finishing high school) and realised.. I could do that, and that’s what I want to do. I told my parents about my idea and they said no because I had a degree as an engineer. I didn’t have much money, I borrowed some from friends. One friend 1000 baht, another friend 2000 baht, and bought what I needed with that. My first tattoo was a tribal design that was very small but took 3 hours. I sweated a lot!

     

    Was it easier the second time?

    That was 15 years ago, it’s easier now.

     

    So you taught yourself by practicing?

    Yes. I read a lot of magazines and learned by doing.

     

    How did you choose Ko Lanta as the place for your shop?

    I heard there weren’t too many American and English people here, sometimes they are too loud. There is a lot of Swedish but they are more chilled. Also, there aren’t many French people. I find it hard to understand them which is difficult when talking about tattoos. Sometimes I draw for many hours, when they come back there has been a misunderstanding and I have to re-do the whole thing.

     

    What’s the difference between the normal tattoo machine and the bamboo tattoo method?

    The machine is 50 strokes per second and bamboo is just 2.

     

    Does it hurt less to have a bamboo tattoo?

    Yes, 50% less than machine.

     

    Do a lot of people scream in pain?

    No. Fifteen years I’ve been doing this and no girl has ever passed out. Only men have when they have a lot of muscle!

     

    Is it cheaper or more expensive to have the bamboo method?

    It depends on the size as it takes a long time to create it by hand.

     

    Do most people opt for the bamboo, or do they mostly choose the machine?

    Bamboo is the traditional Thai method and it’s easier to take care of after too, they are quicker to heal.

     

    Do all tattoo studios use the same ink?

    Mostly. I use one that suits us. You have to be careful though as there are fake inks from China that don’t always stay in the skin and can cause infection.

     

    Do people ask you to design the tattoo, or do they normally already know what they want?

    Sometimes they ask me to draw but usually they have seen what they want before and come with a design.

     

    Do people ask to keep the line drawings you make when designing custom tattoos?

    Not usually. I put them up on the wall for examples.

     

    Do you keep sketchbooks of your work?

    I do each tattoo one by one, no books.

     

    Next we spoke to Wel, Mr Sit’s colleague…

     

    How did you get in to tattooing?

    I like it. If you don’t like it, you don’t start.

     

    Did you study drawing?

    I just learned, I like to draw. When I was 14 I would not go to school, I’d go to my friend’s tattoo shop on Phi Phi Island.

     

    Did you work there before here?

    My Mother had a restaurant there so I stayed there when I was young. I saw a lot of the tattoo shops and I liked what they did. Then I came here and learned. At first, I only helped them stretch the skin in preparation for the tattoo, that’s the first stage.

     

    Mr Sitt said that he was really scared the first time he did a tattoo, was it the same for you?

    Yes!

     

    Do you get the same fear every time?

    Not anymore, but before. The first, second and third. When they are simple like this (the three crown design I’m putting on the customer now) I don’t get nervours, but the first time I did a dragon I was scared. Now, not anymore.

     

    How long have you been doing this for?

    I started at 14 and now I’m 21.

     

    How did you meet Mr Sitt?

    (They both laugh) I think he can tell you better.

     

    This sounds like a good story! Mr Sit, how did you both meet?

    He worked in the enemy’s shop. Then he followed me here.

     

    When was this?

    About 4 years ago.

     

    What do you like best about your job?

    Finishing a tattoo and seeing the customers smile. We make dreams, we build a dream. Tattoo artists put the dream on the customer. For my customer, they dream the dream, then they come to me and I draw and put the dream on them. I like this a lot. You can read in the comments book how happy people have been. Sometimes we cry together!

     

    Tears of joy?

    Yes yes! A guy last week he came to me and asked for a tattoo of two fists together to remind him of his very best friend. Every time he saw his friend they would do this, like a handshake. They did it for 20 years. He was crying when he saw it finished.

     

    Would you change anything if you were to start over?

    Maybe I’d help with the family business–palm oil.

     

    Do you think you’ll do this for the rest of your life?

    Well, I like cooking too actually, I’m going to open a restaurant with a Swedish friend down the street, make Thai & Swedish food.

     

    What else do you like to do?

    I’d like to make a bar too, we’ll see.  Being a business owner is great for making friends.

     

    How is the tattoo scene in Thailand different from other places?

    Well in terms of the television shows.. LA ink is quite scripted.  London Ink is more realistic.

     

    Why do Thai people age so well?

    Its all the chili we eat, contains special ingredient which helps regenerate cells.  And herbs.

