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chefs on instagram: Paul Cooper

instagram chefs

Paul Cooper, the head chef and nose-to-tail die hard at Surry Hills’ Bishop Sessa restaurant, shares his snapshots and thoughts. In the first of a series on chefs using Instagram, we scroll through our favorite chef shots.

As social media allows chefs to don iPhones as part of their professional artillery and open the virtual swinging doors to their kitchens, Instagram has become the ultimate insider’s guide. Paul Cooper’s Instagram pictures reveal the chefs’ passion for nose-to-tail, using the whole beast, and knowing exactly where it’s come from and what it’s eaten. (There’s a run-through of each image below the jump).

What’s the best thing about Instagram?

Instagram allows us to show many aspects of life in a kitchen, and a little of how a product evolves into a plated dish. This is important to me, as it shows that we really do utilise the whole beast in a smart and interesting way. It is one thing to say you enjoy nose to tail butchery, but another to be creative enough to use an entire side of Wagyu, pork or venison

Is Instagram a creative outlet or a visual journal for you?

Instagram allows us to show another creative aspect to ourselves through photography, and also the comments box. It is certainly a fun form of social media that allows us to showcase what happens in the kitchen, and hopefully educate people along the way.

How important is food’s provenance?

Knowing where your produce comes from is something that is extremely important to me. I spend a lot of time sourcing products, and am always looking to find farmers and producers who believe in ethical, humane and sustainable practices. If the farmer or producer has respect for the product they are producing, be it vegetable, beef, pork, lamb or seafood, then we as chefs need to show an equal amount of respect. I think it is important to our customers to know what and where their meal comes form, and that it has been treated with respect from the paddock to the plate.

paul cooper instagram

What comes first, the new dish or the produce?

A menu needs balance, so I quite often find myself in both situations. You sometimes find a product and say, “wow, that has to go on the menu straight away”. But it creates an unbalanced menu, so you are forced to change other elements to bring back that level of balance.

Is the concept of locally-sourced produce and “growing your own” a beat up?

Absolutely not. Supporting local producers is supporting the local community. Buying local products is about knowing what you’re eating. If you’re in doubt over its location, then there is no guarantee over its quality. I like to be able to talk to the producer, and discuss what is happening on their farm, and why certain things happen at differing times of the year. It brings a greater awareness to me, which I can pass on to our customers.

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momofuku seibo, Sydney

momofuku

We pulled up to the kitchen bar encircling the open kitchen in the dark polished room that is Momofuku Seibo, and hoped for a pork belly bun. The room is slick and warm at once, promising something elegant and original. A convoluted online bookings system doesn’t leave a brilliant first impression, but a flurry of small dishes begins and quickly reassures.

Immaculate little morsels are delivered on Mud plates and bowls, a pretty assortment of pale green and white, stone and slate grey. A tube of smoked eel parfait, a crispy exterior stuffed with the creamy fish, sits on a small puddle of apple gel. And it’s the only teaser dish before the famous pork bun arrives (above). It’s a variation on the original (recipe here), steamed but still succulent and packed with porky flavour. The bun is soft and slightly chewy, and a couple of thin slices of cucumber add a pleasing bite. Then there is sliced trumpeter (below), immaculate raw fish with sprigs of celery leaves and mustard cress. {READ MORE}

momofuku_trumpeter-2
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Palmer & co, Sydney

palmer and co-2

palmer arni

It was the best of times. That’s all. Six of us found the Palmer & Co entrance and wandered down the stairs into the basement, a spangly model teetered in front of us. I feared this place would be all chi-chi and too-cool, not a spot for six friends just looking for an awesome cocktail in a relaxed and beautiful bar. It is super cool, but in a good way, a kind of film set of the 1920s that you can walk in to and make like some flapper out for some fun.

The underground space is set up like some spot during prohibition, dark as can be but glittering with round bulbs and gorgeous outfits. A table of traders appear more like some snappy dressers at one of Gatsby’s do’s. I try to find song playing with my iPhone, but there’s no reception down here, and back in time.  So the six of us make our way to one of a couple of bars and order our cocktails, served by a guy in a red bow-tie. His shaking and pouring is a performance, just like the rest of the place, and thoroughly entertaining. We loved the bare brick ceilings, the glass tiled bar, the underground vibe and the showmanship of it all.

palmer drinks

palmer and co

Have you been to Palmer & Co? I’d love to hear your fantastic tales. {READ MORE}

Messina gelato, Sydney

messina gelato

messina

Here we have scoops of the always glorious Messina gelato at the more recently opened Surry Hills store. I don’t want anything interrupting with the smoothness of the icecream, the potential crunch and texture, swirl of fruit or studs of chocolate, so I go for the pot instead of a cone. Pure as the driven ice cream… My darling friend Kristin, who’s visiting from Norway, went for the salted caramel and white chocolate gelato, as did I, apparently the store’s best seller. Her other choice, poached baby figs in Marsala, was truly figgy, beautifully sweet and infused with real fig flavour. My salted coconut with mango swirl was my favourite, packed with flavour and not too sweet, a summery tropical twist for a day in the Sydney weekend sunshine. {READ MORE}

Coral Garden: Peter Gilmore

This enchanting video by Natasha Subramaniam and Alisa Lapidus shows Quay chef Peter Gilmore revealing the concept behind his Coral Garden dish. The chef drew on memories of childhood explorations of rock pools and a recent snorkelling trip to the Great Barrier Reef to create the layers of white fungi mushroom, tapioca and “octopus coral” in the dish. This short comes from Nowness.com. Read more on Peter Gilmore: Coral Garden here.

