Passion, humour and fearlessness are some of the main ingredients for the success of our July Chef of the Month, James Ballingall.
1. Your restaurant/business
2. Describe your kitchens
Passionate. My kitchen is filled with people that care.
3. Favourite Chef item and why
I have a number of Chef Works jackets and pants, but in truth, I won't wear any other hat other than the cool vent beanie. It's adjustable nature fits my oversized melon, and it's very cool in summer.
4. First job
I worked in a family fish and chips restaurant called 'Flippers'. It was my mum's place, and was traditional British style. Cod, Halibut, and sole, all filleted on site. At 12 I learned to take apart 30kg halibut in about 20 minutes, down to the right portion. We also rumbled and cut 2 tonnes of potatoes into chips every week.
5. Your cookbook
I have a handmade leather bound book at home that I am filling with all my recipes. This is not for publishing, this is for my kids. I cook with my two eldest, who are 6 and 8, and it's a very special time. This book will be their appendix to those fabulous memories.
My best day at work was running Bledisloe Cup 2008. It was a million in food sales in about 5 hours, with 9,500 guests having 5 course dinners. I worked out that if one chef did all the work, it would have taken him 50 hours a week, for 3.5 years.
7. Your inspiration to become a chef
My first real memory of being inspired was watching Julia Child; I think I was 7 or 8, though I cooked my first dinner at 5. It was a barbecue on charcoal; I burnt the burgers so badly they couldn't be eaten, so I ordered a pizza from a flyer on the fridge. The first that the adults knew anything was amiss, was when the pizza arrived.
8. Your speciality dish
Giving you one dish here would be like trying to name my 'favourite child'.... pass.
9. Favourite dish to eat
I have so many dishes that are close to my heart, but if I had to pick one, it would be Cassoulet Toulouse. Classical south western French, white beans, duck confit, Toulouse sausages, bacon, it takes days, but is so worth it.
10. Weirdest thing you have ever eaten
I was doing some work in the Philippines and tried Balut. It's a Philippine street food that involves cooking a fertilised duck egg. Not for the faint of heart. I am glad I tried it, but wouldn't be doing it again!
11. Favourite ice cream flavour
Anything Gelato Messina does with peanut butter. Barring that, Baskin Robbins’ chocolate peanut butter...there's a theme there somewhere.
12. Favourite Drink
Omnom kitchen in Melbourne serves a 'Frank Underwood', pecan infused bourbon, bitters, maple syrup. It's meant to mimic a southern American pecan pie, and it's woefully successful.
13. Favourite wine
Right now I'm in love with Wither Hills Benmorven Pinot Noir. It's fruity, and not too light. You can pair it with everything from pork to buffalo wings.
14. Who would you most like to cook for
Marie-Antoine Carême, he's my historical chef man crush. He really is responsible for what we do today.
15. Who would you least like to cook for
I'll cook for anyone that is appreciative. There are some people that don't seem to enjoy eating. They don't need me.
16. Favourite things to do outside of the kitchen
I have a Yoder wood fire smoker. I do bacon, smallgoods, smoked brisket, pulled pork and a million other things. It's technically outside?
17. Your latest project
This weekend is a pickling weekend. I'm doing pickled garlic, pickled fennel, jalapenos, and about 5kg of potted cumquats. They're spectacular on cheese boards. Other than that, there's this new job at Allphones Arena that is pretty spectacular....
18. Favourite city and why
Sydney. I'm here. I've lived in a few, but this is truly the greatest city in the world. The food culture in Melbourne is no longer ahead of Sydney; you just need to know where to look.
19. Your greatest indulgence
Cheese. I save all my calories for cheese. It's a problem. I'm lucky it's not illegal, or I'd spend a whole lot more time in dark alleys. That came out wrong. I don't hang out in dark alleys.
20. Your all time best culinary tip
Throw your cookbooks away. Go down to the markets and buy what looks amazing, then be fearless. Cookbooks teach us boundaries in the kitchen. You won't always come up with something amazing, but just as often your 'failures' are fantastic.
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