Alert

The maximum quantity permitted for this item is , if you wish to purchase more please call 1300 303 307
Food

Hanging with Mr Hong

As a teenager, Dan Hong was a bit of a rebel, emulating the ‘gansta’ life from his heroes in hip hop – doing graffiti, partying and earning the ire of the law. These days, he still has that sassy savoir faire air about him, but as the ‘it’ boy of the Sydney dining scene, a genuine Gen Y foodie trail blazer, he’s too important to ignore, but too cool to care.

His resume and achievements are as full as a contented diner at one of his restaurants. Stints at Longrain, Tetsuya’s, Bentley and Marque helped him score the Josephine Pignolet Best Young Chef Award at the 2008 SMH Good Food Guide Awards. Hospitality king Justin Hemmes recognised the potential. Seven years later, Dan is executive chef across three of Merivale Group’s hippest restaurants: Mr Wong, Ms G’s and El Loco. He admits though, that he would never have had any of this had it not been for his mother.

Mum knows best

Dan grew up in the north-western Sydney suburb of Epping while his mum, Angie, worked tirelessly at the family’s Vietnamese restaurants to give Dan and his sisters a private school education. But after he bombed out of high school, Dan admits he didn’t really know what to do. Fortunately, his mum did. She put him to work in her restaurant, got him into a cooking school and then used her contacts to get him an apprenticeship at Longrain. He’s never looked back.

“I never really thought about being in the industry when I was in high school because I took it for granted that my mum had this restaurant,” Dan says.
“I enjoyed cooking at home and I enjoyed watching cooking shows like Jamie Oliver, so I thought I would give it a crack.”

Dan found his true calling in the kitchens of mentors such as Martin Boetz, Brent Savage and Mark Best, learning Asian, fusion and French. But it was when he cooked the food of US trendsetting chef David Chang (Momofuku) at a special function that Dan’s creative juices truly flowed. In Chang, Dan discovered a guy who broke the rules and managed to tap into the main vein of food fashion – fresh, fast and great tasting – fine dining junk food. Hemmes wanted an Aussie version and entrusted Dan and chef Jowett Yu to do the job, and so Ms Gs was born. A Mexican eating excursion for Dan led to the opening of the pop-up style El Loco.

Mr Wong is Hemmes’ most expansive (and expensive) restaurant imagining yet, a Sydneysider’s vision of a hip Cantonese eatery located in the suits and briefcase end of Sydney’s CBD. It’s been wildly successful, scoring a host of awards including Best New Restaurant by SMH in 2014, and recently voted as the ninth best restaurant in the country by chefs and restaurateurs in the Australian Financial Review. The accolades confirm the inspired partnership of two great artists. “He (Justin) has this big vision and I just execute the food,” says Dan. “It’s great.”

Hong style

Whether it’s called refined dude food, or a super fly feast from a Kayne West of the kitchen, Dan hesitates at labelling his style. 

“I don’t want to put myself in this pigeon-hole where diners say, ‘I feel I can only go there on a special occasion’. I want people to come to my places and feel like they can eat there every day. They can also come there for that special occasion, but I just want to be the whole package where people feel comfortable eating my food, drinking good wine and having a great time.”

Click below for some of Dan's delicious recipes:
Chinese style sashimi scallops with with sugar syrup
Grilled king prawns with seaweed salsa verde
Carpaccio of wagyu beef with Thai flavours

Watch our interview with Dan Hong:

