So the other day, I had this revelation. The answer to world hunger. Y’know, world hunger, which is a serious issue cos like beauty pageants and shit. Anyway, world hunger, the solution to. Was staring me in the face. Literally. Well, I mean, I was satisfying my own personal hunger with a Quarterpounder™ when it hit me and my stomach too but nevermind that. I forgot about my hunger. I was filled with a vision, of a world where there’s no more hungry people, only an ever escalating population of human beings that haven’t countenanced the idea of contraception and casual sex going together. A world where you’d be fed by a centralised agency that would provide the right nutrition at low/no cost globally and efficiently. Now, at this point, I just want to address the white elephant in the room which is limited space on planet earth and not enough room to grow food for a race that keeps making babies by accident because sexual impulse. Let’s just forget that little detail and dream.

Mickey D’s is the fucking answer and it has already assumed the mantle without activists and Jamie Oliver and Dan Barber talking shit bout shit in a feelgood TEDX. McNuggets yo. Filet’O’Fish. Big Mac. Soft Serve. Apple Pie. Yadda yadda. Of course, the system isn’t perfect and there’s that obesity side effect and stuff but it runs parallel with capitalism and democracy, imperfect and flawed but it’s a best of worst sitch. It has worked itself out from a singular, tiny little business to a monster that makes kids addicted to toys, reprocessed chicken offcuts into tastiness but then had to revert on that because health scare and not to mention “Create Your Taste”. A behemoth surely.

But imagine if you will, a consortium of chefs, moneymen, nutritionists, agriculturalists etc etc that came together to run macca’s. Would it be better than what it is today? Would it be more evil? Would they sell out even more and sell flavoured lab beef and all GMO everything? (Not that that’s necessarily bad… so long as you’re not dealing with first world problems like taste and good nutrition, moreso just… survival…) Let’s just assume this allstar selection were all able to devote time effort and money and agree on shit and have “morality” and conscience”. Could they make us all mostly, reasonably satisfied? What would meals be like in 2115? What would be the experience of consuming said meal? Is it a pill out of a dispenser? Is it a hearty lab grown nutrition stack with your extended family around the table? Is it 500 bites served on balloons and stardust with matching wines made of reconstituted Romanee-Conti? Is it simply fed intravenously ala The Matrix? Or will we transcend the need to “eat” and simply photosynthesise after DNA splicing a plant into our bodies? No I propose that it will be like eating a burger.

I’m clearly biased. This shit is since 1980 when moms shut me up with 2 McChickens. The other day, I mentioned my admiration for big M to a co-worker who then mentioned that I was the first chef he knew who liked McD’s. My head chef answered for me thusly, “What the fuck? Either you don’t know many chefs or the ones you know are all lying/pretentious fucks.”. Look, if you have a global company running franchises that have to source the ingredients by region but try as much as possible to adhere to a singular standard and maintain food costs, labour (hire kids and old people!) and also try to adjust for local tastes etc is hard enough. And yet, McDonald’s only serves just 1% of the earth’s population. Still, it is a gargantuan task and somehow, it runs.

For all your Redzepi / Wholefoods shit, you aren’t even close to touching that number. 1% is like 60 or 70 million people.  On a daily basis. Nobody son. Not even close. That docket rail full of shit? Not even close. The “empire” Nobu has? Not even close. Subway do a third of McD’s sales in the US. Burger King, Wendy’s, Starbucks and Taco Bell aren’t too far behind. Add all of everything else, KFC, Pizza Hut, Domino’s etc and you see what I’m getting at?

Now consider if you were Ronald McDonald himself. What would Ronnie Mac do? WWRMD? Would you be able to keep shit afloat and open even more that the 30K+ restaurants globally? Would you make it 3 million and hire a significant number of the global population and consider making healthy, sustainable food? Would you aggressively grow the company to such a state whereby you have the power of Google and the people would depend on your intrinsic benevolence? Would you buyout KFC and BK and Starbucks and call it all MFC, MK, McBucks? Sell MaccaFrappachinos? Would you also solve the petty geosociopolitical crises that engulf humanity and thereby solve everything else in one fell swoop?

The system for solving world hunger is already sort of in place. There are many many of these “fast food” places which serve people on a daily basis, cheaply and efficiently. Fuck dat “slow food” elitist gourmet snobbery bullshit. If, as a beauty queen, your winning answer is “I would like to solve world hunger”, you need to swallow some concrete and harden the fuck up. This isn’t a job for pussying out with 56 hour lamb shanks in centrifuged whey. This is about making edible, cheap, nutrition that isn’t some bullshit Soylent shit. You can’t survive for long with that crap, your morale would be shot. You gotta at least have something to pull you, that looks edible, tastes almost acceptable but again, it’s gotta be cheap and sustainable. This is a big fucking ask and something we as a race will actually have to countenance when global warming eats up so much farm worthy land that we’ll already have cities of hydroponics towers. I’m saying that Interstellar the movie dystopia isn’t all that far fetched.