     

    How old are you?

    37

     

    Who is the most famous tattoo artist in Thailand?

    Jimmy Wang, his family also makes tattoos and he even started the tattoo convention in Bangkok.

     

    Do you have any advice for people wanting to start a career in tattooing?

    It’s easy! Go to youtube and look at ‘How to make tattoo’ and then go to ebay and get a machine.

     

    Special thanks to Mr. Sit and Wel for the interview, and to Christer Roosk for being a fantastic sport and letting us photograph him being tattooed.

    If you’d like to contact Mr. Sitt and Wel for a custom tattoo, send an email to sit.marley@hotmail.com or call +66816797805 or visit Lanta Ink in Saladan on Ko Lanta, Thailand.

    If you like this project, subscribe to our free monthly newsletter for updates.


     


  9. Eat Meet: Executive Chef Asker Skaarup Bay

    March 31, 2012 by The E.A.T. Team

    ON THE MENU 
    Seven Sea’s seafood soup with herbs & garlic – cumin dusted toast Melba
    Thyme marinated, roasted pork tenderloin on baked root vegetables & prune glace
    Pan-fried Phuket lobster tail on sautéed crushed green pea & lobster bisque
    Slow roasted pineapple & mascarpone mousse, reduced pineapple juice
    Warm chocolate fondant with white liquid center, tamarind juice & honey ice cream
    ON THE GLOBE
    Ko Lanta, Thailand
    ON THE TEAM
    Executive Chef Asker Bay Skaarup, Pimalai 5-Star Resort
     
     

    Close to midnight, Chef Asker walked us down the stairwell from the Seven Seas Restaurant that led to our bright red motorbike.  The sky was ominous, booming with lightning here and there, leaving me feeling a bit like Cinderella leaving the ball at the stroke at 12. Dressed in our evening gowns, we quickly made our descent to avoid the imminent storm after an enchanting evening.

    Try as we might, we did not escape mother nature.  The rain started as we started our engine, a few drops at first, then harder and faster until we could hardly see a thing.  Laughing, we pulled over and took refuge under a bamboo hut.  A lone street dog wandered amongst the flickering streetlights and an indecipherable low pitched horror-film moan filled the air from animals on the ranch across the street.

    More beautiful than scary, it was an unforgettable end to an unforgettable evening.

    Chef Asker wow-ed us to say the least.  Thoughtful, interested, and incredibly talented, he made our experience at Pimalai Resort something special.  He’s worked in the food industry for ages–from his hometown in Denmark, to bustling London, to Dubai, Bangkok, and now Ko Lanta, Asker knows what he’s doing, and he does it well.

    Read on for his thoughts on staying creative, cultural differences, sacrificing for your career, and how he stays James-Bond-fit amongst so much delicious food.

    Introducing Executive Chef Asker Skaarup Bay.

     

    What brought you to work in Thailand?

    I always wanted to work in Asia. I found it is an interesting place compared to European culture – the food, the people, it’s a different way of working.

     

    Did the company ask you to come and work here, or were you looking for work yourself?

    I took a job here two years ago after looking for a job in Asia.

     

    When did you move from being a chef cooking food to managing the kitchens as Executive Chef?

    To;
    About 6 years ago. When we start new menus I brief the concerned staffs, draw up the
    presentation of the dish and some times I arrange the first dish, then we take a photo and
    attach it to the recipe card.During service time I’ll do the rounds in all the kitchens to check that every thing goes
    smoothly.

     

    Is it a lot of paperwork?

    Yes. Sometimes I put more in place than what we need, but it’s a good exercise as you know where different costs go.

     

    What’s your signature dish?

    Seafood soup, one of the most popular dishes here. Also roasted pork tenderloin with roasted veg, and a lobster dish. I’m not a big fan of prawns and lobster but it’s popular. It was a fusion restaurant when I came here but I simplified it.

     

    Are you glad you picked Ko Lanta?

    It’s a nice place – maybe a bit quiet, not much socializing goes on. It’s relaxing but a challenging place to work, it’s harder to find qualified staff and good products than I was used to. Most of our products come from Bangkok although the seafood is local. Almost all of the products on the menu are grown in Thailand.

     

    How big is your team at the moment?

    Sixty people, including students.

     

    And you oversee them all?

    Yes.

     

    It must be a busy day…

    Yes some times. The restaurants are spread all over the resort. We try to do as much as possible home made. The guests appreciate it.

     

    How was it settling in here?