You might also like

Food
Rick Stein's Mediterranean tales
Words by Mark Hughes on 24 Nov 2015
Rick Stein tells of an amazing but dangerous fishing adventure during the shooting of his latest BBC food series, From Venice to Istanbul . It finds him bobbing about in the middle of the Bosphorus in a tiny dinghy dodging massive tankers all for the sake of some fresh blue fish. “It was one of those times where you have to see food through the eyes of the locals,” Rick says when we sit down for a chat about the series and the book of the same title at Bondi Icebergs on a sunny afternoon. “I was with Mesut, a retired fisherman and a great character and he had taken me to catch blue fish, which is the fish in Istanbul. But it wasn’t any old fishing trip – it was right in the middle of the Bosphorus, which, as you know, is the strip of water between Asia and Europe. “There is so much shipping going through there. There is a container ship every minute passing you and we are in this tiny little boat, right in the middle of the shipping lanes – there are bloody great tankers going either way. “The photography for it was fantastic because the cameraman was so far away on land with a telephoto lens, so it looks like we are about to be split in half! “We went back to this little fishing harbour just on the edge of the Bosphorus and it was just Mesut and his mates, just hanging down there; it is like they might just get up and go down there as if they are going to work. And he made this amazing fish stew with the blue fish.” A charmed life This is just one of the colourful stories behind the 100-plus delectable recipes featured in the latest book, and the way Rick tells it, bringing such life, charisma and energy to the tale is one of the reasons the affable English chef has been so popular as a television presenter. Alongside his TV adventures, he has published a pile of best-selling cook books, as well as run six acclaimed UK restaurants, plus Rick Stein at Bannisters on the New South Wales south coast.   Despite all this, he is polite, generous with his time and almost apologetic for living such an enviable life. “I feel so privileged,” he says of his food presenter role. “I keep saying to people – you think I’m really enjoying this all the time – and I am, but it’s not like I’m on holiday, we still have to work.” Byzantine discoveries For his latest adventure he has tackled a veritable encyclopaedia of produce and ingredients beginning in Venice, travelling through the mystical heart of Hellenic cuisine, wading into the beguiling flavours of Croatia and on to the exotic food of Turkey. It is almost too much for one book. “I have to confess to just dabbling really, it is just the flavours of the area,” says Rick. Looking through the vast array of dishes, though, you get the feeling that he is being overly modest; garlic shrimps with soft polenta, Albanian baked lamb, Dalmatian fresh fig tart. Yum. “I have spent plenty of time in Greece and Italy over the years so this trip taught me a lot about the food and flavours of Croatia and Turkey, so I hope I have given a delicious enthusiast’s view of the food and flavours of the area.” From Venice to Istanbul is out now (Random House, RRP $55).
Food
George Calombaris' Hellenic heart
Words by Mark Hughes on 17 Nov 2015
It is not surprising to learn that as a young boy George Calombaris loved food. He was obsessed by it. As we sit down for a chat at his Hellenic Republic restaurant in Brunswick, a very fit-looking George (he is almost equally obsessed with his regular gym routines these days) recalls a couple of prime examples as to how much food was always on his mind. “Dad had an independent supermarket and our job on a Saturday was to sweep the floors. While my brother was stealing cigarettes; I was stealing tubes of condensed milk,” he says. “I remember going to an uncle’s house and while my cousins were out the front kicking the footy, I was standing at the barbecue stealing charred bits of octopus while no-one was looking.” It was almost ordained therefore that George would become a chef. Although he never cooked at home as a child “there was no romantic story of me with my hands in the bowl beside mum because we weren’t allowed in the kitchen”, what is somewhat surprising is the fact that when he did start manning the pans, he wanted to cook anything other than Greek food. He learned French cuisine through an apprenticeship at the Sofitel Melbourne, then the same at Fenix before taking on the head chef role at Reserve Restaurant in Melbourne’s Federation Square. It is here he turned heads, being awarded Young Chef of the Year and two prestigious chef’s hats from The Age Good Food Guide. But it all came to a grinding halt when the restaurant went bankrupt. It is perhaps due to George’s indefatigable charisma that he was able to turn adversity into a pivotal moment in his career, and at the same time, find his Hellenic heart. “I was out of a job, distraught, 26 years of age, and that made me go and do a lot of soul searching,” he recalls. “I asked, who am I? Who am I as a cook? Suddenly, a light bulb went off and I went, ‘Hang on, I know what my culture is, I have lived and breathed it all my life.’ I could see a massive hole in the market being all things Greek – from fast food to fine dining. From that, The Press Club was born. Nine years on, it has been an incredible ride to where we are now.” Changing food culture Now, George is one of the most recognisable faces in the Australian food industry. As co-host of the super successful MasterChef TV series, he is projected into lounge rooms across the globe. For George, the overwhelming positive from it all is the fact that it has got people thinking about food. “What has happened has been incredible,” he says. “I remember getting a call from a friend who works at the local Bunnings and he says, “Mate, what did you cook last night, because we have sold out of blow torches?” We had done crème brulee. The show influences everyone from young kids to adults. I walked down the street the other day and a tradie showed me pictures of macaroons that he made with his daughter. That, for me, means we are winning.” Away from the small screen, George is at the helm of a Melbourne restaurant empire serving everything Greek from street food at five Jimmy Grants outlets, casual wholefoods at Mastic cafe, contemporary fare at Hellenic Republic and Gazi, to top shelf dining at the Press Club. Plans are also afoot to launch into the Sydney market with a Greek restaurant in Surry Hills. Stay tuned. Cooking the books In addition to all of this, George has published five cookbooks. His most recent, of which he is proudest, is simply titled Greek , and features the recipes that mean most to him. Ones that his family has passed down to him, fellow chefs have shared and even recipes that he makes with his children. “Great cookbooks are not about the recipes, they are about the story,” says George. “It’s about the influences other chefs have played in my life, my mother,   even my kids. There is a recipe in there for vegemite and avocado cruskit – you don’t have to be a genius to make it, but it is not about that – it is about the experiences that we share that make us who we are.” There is even a whole chapter in the book about pasta. Given the name of the book is 'Greek', it begs the question, why? “A lot of people don‘t know that my dad’s mother is Sicilian,” reveals George. “My dad migrated from Egypt, my grandfather was Greek, my grandmother Italian. On my mum’s side my mother, grandparents are Cypriots. Of course, Cypriot food is Greek influenced but also very influenced by the Ottoman Empire – Turkish flavours, Middle Eastern flavours. So when I was young, I was getting fed everything from falafel to moussaka to pasta and ricotta. I was so bloody lucky. “So this book is about everything that has influenced my life, from a souvlaki at Jimmy Grants to a Hills Hoist at The Press Club and everything in between. This is, for me, where I am right now. “I set out on my journey to do all things Greek for all people,” he says. “It’s taken me a long time to get here, 19 years with mistakes along the way. But I’ve loved every minute of it. Now we’re ready to go even harder and I hope there are another 19 ahead. I am just starting. I’m at the beginning of what I wanted to do.”  
Food
The Sweet Life with Yotam Ottolenghi and Helen Goh
Words by Jackie Macdonald on 20 Nov 2017
When Yotam Ottolenghi and Helen Goh met, it was a culinary match made in sweet-filled heaven.  Yotam Ottolenghi wasn’t supposed to be a chef. He was supposed to be an academic like his father and grandfather before him. He certainly has the intellect, having written a masters thesis in philosophy and comparative literature.  But Yotam’s take on creating ‘the good life’ was fed by his lifelong passion for food and eventually he couldn’t resist his kitchen calling. After training at Le Cordon Bleu in London in 1997 and working as a pastry chef at the Michelin-starred The Capital Restaurant, two years later he became head pastry chef at Chelsea’s Baker and Spice. Another three years after that, he opened the first Ottolenghi deli in Notting Hill. Today, there are three more Ottolenghi delis in London, as well as a restaurant, NOPi. He has a regular column in The Guardian, and has written six cookbooks.  How sweet it is
The most recent of his books, Sweet, a baking tome filled with biscuits, cakes, tarts, pies, desserts and confectionary, Yotam co-authored with Malaysian-born Australian-raised pastry chef, Helen Goh. While the book is a recent release, their culinary collaboration goes back over 10 years to when Helen moved to London. At the urging of a friend to check out the Ottolenghi deli, Helen fired off an email to Yotam, they met, and a wonderful partnership began.   Helen became product developer and Yotam recalls how she would walk through his door on a Sunday afternoon, “like a gust of wind or, rather, an over-zealous dusting of icing sugar, carrying more brown carton boxes than humanly possible.” A slew of apologies would follow for how many of her cakes had failed (Helen is a perfectionist) before they would settle into a session of ‘Ottolenghifying’ her creations.   This unique process involves taking a traditional product and giving it a taste twist. As Yotam explains, “We do a lot of stuff that some might consider irreverent, but it’s just adding our traditions, a little bit of Middle East from me and a little bit of South East Asia from Helen.”  So, in Sweet, you’ll find halva and tahini in the brownies, spiced pineapple in the cheesecake and mixed spices in the pound cake. But that’s not to say the recipes veer too far from tradition. As Helen explains, “In baking, I think people still seek the comfortable and the familiar, but they want a little surprise and I think Yotam and I deliver that!”  Aussie inspiration Another thing you’ll find in Sweet is a fair dose of Australia. Having done her training and enjoyed success as a pastry chef here, Helen has been inspired by some of our greats. There are cakes based on creations by Stephanie Alexander and Belinda Jeffrey, not to mention versions of yo-yo and Anzac biscuits.  Yotam, too, owes a lot to baking Down Under. Known as the ‘king of meringue’, he says, “I’m indebted to Antipodean pavlova because it’s so easy to make and you can do whatever you like with it. It takes anything from chocolate and praline to fresh or dried fruit, the options are endless.”  For a taste of Ottolenghifying, we’ve included Yotam’s take on pav to give your sweet tooth a taste of the good life.  Cinnamon Pavlova, Praline Cream and Fresh Figs recipe
Try Yotam Ottolenghi and Helen Goh's cinnamon pavlova, praline cream and fresh figs recipe here . Recipes and images from  Sweet  by Yotam Ottolenghi & Helen Goh ( Penguin Random House, $55 )
Two Blues Sauvignon Blanc 2014
1 case has been added to your cart.
Cart total: xxx
1 case, 12 bottles, 3 accessories