So then I watched Coming To America and forgot about the whimsical idea of trying to “save planet earth” and decided that I will open a conglomerate called Whackdonnell’s. We’ll have the golden bowls, a golden W logo made out like fucking rice bowls. We’ll also have the Big Whack, which is two all-“beef” (it’s actually rat) patties, special sauce, lettuce, cheese, pickles and onions, but instead of a sesame / non sesame bun, we’ll have a ricecake a la Mos Burger with a third ricecake in the middle. Plus a retro diner menu board, Thonet No. 18s and linoleum tables. Colour scheme is gonna be purple and orange and we’ll have purple/orange plaid vests and berets and purple harringtons and aprons with gold W’s on em. Whackdonnells. *off to register webdomain*

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Yes. I re-watched an 80s comedy and it changed my life forever.


Today, my boss mentioned watching Anthony Bourdain visiting Singapore in his Layover program and his fiancee going gaga at the sight of teh-tarik. Both announced they would love to visit my home country and smash their faces into pots full of fishhead curry and shit. On a less savoury note, my facebook feed threw up people criticising Dr. Vivian Balakrishnan for being out of touch when his Ministry for Environment and Water Resources was quoted in the Straits Times as: “surveys show that in general, ingredients form about 60 per cent of a hawker’s costs”. Notably, food critic KF Seetoh posted, “If your food cost is 60%, eh, you long long close shop liao la. If you cannot do below 30%, go be a highly paid civil servant better la”. I don’t think the dichotomy of desire and reality not meeting could be summed up so painfully by both parties.

On the one hand, I can be proud that Singapore is famous for it’s great food. Yet, on the other, I can only see the abyss that faces said cuisine. There are many reasons why I have not chosen to start a restaurant in Singapore, weather being one of them, but everything else explains the difficult situation my beloved nation’s food heritage and identity faces today.

First off, most food in Singapore is ridiculously cheap. Some asshat will say that food in Indonesia or Vietnam or Ethiopia or whatever is cheaper. We have long been considered a developing nation and if hotels that look like the ark landed on top or the number of Vuittons per capita (LVPC) are anything to go by, I’d say that the little red dot is very much first world. A first world country that adopted the approach of keeping food cheap through a conscious government effort since the heady days of independence. This policy had two major effects. The first is that it keeps people happy, satisfying a basic need easily and keeping the government in power. The second is that the people developed a complacency and absurdity of expectation. Not only should it remain cheap despite the fact that the country sees affluence aplenty, it should also remain at the status quo in terms of taste. This is world class fare that costs very very little. Fuck inflation, fuck immigration policy, fuck market capitalism, fuck profit margins. We want cheap, hygienic, locally made, authentic and tasty stuff that’s subsidised by a benevolent dictatorship that’s somehow expected to be about face socialists when it comes to thing we eat.

In 1965, my moms was still a child and her experience revolved around 20c plates of noodles and it’s ilk. When I was a similar age in 1990, I remember the same thing would cost $2. So we’re talking a 1000% increase over 25 years. It’s a rough estimate of course but let’s compare it with the next 25 years. When I last went home in April this year, 2015, a relatively extravagant plate of hokkien mee cost $5 and it’s probably meant to be shared. So over the last 25 years, inflation was 250%. In 2040, will I be surprised if my $5 plate became $10? Honestly, I’d rejoice because that same thing runs about $15 here in Sydney here today and it hasn’t been honed by 20+ years of dedication involving long hours in front of a wok burner. And still, the clouds of nostalgia would present the idea that the taste has been going downhill post Planck epoch.

Singaporeans moan way too much. They’ve had it too good for far too long and gone are the tenets that my parents and grandparents’ generations have held so true; hard work and determination. Today’s Singaporean is more attuned towards ranting on a WordPress blog (like myself for no one to read) or a couple of lines on a Facebook comment as if they somehow deserve the $3 plates of god level chicken rice. It’s the entitled attitude that reeks. A dish that today has a few distinct styles, each worthy of merit and each developed through years of tireless innovation and ideas. Roasting garlic and onions to deepen the flavour of a broth, which in turns flavours the pristine rice or refreshing slow poached low temperature chicken in ice water developing additional texture with gelatinisation… I would suggest comparisons with the ramen scene in Japan and yet, these under-appreciated achievements come at a fraction of the cost. You’ll see a blog come up with some stupid list of their own favourite chicken rice stalls and the list is long. This snobbery is made possible only by the quality and quantity on offer.