    When you come to a new place it always takes a few weeks to settle down. You need to know how the staff members are working, their strength and weakness etc… and when you accept them they accept you. Once you understand those things you will be able to get a good teamwork and even better when you know their culture.

     

    What’s a regular day in the life of Chef Asker?

    I start around 7 o’clock in the morning and check the breakfast buffets. All the kitchens have
    been closed down and cleaned properly the night before. Then some paperwork needs to be done, I check logbooks, internal cost transfers and staff requests to change or request extra days off. I then attend the morning briefing with the Management, I handle the follow-ups from the morning briefing and check that the breakfast buffets run smoothly. At 11 o’clock I have a briefing with one senior staff member from each kitchen section. Then I a walk through all the kitchens that are in operation for lunch. After that I have time for a break for a couple of hours, then another tour through all the kitchens to make sure they are set for a smooth dinner service.

     

    Do you work everyday?

    I work six days a week. On my days off I visit a beach and have a rest. Once a month I take a
    few days off and go to Bangkok or to some of the neighbour countries to Thailand.

     

    Do you live at the resort?

    Yes, not to far from here. Coming here as a tourist, relaxing for a few days or a week is cool.
    The locals are very laid back, they do not put much effort into meeting the demands from the
    tourists. On your day off you still have to keep in mind you are working at Pimalai because the locals
    and staff know who you are, and even sometimes the guests. Sometimes I miss a socialized
    environment where you can disappear in crowd and no one knows who you are./p>

     

    Why did you leave Dubai?

    Working in Dubai was a good experience in terms of hospitality. Everything is imported and
    you might work with food items that you will not be able to work with in other places because
    of cost. I spent two and half years in Dubai. It was enough.

     

    What is the food scene like on Ko Lanta? And in Thailand in general?

    The food scene here at Koh Lanta is quite basic, all the restaurants serve more or less the
    same kind of food. You wont find many nice restaurants here at Koh Lanta; the backpackers don’t come here for gourmet. In Thailand you get different kind of food depending on where you go; North Thailand serves
    heavier and less spicy food, Bangkok and the center of Thailand serves light and mild spiced
    food, E-san food has a nice special taste which is popular among all the Thais. South Thailand serves lighter and spicier food.

     

    One of the things we have noticed in Thailand is that you can order the same dish from several places but it will always taste totally different, do you know why this is?

    Different Chefs – different taste, I guess food and beverage is a subject of discussion for
    lifetime. The same counts in other countries as well I guess. For example a Caesar salad also tastes
    different from restaurant to restaurant and from café to café

     

    Have you had to get used to any new ingredients in Thailand that you hadn’t used before?

    Everything! That’s one of the reasons it is interesting to travel and work as a Chef, if you don’t
    like it you better stay at home.

     

    So, if you were to go out for a meal where would you go?

    There are not many places to go here at Koh Lanta. I visit a few nice places when in Bangkok:
    Face, a very old fashioned, traditional Thai restaurant where you can choose Thai and Indian
    food or a mix of both if you want. In the basement of Face is a Japanese restaurant too.
    Restaurant Banacahtian serves basic and tasty Thai food. Celadon serves very nice authentic Thai food at The Sukhothai Hotel and also the Thai restaurant at The Peninsula Hotel is worthwhile to visit..

     

    Has your position of Executive Chef taken you away from being creative?

    No not really. I’m involved in all the menu engineering as well as when we start up a new
    menu, from how the ingredients are prepared to how the dish is arranged and served to the guest.
    As much as possible I involve all my staff in making recipes, preparing the ingredients,
    cooking method/technics and arranging the dish. This way they feel that they’ve contributed
    and they feel important.

     

    How often do you create a new menu?

    I change all the menus a few months before the high season so that we have time to practice
    and modify if needed. The Chef Special changes daily at Seven Seas, our signature restaurant.
    Then we have three themes buffets during the week. The Thai buffet in Spice n’ Rice is the
    most popular. Then seafood barbeque in Rak Talay restaurant on the beach as well as the Surf & Turf buffet
    in Rak Talay.

     

    Are most of the customers here from Europe?

    Yes. Most of them are from UK, Australia, Germany, France and Italy, some from New Zealand,
    USA, Russia and India.

     

    What do you eat when you’re not working?

    When I’m at Koh Lanta I go to a street restaurant for some Thai food. If I go out with my friends I enjoy to go out to a restaurant and have a nice dinner and a bottle of wine.

     

    What food is your guilty pleasure?

