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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:

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Life
Poh Ling Yeow
Words by Jackie Macdonald on 8 May 2018
Last time we spoke to Poh Ling Yeow, she was on the verge of launching the second series of her television show, Poh & Co., and had just opened her café, Jamface. This time, we’re catching up with her to talk about her baking book, Poh Bakes 100 Greats.  TV presenter, cook, baker, author, artist, café owner – a better cover star for our diversity issue would have been tough to find!  Not many people know Poh as a baker, a point she makes in the introduction to her book. But, in actual fact, it was her first great cooking love. So, this book was a long time coming.  “I’m really excited about it because I feel like it’s a book I would have written first if I’d had my own way,” she explains. “But everyone knew me for my South-East Asian food, so I had to buy a bit of time and come out as a baker before I could effectively sell a book about baking!”  Poh ‘came out’ by opening Jamface, her café in Adelaide’s Central Market at the end of 2015. While Jamface offers other eats, the main attractions are Poh’s great passion – cakes and pastries made from scratch on site. 

I just don't think I"m out ot impress anyone anymore. I've shed all of that self-consciousness and I literaly cook food I would put on my table at home. 

- Poh Ling Yeow
  Childhood inspiration Poh’s love of baking started when she was a child, she explains. “I wasn’t allowed in the kitchen much as a kid, but baking was one thing I was allowed to do because my mum and great aunty Kim deemed it safe.” Poh’s mum, Christina, was also a great source of inspiration. “I grew up watching my mum bake madly all through my childhood,” she recalls.  For Christina, home economics was the highlight of her school days, and when they arrived in Australia, she took to baking with gusto.  One of the things Christina really instilled in her daughter is the power of persistence.  “If she doesn’t get something right,” Poh says, “she’ll just make it every day for five days in a row until she perfects it. I have definitely inherited that obsessiveness to get things right.” While many authentic Malaysian desserts are fried, steamed or frozen, baked treats are common too. One that Poh was particularly fond of growing up was pineapple tarts, the recipe for which features in her book.  “They’re a really popular little Malaysian snack with really short crust pastry and a super caramelised jam on top,” she describes.  Another of her childhood favourites in the book is coconut love letters. “They always remind me of Chinese New Year. They’re actually really easy to make, with a similar texture to tuille, but a lovely coconutty flavour,” Poh says.  The legend of these treats is that young Peranakan women, who weren’t allowed to meet their loves unattended, would write love letters, hide them inside folded biscuits, and throw them over the wall to their boyfriends. 
Get Poh's easy mixed mushrooms and hazelnut tart recipe here . For more recipes and the full story with Poh, pickup a copy of Selector  from all good newsagents, subscribe or look inside your next Wine Selectors delivery.  OUT NOW: Poh bakes 100 Greats by Poh Ling Yeow, RRP $39.99. 
Food
ZUMBO
Words by Mark Hughes on 12 Sep 2016
Adriano Zumbo has taken desserts from the final course to the star of the menu. now he’s taking Sweets to the next level with his own TV show. It seems like only yesterday that Adriano Zumbo was introduced to the world via his amazing croquembouche creation on MasterChef. Since then, he’s become a household name. His Zumbo patisseries have popped up all over the country, he’s had successful cookbooks, magazines covers (including two spectacular ones with Selector) and now has his own TV show. His story is well known. His Italian-born parents ran the local supermarket in Coonamble, in the mid-west of New South Wales. As a bright-eyed boy endowed with the wonderment of Willy Wonka, one of his heroes, the confectionary aisle is where Zumbo developed his love for all things sweet. He moved to Sydney at the tender age of 15 to start an apprenticeship with stints at Georges and Neil Perry’s Wokpool before heading to Europe for the World Pastry Cup to train in some of the best culinary institutions in Paris. After a few jobs back home, he took the plunge and opened his own shop in the Sydney suburb of Balmain in 2007. It’s been full steam Zumbo ever since. Popularity for his croquembouche has been eclipsed by his marvellous and myriad macaroon creations and they are by far the biggest seller at his seven successful Zumbo stores. They are also the focus for his second cookbook, Zumbarons (see his master Zumbaron recipe next page). So with all of this attention, it seems only natural that the next progression was to host his own TV show.
Two Blues Sauvignon Blanc 2014
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