So what does this low cost mean for me, a chef who is perhaps considering if he should start a F&B business in Singapore? Well, it’s all about competition and the ubiquity of it. There’s too much good food at stupidly low prices in Singapore. I could make great food but I’m no Rene Redzepi, David Chang or the guy who runs Tian Tian Hainanese Chicken Rice or whatever but does that mean that I should not have decent remuneration for my effort and skill? In Singapore, the answer would be no, because you would be happy to go to the next guy since there’s so many. No one can say with any degree of certainty who the best chicken rice in Singapore is. Not fucking hungrygowhere, ieatishootipost or your grandmother’s left toe. There’s just too many candidates and low cost of food combined with high levels of competition means stupid high barrier to entry with little plausible reward.

So don’t do chicken rice or hawker food then, why don’t you run an Italian joint? This brings me to the next point of contention with the food scene in Singapore. We seem to not mind dropping dollars on a aglio olio or “carbonara” with cream or maybe some sushi/ramen/burger etc. Basically, we don’t mind spending more if it’s foreign. Hell, if you slice some truffles or throw on some gold leaf or maybe make soy milk look like camembert (true story), you’d drop $30 or $300. I love fine dining but the best I’ve experienced from L’Astrance in Paris, Central in Lima to Mugaritz in Errenteria are all locally sourced and locally inspired. This is not the case in Singapore, where Restaurant Andre is run by a Taiwanese person, Waku Ghin by Aussiefied Japanese and everything else French, Italian… you name it, anything but Singaporean. Where the real gods of cooking charge you maybe $8 for a sickass bowl of bisquey prawn noodles with massive superfresh premium shellfish. Versus a “seafood aglio olio” for $13.80 involving the privilege of air conditioning and table service.

Foreign food interests me and inspires me as a chef and I love cooking/eating it but I have scant interest in fleecing people with wagyu from Ohmi prefecture followed intensely by otoro from the Southern Antarctic. The ingredients are delicious, there is no doubting that, but the cost is prohibitive and/or otherwise unsustainable. We owe it to our future generations that we don’t live our lives in such excess that there is nothing left. Whilst some dismiss locavorism as just a trend that will surely fade, it is really all about great flavour and in truth, a return to how we ate prior to market capitalism and human greed detaching humanity from it’s food sources. Singapore is epitomy of that, with it’s need to import most of it’s food. I don’t however suggest that local for Singapore, should not include it’s neighbours in South East Asia or even indeed, China or Australia. After all, we did use to be a sleepy fishing village that transformed into one of the major shipping hubs around the globe because of our unique geography. Our importation of food is but another facet of our existence and we ought to celebrate it within reason. Still, the thought to cook expensive food in a foreign style using foreign ingredients or using cheap ingredients to cook in a foreign style at mid-range prices does not intrigue me. Our obsession with kurobuta this or uni that is a noose on our local cuisine. Because of our well travelled, foodie by birth nature, Singaporeans place too much exoticism on shit they can’t pronounce well. This is not cool.

But perhaps I ought to overlook the insane levels of competition and ridiculously small margins that could tempt me. Let me instead consider the “successes” in Singapore. One of the many changing fads perhaps? From franchises shilling the next big trendy little snack to the various hipster cafes pouring shots at $5 a cup to go with $7 rainbow sponge/red velvet cakes topped with shit buttercream. Sure, I oughta jump on that bandwagon. Sure.

I’m not saying that croissant taiyaki or macarons or boba tea isn’t good or there aren’t any good hipster cafes with amazing red velvet cakes made with ultralight microwaved sponge and perhaps flavoured with haw flakes and a custard apple icing. I’m sure there are and their latte art is awesome. I’m not saying that we should only eat local and not consider eating Japanese or Thai or Russian. I’m saying that our perspective is fucked and we ought to look again at poor old Singaporean food and give it the money it deserves.

This leads onto what would possibly change my mind. If people were willing to spend money on great food and appreciate the locality, seasonality and provenance of it, they ought to tip their favourite hawkers beyond the paltry figures imposed by government. If I had the opportunity to do so, I would, although I suspect they might not even allow me to have the privilege. What this dog eat dog world of competitive cooking needs is a conscience and respect from everyone. The government should drop any mandate to try to keep prices at stupid levels. 60% food cost is very high but many high volume/turnover, low price/service outfits rely on that to turn a profit. Hawker stalls have typically been like this and if food cost is really 60%, the problem isn’t your rent or wages or utilities or whatever. It’s the pricing. If food prices were higher in Singapore, there’s way more leeway, more room for creativity and more room for talent to produce what Singaporeans crave. I’ve read about various young people starting great initiatives cooking a variety of cuisines in hawker stalls and cafes and restaurants but how many of these will enjoy success with our expectation that they should not make any money?