    I try to eat healthy when I have my main meals. I taste everything while at work during the
    day to control that the food has the same consistency. I taste all the food from raw to finished
    product – even fatty things, but if you eat a little bit only you can take it./p>

     

    How do you stay in shape when you are surrounded by such delicious food?

    I don’t have big main meals. I taste a lot during the day. I eat fruit when I want to have
    something light and I exercise in my break.

     

    What kind of exercise?

    In the gym here. I do weights, running, …anything.

     

    Has that been a habit for a long time?

    Yes. For the last twelve years. Even though I’m tired, I still go to the gym and after a little bit of
    time I get refreshed and get more energy. If I don’t go I regret it.

     

    How was the experience of publishing your dessert book?

    It was a good experience publishing the dessert book. When looking in my book I can see how I have developed during the past. I have always had a big interest in baking and pastry.

     

    What did you learn in the process of creating the book?

    What did I learn? I think that one of the most important things when I prepare a recipe for
    others is that the other person understands how to prepare the dish.

     

    What was your dream job as a child?

    I always liked to bake and cook at home for my family when I was young. I don’t know if I was
    dreaming of what I’m doing now, but I enjoy what I’m doing. I left primary school when I was 15 years old, started in an apprenticeship as baker then continued as Chef apprentice and finally completed a waiter apprenticeship, eight years all together. Then I started traveling with my educations, meeting different food, culture, people and new places, which I found very interesting.

     

    Who are your food heroes, or who has inspired you along the way?

    I don’t really have any food heroes. I observe when I go out, in terms of menu engineering,
    food quality, presentation and price. While working in London I worked at Quo Vadis one of Marco Pierre White’s. first restaurants where I achieved a lot. I get some inspiration from cookbooks and magazines.
    When I look through old cookbooks and magazines I can see how many old ways of preparations and arranging the dishes are coming back.

     

    Have you ever owned a restaurant or would you like to?

    I have been thinking about it! In Denmark there’s a lot of taxes and fees. If I do I will either go back and do something small that I can manage myself, or do something big that I could get other people to manage for me. You need a lot money to start up so at the moment I’m not sure I’d like to do it yet.

     

    What’s your proudest moment in your career to date?

    When things are going smoothly, the guests are happy and give compliments to my staff. It’s
    nice and enjoyable. I feel proud.

     

    What’s the most embarrassing thing that has happened in your career so far?

    A couple of times I have been asked by guests why some dishes not are available on the menu
    when I know the items are in stock.

     

    Have you got any advice for people wanting to enter into a similar career?

    You must understand that you have to work when other people don’t. It’s a hot environment and can be very stressful. You have to like what you’re doing.

     

    Do you still like it?

    YES I still like it. It is not an industry you just join to have a job. You have to sacrifice relation
    ships and family. If you have a job in the hospitality industry your friends and family must understand it and support you. You are not working normal hours Monday to Friday nine to five. Your hours will most likely be Friday to Tuesday eight to twenty one, with a break for a couple of hours during the day.. :-) )

     

    Have you sacrificed part of your family life for your career?

    I don’t know. I’m happy with what I’m doing.

     

    Do you still have family in Denmark?

    Yes. I go back once a year.

     

    Do you miss Danish food?  Do you still cook it here and if so, how do people react to it?

    No I don’t miss Danish food. I’m not a particular person. However Thai food two weeks in a
    row can get a bit boring, I like anything.

     

    What’s your secret for not wanting to be home when you’re away and not wanting to be away when you’re at home?

    I like the Asian culture but when it’s too humid I miss the cold weather, otherwise I like it here
    in Thailand, the island, beaches and city life. I feel Bangkok is my second hometown.

     

    Special thanks to Mirko Langui, Food & Beverage Manager, Chef Asker, and the fabulous Pimalai staff for assistance in making this interview a reality.

    If you’d like to visit Chef Asker and enjoy his sensational food, visit Pimalai 5-Star Resort on Ko Lanta, Thailand.

    If you liked this interview, subscribe to our free monthly newsletter for updates.


     


  10. Eat Meet No. 3 – Photorealism in Chiang Mai

    March 16, 2012 by The E.A.T. Team

    ON THE CANVAS 
    Photo-Realistic Charcoal Portraits
    ON THE GLOBE
    Chiang Mai, Thailand
    ON THE TEAM
    Ditcha Pong Donkeaw, Illustrator & Painter

     

    We spent four days in Chiang Mai, a small-ish city in northern Thailand.

    Hannah describes it as “friendly, compact, has everything you’d need, enough to do that you’d discover places regularly, but not so much to do that it’s overwhelming or touristy, impossible to get lost, the community vibe that I didn’t feel in Bangkok.”