{recipe} tuna tostadas for two

tuna

I hate to complain about the weather, but GOSH it’s been hot. I have sunburn for the first time in 20 years, it’s not pretty. The other night when all the power went as Sydney overdosed on air conditioning, so we sweltered in 43 degree heat, I had the rare experience of not ever again wanting to think about cooking.  I swore off the oven and the stove and all things hot. The chap wasn’t allowed near me and I lay on the floor with my feet and legs up the wall in a primadonna scene of the overwrought. As the evening drew on and the temperatures stayed above 38, we cracked open Sapporo beers that had sat for an hour in the diminishing freezer (oh what a wise move that had been). And we schemed to turn the sashimi-grade tuna we’d bought as an entree for four the following night, into a super quick meal for two.

I’ve raved about the standard of yellowfin tuna before, and the quality just shone on these crunchy tostadas. We did a kind of Mexican, Japanese spin on it all, with a simple lime and coriander spiked guacamole, a corn salsa I made in a flash, and a yuzu mayonnaise which is honestly heaven with the tuna. Everything basically was sprinkled with shichimi togarashi, the Japanese chilli, sesame, orange-scented spice. I didn’t have crispy tortillas and there was no way I was going out into the hot evening, but I think these Mexican corn tacos, the hard rounded shells, just snapped in half, were a better bet. So we had our cool dinner in the hot evening, a kind of romantic finale to a flushed and flustered day. {RECIPE after the jump}

The Kitchen Inc_tuna tostadas2
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{snacking} seal pups from ippudo launch

… Loving these cute seal pup bean cakes which came in the goodie back at the Ippudo Sydney launch last night {more on that later}. They’re filled with white bean, I believe, and the outer cake is a thin and soft. I haven’t had anything like this since I was in Tokyo in January. I see a lot of Chinese red bean cakes about but not these numbers. The inside is all crumbly, quite dry, and they’re great to have with an afternoon coffee, if you can bear to bite their sweet heads off.

shucking hawkesbury oysters

Lean over the side of the boat and pick up one of those large ones, I was told. And so I did and we shucked it right there in the muddy rising waters of the Hawkesbury. We took turns slipping a knife through the side of the oysters, popping off the lids, noting it would be lovely to have brought lemons, and throwing the shells on to the boat. Still salty from the water, a dozen or so oysters were consumed by each of us on the rocking boat. If this is foraging, I can see it’s not a beat up after all.

I’m here with Sean Connelly, chef and owner of The Morrison, for a tour of the Hawkesbury oyster farms. We’re checking out Broken Bay oysters, with their permission, the chef buys many thousands of them to sell in his restaurant in The Rocks. As we put-putted around the Hawkesbury, we learned about the mighty oyster, how the Sydney Rock oysters were destroyed in this area due to a harmless-to-human virus years ago, but how it’s returning and thriving again. We discovered a Pacific oyster can we as small as a Rock, and larger than your hand. And we sliced up a plate-sized oyster to eat on the boat (for oyster lovers only).

I knew a single oyster gave a king hit of zinc, but what I did not know is that a dozen oysters also gives you nearly half your recommended daily dose of iron, more than five-times your dose of zinc, as well as vitamins B2, B3, and calcium. And, something else we should be opening that champagne for, they contain less than 0.03 per cent cholesterol and are 99 per cent fat free. All the more reason to support our oyster farmers this Christmas then. I’ll have mine with a small squeeze of lemon, a glass of chilled Champagne, and as freshly shucked as I can get, back in the real (urban) world.

{see loads more pics after the jump} {READ MORE}

{work lunch} din tai fung

Working by yourself demands serious dedication. When you look around your office and notice everyone else working away, tapping up emails and ticking off boxes, highlighting things done from a list, think of the weary freelancer. I look up from my desk and I see the spot on the wall than needs a bit of Jiff. I look up from my computer and I may as well put on a quick wash, make a coffee, get a snack, flick through that gorgeous new cookbook, do a blog post.

In a bid to be normal, once every now and then I do a work lunch, I pop into the city and I wear shoes (not my usual office attire… flip-flops), I meet a friend or my gentleman, and we eat commuter workish things. We go somewhere different every time and I soak it up like some crazed lonely-girl – happily blissed out by the one-hour limit. I eat out all the time for dinner, there’s barely an evening not spent exploring some new place with some new person or old friend. But lunch, work lunch, is different. It’s snacky and light, and there’s no alcohol slowing us down.

Case in point, Din Tai Fung in Sydney Westfield. I went to the one in Hong Kong this year and was bowled over by those miraculous little xiao long bao. Thin noodle encases a fragrant broth, a firm pillow of pork floating within. The trick is to hold the dumpling in your spoon, pierce it with a chopstick, then drink it up in one mouthful. A mild vinegar soy sauce and some chilli-spiked oil are worthwhile additions. So we had just a steamer each of these, chatting about work stuff and the daily grind, the hours oh the hours… And then we bid our good days and head back to the dreary office at home.

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