But would Singaporeans be willing to pay more to get table service? Or would they rather moan that the hawker is rude? If I put one of the many deific personalities who run hawker stalls in Singapore into a white tablecloth restaurant with waiters and a sommelier, would you be willing to part with your hard earned at a level equivalent to what you would if Joel Robuchon’s name was plastered across the front of the entrance? Maybe we should take a step back a bit. What if I ran a contemporary restaurant in Singapore using locally sourced ingredients from the Asia Pacific region and focused on trying to create a cuisine which fuses the best old and new international cooking methods and ideas with that local identity? Say throwing up an egg yolk cured in gula melaka sitting on a muahchee esque blob of peanut and glutinous rice covered with crispy meringue and it came in a kopitiam saucer? That uniquely Singaporean palette that is willing to balance sweet soy and egg with cockles and Chinese sausage or a curmudgeon of spices blended so expertly you only notice the whole not the sum, would it be willing to countenance such a thing? Or perhaps it is easier to lull it into a dream with whisper of marbled beef and myths of beer addled massages.

Why the hell would you? The risk reward ratio is just weighted against the latter to the point of absurdity. Far easier to just troll people with stuff they’re less inclined to have too much affinity and understanding for. I could throwdown the best Peruvian style cevicheria or Basque tapas bar and you wouldn’t fucking know if it was close to the real deal even if you visited before because you didn’t grow up with that shit. Nah, you just have your fucking snobbish grandstanding pseudo gastronomic tendency to proffer your reviews on shit you have no clue about.

Yes, sign me up for this impossible quest. For what am I but yet another stupid chef who only lives in earnest desire to make tasty shit with some measure of a conscience?

For the record, fuck your fucking shitty rainbow sponge / red velvet / shit pseudo retro anglo slices of frivolousness. That shit needs to die.

I’ve just started a new job. Massive 16% pay cut, 50 hour work week in theory where I pretty much run the food side of a takeaway cafe with one other chef helping me and my head chef on occasion. Why? Well, I guess because I’ve always loved the cafe in question. They’ve always had amazing coffee, arguably one of the best in the world, certainly Sydney and probably Australia. The food was also typically pretty good at the same time and my gut said go for it. Turns out, I was fucking right.

The vibe is great. The team is small, just 5 people in the cafe at all times, 5 days a week from 6-4 and they’re all great people with energy, enthusiasm and a lot of nasty humour. I got along really well with my head chef, who used to work at all these places that I liked to eat at so we had a lot of stuff we liked in common. It seemed easy to get along with him and him with me. Likewise, with the front of house, with 2 dudes who are awesome pulling shots and getting crazy and a fine young lady with an exceptional posterior who’s also really into her job. It’s great when you work with people who seem to want to get stuff done and are serious but ridiculous at the same time. It’s only been a week but I feel like we’re best mates and all that already. My other chef is a bit of a downer but hey, everything can’t be perfect and I’m not the Marco type. We probably make the same money haha.

But more than just the central team, the company at large is also great, from the boss, who’s got a real matey attitude to the coffee buyer who managed to drop the terms “what do you think about rosewater” and “sabre a bottle of champagne” in 30 minutes.

Then there’s the positivity from outside as well. Not only are the customers really into the brand, so are the fucking competition and this is what gets me. We have got visited by two other excellent cafe places in Sydney that I rank world class and whilst some of it is sussing the competition, most of it is just good vibes. The reality is that the market for coffee and cafes in Sydney is insanely massive and there’s room for everyone. But basically, the CBD used to be a sort of twilight zone for crest of the third wave stuff in Sydney. Now, there’s at least 3 awesome places to get your caffeine on nevermind the countless other brilliant little places here and there that have popped up in the last 3 years.

I haven’t felt more alive? More into living and doing shit than I’ve ever been my entire life. Blink and I might just be able to do it, chase my dreams and maybe make something happen, change the world in my tiny little way regardless of the insignificance in the grand scheme of existence. I suppose this affirmation of “purpose” was something I’d wanted for the last 20+ years when, as a ten year old, I posed myself the question, “Why?”. Back then, I’d already intimated at the idea that the answer would be, “Because.” but I dreaded the thought that it would be something so simple, futile and stupid. I imagined some grander reason, some dude in the sky concept. Today, I finally and readily admit that “Because.” was the right answer all along.