    We both agreed to live there at some point.  We loved getting around the city by bike, the relaxed atmosphere, the fast wifi, and the hidden quiet gems with greenery and space to breathe dispersed between the chaotic Thai streets that line each city we’ve been to so far.

    One of the highlights by far was interviewing illustrator Ditcha Pong Donkeaw in a quiet spot underground Chiang Mai’s night bazaar.  He creates illustrations so realistic, you have to look twice (or three times) to make sure that they’re not photographs.

    Though I’m a certified artist (got a piece of paper from the University of California saying as much, so it must be true), I’ve never been able to draw realistically.  Eventually I let go of the notion that artists “should” be able to draw that way and my jealousy that I could not, and focused on my strengths instead..

    Ditcha, or Dui for short, really warmed our hearts.  Initially shy to be on camera and quite modest about his unbelievable skill, he warmed up quickly and opened up to us about how he honed his talent and what his family thinks of his life as an artist.

    Introducing Ditcha:

     

    EatTeam1CollageDuiChiangMai

    What’s your name?

    Ditcha Pong, but my nickname from University is Dui.

     

    How long have you worked at the Night Bazaar in Chiang Mai?

    Six years.

     

    You look really young.  Can we ask how old you are?

    Not so young!  I have small wrinkles.  Twenty-nine.

     

    How long did you study art for?

    I studied at university for four years.  I worked here ever since.

     

    Were you naturally talented with drawing, even before studying?

    Yes, as a child I was very good.  My dad guided my hand when I was young.  He helped me learn.

     

    Did you start drawing in this photo-realistic style, or was your style in the beginning something else?

    I drew everything.. acrylic, watercolor, charcoal.   Sometimes abstract–if the customer likes it that way.

     

    What kind of customers usually buy from you?

    Mainly Europeans but also Americans, Canadians, Brits.

     

    Do all the artists here in the market know eachother?  

    Yes, we are all part of different companies.

     

    So you’re all competing?

    Yes.. that’s why everyone is looking at us, wondering what we are filming!

     

    When you create an artwork for a customer, do they sit for you while you draw?

    No, that would take too long.  I draw from a photograph.

     

    Do you enjoy drawing still after so many years?

    Yes.

     

    In your free time, do you draw other things just for fun?

    Yes, I really enjoy drawing animals, flowers, abstracts.  Jackson Pollock, Picasso.. yeah!

     

    Do you give drawings to your friends sometimes?

    Yes, especially for birthday presents.

     

    Hannah and I are both artists.  I can only do abstract, child-like drawings, totally different from your style.  I get embarrassed looking back through old sketchbooks, at the bad quality.  Do you get embarrassed too looking back to the beginning?

    No, I like it better–there’s so much innocence in it.

     

    Where did you grow up?

    A province called Phaie, its 2 hours from Chiang Mai.  I moved here for university.

     

    How old were you when you started learning how to draw?

    I started studying at 18.

     

    So eleven years now.  And you said your mom and dad wanted you to be an artist?

    Yes, my dad.. but not my mom.  She wanted me to study electronics.

     

    Did your dad push you to be an artist or did he support you in your decision?

    He supported me in my decision.

     

    Do you prefer black and white or color when drawing and painting?

    I like black-and-white better, its more classic and its easier.

     

    What’s the strangest picture anyone’s ever commissioned you to draw?

    Six months ago, a customer had me draw their head in the body of a mermaid.

     

    How long did the drawing we’re looking at take you?

    Two days.  That’s the average amount of time they usually take.

     

    How much did it cost?

    About three-thousand baht. ($100)

     

    Do you like drawing people or animals better?

    People.

     

    The bigger drawings for sale in your gallery were made from photographs too?  They’re real people?

    Yes.

     

    What do you usually draw with?

    Charcoals, chalks, pastels, pencils, lots of different brushes.  No water, its all dry.  Sometimes I wear a mask because the materials can be dangerous.

     

    Where else do you exhibit your work?

    Sometimes I enter contests and show in galleries.

     

    Who are your favorite artists?

    T. Tawan Dutcha Nee (very famous Thai artist), Michelangelo, and Da Vinci.

    Special thanks to Winit Kumrai for translating.

    If you’d like to contact the artist or order a custom illustration, email Ditcha at ditchapongart_9@hotmail.com or call +66892612669.  You can also visit his studio in Chiang Mai’s Night Bazaar.

    If you liked this interview, subscribe to our free monthly newsletter for updates.