On my last day in Singapore, my mom drove to this fruit store called Durian Lingers somewhere along Bukit Timah road. It’s not particularly famous but I wanted to eat durians and it was open. She handed me $100 and I promptly went over and grabbed this bigass Green Bamboo for $50 at $18/kg. I figured one expensive, indulgent treat would be enough. Regrets make you determined to revisit good experiences.

It was a pretty dope one. I was about a week off from durian season proper, which is generally June to July as the primetime in Singapore and even into August and September probably, with an second season round November til January or February. I always seem to be home sometime around March or April so I must be a fucking idiot. Despite the fact that it wasn’t primetime, I had a really nice, bittersweet durian that had all the attributes of fine wine. Bouquet, texture, length and also a slight peacock’s tail people find in excellent Pinot Noir. It wasn’t the best durian I’ve ever eaten but it was pretty damn good anyway.

There’s only so many things that do it for me and have that crazy interesting impact on my palette. Durians are about the only fruit. Chempedak, jackfruit and some of the more pungent mangoes can be pretty good but tend to have mostly initial impact but little in length. On the other hand, creamy fruits like custard apples or avocadoes have got great texture and some length but the flavours don’t shift and play a jazz piece on the palette. It’s the only naturally occurring fruit/vegetable that is so stupid flavourful, albeit divisive without requiring much intervention from people.

You have to catch, kill and butcher a near extinct tuna before aging it to get delicious chutoro or the same with a cow and a great steak. With caviar, you need to catch, kill and butcher a near extinct sturgeon before brining the roe to produce shit in cans that cost 100 times it’s weight in gold. There’s cheese, fine wine, coffee, tea, Jamon Iberico de Bellota, fermented foods… These all require much in the way of human intervention. Uni is close but you still have to dive into a body of water and hope for little pollution, not to mention cutting it open. So what I’m saying is that not only does a fine durian compare favourably with a Romanee Conti or a Cinco Jotas, it’s also completely ethical and sustainable.

The only real problem with durians lies in it’s divisiveness. True, it’s smell can be like asafoetida to some people. It’s got that sulfuric stench of overcooked egg yolks and raw or rotting onions and garlic. Not everyone can look past it to find the nuances. I wish I had a tasting note for every durian I’d eaten and come up with this extensive comparison based on other flavours.

“Colour is creamy yellow, tinge of gray, flesh appears firm and taut, aroma of blackcurrant buds, Spanish onions,  and black garlic, bit of whisky zabaglione. Skin is thin. Texture is overripe avocado. Fibrousness is low. Acidity is medium. Sweetness is medium high. Bitterness is medium high. Flavour of creme brulee, banana, custard apple followed by Cognac, Cointreau and asphalt. Finish is long, slight raspberry and asparagus. This durian is a Mao Shan Wang. No this durian is Wang Zhong Wang. This durian is from Kelantan, Gua Musang from a high quality producer. A fantastic durian.”

Consider this. Good durian considers farming practices, terroir, seasonality, the producer’s hand, the ripening process, the geography, the language, the culture and the purveyor prying it open gracefully for the eater to inspect. Maybe one day, I’ll finally be that durian tasting negociant of my dreams where like minded durianophiles can discuss if this year’s vendage compares favourably with the great ’83 or ’87 or the percentage of new bamboo tonneaus in the D24 from Johor or the pros and cons of slash and burn versus modernist organic.

Somehow I just don’t think it’s going to take off. Something to do with the lack of alcohol I think. Hang on. Maybe I ought to ferment that stuff huh? (It’s called tempoyak btw)

It really sunk in only when I got out the subway exit onto Nathan Road. This was Hong Kong, where Chow Yun Fatt and Tony Leung reined. It was where WKW freeze framed Aniki Jin and made him eat pineapples. Where girls looked like Maggie Cheung, Lin Ching Hsia or Cecilia Cheung. In some ways, it felt strangely familiar, as I half expected, my childhood and teenage years having spent some time immersed in the cultural export of this former British colony. This was where one grandad and 2 grandmas came from so in some sense, it’s the OG motherland. Random fact: I’ve even got this nephew who lives in Hong Kong who I don’t know who’s 15 years my senior somehow.

I loved the grittiness of the place. The density and the immediacy of life struck me but let’s be honest I’m way too chilled to wanna be a hustler in the fragrant harbour. I suppose that side of HK, the materialistic side I didn’t enjoy quite as much. But the chaos was enthralling. I was mesmerised by the crazy multi level highways and pedestrian crossings and mish mash of tunnels throughout the sland side. Then on Kowloon it’s still madhouse with tight streets and neon and signs sticking out way over the street and mad throngs of people, relentlessly moving, writhing.

Every which way I looked I saw humanity trying its best to eke out a living. Everywhere I went I felt the hustle. It’s either mad cheap or ridiculously expensive. Case in point is possibly over expanding Tim Ho Wan which just swung the doors open at its Sydney outpost. I’ll say that in Hong Kong we spent 136HKD or 23AUD for two people. Not stuffed but enough. Yet despite that paltry figure, I completely agree with the Michelin inspectors that it deserves a star. It may be hyped to death and all that but I loved it and it is fantastic value. The money we spent is like 1 dish at Mr. Wong in Sydney. And yet I reckon THW is way better. You can argue about different countries costs etc but you can’t fight good flavour. Spare ribs > perfect rendition. Shumai > brilliant. Hargow > superlative. Because you’ve eaten all these classics it’s easy to miss the perfect textures or delicate seasoning. They’re really good. For the record I think the charsiu bao are overhyped.

Onto Yung Kee. Awesome awesome roast goose drenched in drippings. Charsiu > nonevent. But $50ish for a goose drumstick even if its massive is pretty damn steep. I think Joy Hing quoted my mom $60 for a whole goose. Aud. It is good, no doubt about that but my moms surprise at the gold clad three storey building of today compared to the humble store of yore that she remembers is testament for sure.

I also had a mini egg tart hunt, mostly around Wan Chai. I liked Kum Kee the best. Just don’t get Tai Cheong, which has branches everywhere. The main difference with egg tarts in HK and everywhere else is they’re served piping hot and there’s less sugar. So you basically get this balance between unctuous hot custard and crispy rough puff and it’s quite delightful.

I’m sure there’s loads more food in HK than the little I’ve discovered but I’m also relatively certain that I’m more into the Tim Ho Wans and Sun Kee cheese pork neck noodles or Australia Dairy Co scrambled eggs or Sing Kee congee with awesome pork liver. I wanna delve more into stuff like that and less into restaurants that swop my plates out when they’re full of bones and shit.

Also my Chungking Express dream was mostly a wash. I did however discover a lovely walk from the top of the mid level escalators down to the peak tram station.

All in all I gained much insight as to just what makes HK HK and how it produces people like John Woo or Alvin Leung or Li Ka Shing.

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3 days ago, I boarded a plane and flew from Sydney to Singapore. It was that most pleasant of flights, the ones that come with people who light up your life with their elbows, knocking into your reading lamp button every half an hour and also the kids who run around the entire plane like it’s the playground at Maccas, only their about 55. When we touched down, my mother conspired to leave me alone at the airport with a false message.

I made no mention to friends that I would be travelling home. Tonight, I would fly again, to Hong Kong. So I filled my days eating at the usuals. Whilst I have little doubt that standards at most places have dipped slightly, I felt hollow despite the fact that I was eating with my mother and brother for the first time in 2 years. It felt like they’d never been away, except my brother’s no longer a child and my mother’s beginning to become one.

But Hong Kong. After 21 years, I’ll finally satisfy my Wong Kar Wai fanboyism with a visit to the much vaunted Chungking Mansions and possibly the California Bar which might still stand. Or more likely than not, I’ll just waltz into places that have no relation to me at all and have moved on with the passing of time, oblivious to the context that I attempt to bestow. Or even more likely, I stuff my face with roast goose and wafer thin dumpling skins filled with treasures of the sea. The latter prospect provides some small measure of comfort but I hesitate because I fear that same hollowness that resonated so fleetingly will make a reprise. I kinda feel like Tony Leung whispering in the tree in Angkor Wat. Except, I hope I get to talk to the best steamed spare ribs with black bean I will ever taste or some next level goose fat.

But not everything is just this painful slog through delicious food. There are already some things that I feel have finally reached some sense of conclusion. The name of my future restaurant, if I were to ever be so stupid as to actually open one, has been decided. In that most hipster of ways, naming it after a movie you like. Just to quell the curious, no it isn’t going to be Epidode 6: Return of the Jedi or Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom.

So maybe I’m getting somewhere. I mean, not everyone figures shit out until they’re past it right? I’m sure some famous dude only “made it” when he/she hit 80 or died before they ever did, like fucking van Gogh. But of course, I realize “making it” doesn’t really matter any more. I’ve found my place and that’s a lot more than I could have said 8 years ago when I told my dad I wanted to learn to be a chef. So yes, I am a chef, I think. Not a great one but one nonetheless.

My final itinerary, which, like almost everything in life, is subject to change, is as follows:

  1. 3 days in Hong Kong
  2. 3 days in Taiwan
  3. 12 days in Japan
  4. 1 day in Singapore
  5. 1 day in Liverpool
  6. 20 days in Peru
  7. 20 days in Europe
  8. 8 days in Singapore

Who knows, I might even have some fun or heaven forbid, eat something tasty.

To celebrate my unemployment and singlehood, I’ve decided to further disadvantage my financial position irreparably by going on a round the world trip. Well, not exactly. See round the world tickets vary in price. Some places will give you really good deals on tickets if you let them decide where you’re going. But for the most part, a good proper RTW ticket will run you around 5k and lasts up to a year total. So you split the flights over a year. I can’t afford to travel for a year, well I can but I’m AZN so I can’t. So I just bought my own tickets and all things considered, I’m alright. I got quoted 6k for my suggested itinerary but doing it myself, I made it under 5 including trains around Europe and shit.

Here’s my plan.

  1. Singapore. Stop off at home. Chillout.
  2. Hongkong. With mum. One of my bucket list things was to visit Chungking Mansions, the California Bar and Midnight Express. The latter is now no longer but I’ll also get to checkout my heritage and the most authentic version of the food of my own culture.
  3. Taipei. 3 days to hit up night markets and reminisce about my army days.
  4. Japan. Regardless of how often I’ve been there, I still wanna go back again and again. Also, I really miss eating real Japanese food after 2.5 years of making pseudo Japanese food. This is a mainly Honshu trip involving Ryugin and Saito for starters, possibly some sickass beef, a sake tour, a whiskey distillery, knives and kitchen shit, a bowl of plastic ramen, Visvim, Neighborhood, Wtaps…
  5. Liverpool. I booked myself a hotel and a ticket for Liverpool v Newcastle. Let’s hope for some goals. The pilgrimage is happening at last.
  6. Peru. In 2014, I obsessed a lot about Peruvian food. Nikkei. Chifa. Central. Maido. Chushuro. I had to go. Macchu Picchu, Cuzco and alpaca and pisco and altitude sickness.
  7. Paris. Le Chateaubriand and Septime stand out to me as less expensive restaurants with creative menus and food. Also, Poilane, Pierre Herme, Du Pain et des Idees…
  8. Barcelona. Whilst I’ll never tick off El Bulli, I’ll be able to experience Tickets. Also, FC Barcelona.
  9. San Sebastian. Mugaritz, Martin Berasetagui, Arzak. Pintxos. Txakoli. C’mon son.
  10. Singapore. Back home. Maybe a massive cookout. I missed last year.

So basically, spend a lot of money and eat of lot of fucking good food and reeducate myself. Properly this time.

2014 didn’t seem to exist for me. For some reason I ploughed on at work despite wanting to quit for an eternity. I made plans to leave in April this year and go to Europe with my now ex-girlfriend. I guess that was one bloody reason. Hanging on for some vague promise of a future life. I felt like I was waiting for life to happen to me.

Work was horrible. All of 2014 was just long hours and constant bitching and moaning. It just seemed to get busier and busier despite the food getting worse. I know because I’m there and the new guys we’re hiring are worse than before and a few good people can only do so much. We used to have just the one culinary director but he left, presumably after an unsuccessful attempt to reinvigorate the company’s main pub. I don’t have a clue but he was ok, a decent guy with reasonably forward ideas. At one point, I even sorta wanted to jump ship and just do the AZN food thing he was trying to make happen. I tried it, it was fucking shit but you could see the effort and for fuck’s sake, it’s cheapass food.

What went wrong was the existing staff weren’t all AZN and the guys they hired just weren’t good enough. Quite frankly, if I ever have some weird penchant to open a dumpling shop, I’d hire Chinese guys. I’d even fucking sponsor them and give them a window so people can see them pleat a har gow. Din Tai Fung style. People lap that shit up.

Anyway, after that guy left, the head honcho hires 2 guys instead. 2 guys to do one job. Incidentally, after a bad review, the executive chef for the French restaurant got sacked. A dude with 2 hats on his previous restaurant sacked for one review. So the 2 dudes are busy sorting that shit out. All I hear is mofos doing 7 doubles and shit. Crazy. They even open for fucking supper at one point. Who the fuck gets French food in Sydney after 10pm?

But then it started creeping in, the inevitable touch of the new peeps in charge. It started with the soy sauce. I really don’t give a fuck about making 90% of my menu suitable for 5% of the customers. It doesn’t make a lotta sense honestly. The sorta people who come to our place just have way too much money and are just way too coked up to give a shit about the food but they’re sure as fuck not typically vegans or coeliacs or dietaries. They’re after quality Japanese and whilst I don’t think we’re worth the money, we did ok by the quality.

They had this epiphany to swop out to gluten free soy sauce, which is stupid salty and tastes like shit. We did it straight up at first and had a “tasting”. All the guys in the kitchen agreed it was shit. The two mofos though, decided it was even better and thusly, we became more gluten friendly than ever before. Well, except for the fact that we’re not really all that gluten friendly despite the swop to soy sauce. The reality is, Kikkoman’s made in Singapore gluten free soy (quite honestly, one of the worst thing’s my home country has ever put out) is just cheaper. We saved money that way. The kitchen’s retort was to adjust recipes wherever possible and “correct” the flavour after switching out. In some instances, we ended up using a higher proportion of a more expensive ingredient to try and compensate so that didn’t go so well.

That was just the beginning. Step 2 was a big leap. We were going to open a new restaurant in Sydney. We’re already fucking understaffed so how the fuck they were going to staff an entire new restaurant was beyond me. My exec made my then sous the new head chef. Except when the two bozos on top started coming into the kitchen and making us come up with specials everyday, they decided that he wasn’t up to the task. Whilst I didn’t think he was up to the task, you don’t just fucking give someone a job and then take it back like that. It leaves him in a shit sitch. So we were going to lose 4 guys total and these two guys started messing around in the kitchen. The next bright idea was to get us to contribute to the new menu creation process by making us put up 2 specials every day.

These things would mostly never sell and we’d just be left with prep that we didn’t need tomorrow. It was stupid. Worse still, the mofos would come in everyday to try shit out but there was no process of recording what was done, what was good, what was bad, it just felt pointless and empty. Ultimately, whilst we did come up some good ideas, none of them ended up on the new restaurant’s menu. So my response was to not actually make any new dishes but to use existing shit and recompose it so that way, we wouldn’t waste time and prep. So enter my grilled eel (just defrost) and grilled cod (different method) or multitude of lettuce cups and salads that were simply recompositions. Some were just pretty normal but probably delicious things anyway.

I love making new dishes but here I was getting out of doing what I liked. Why? Well I wasn’t going to give any new ideas to people who clearly wouldn’t give a shit anyway. So I kept my own shit to myself. I asked myself what the hell was I doing and I couldn’t really answer. I felt like I was betraying myself making shit up everyday that just seemed a fucking waste of time. Still, they never caught onto my methodology and came and went. My other sous chef made stuff up and tried hard at times. Didn’t fucking matter. None of it came to pass.

So eventually, the new restaurant opens. My former sous leaves to just become the new sous, except he now works 6 doubles a week. At the time of writing, I think he’s close to leaving if I’m not wrong. That leaves a spot open and finally, I get the promotion I’d been yearning for for so long. Sous chef at a one hat restaurant. Vindication that I was an important player in the team and for an instant, there was a hint of optimism seeping into me. I made dishes again. I garnered the congratulations of my former peers and the respect of the team. For a brief instant, I felt like I could contribute and make something happen.

Then I fucking woke up is what. We went to eat at the new restaurant. 6 people including my head chef, all guys from the kitchen and we had to pay full price, which included being raped on some prawn skewers that cost $21 for a pair of fucking prawns served with some shichimi coated wedge of lime. You could also have the pleasure of picking from 3 different cuts of beef that ranged in price based on quality/marbling/etc. That shit came to us on these stupid hot stones that only worked for the first slices and even then, poorly. It was $100 for 200 grams of beef and cooked by you and poorly. We then got some shit called a frosty fried rice that was a really bad bibimbap that had frozen beef mixed into warm rice. Because? We didn’t even get spoons to eat that shit with. Pretty much everything we had was pretty fucking bad but the beef shortrib skewer took the crown. Slow cooked and then dried out over charcoal, it was slathered over with a weird tasting miso glaze that completely overpowered the now tasteless and dry beef and apparently had truffle microplaned onto it as well. I wondered what the hell I’d gotten into and who the fuck were these people running the show?

Then the full force of the nightmare came to pass when they decided to stick it to my exec and head chefs and put their fucking skewer program onto our menu. So from making decent, simple but tasty skewers of beef, pork and chicken where you could pick from two sauces, we had stupid complicated skewers that involved different cooking methods prior to grilling and each had their own sauce. We also had to install a charcoal grill into the kitchen in a really poorly organised fashion that involved first smoking out the restaurant and then stopping the skewers for 2 weeks whilst they reinstalled a new extractor. The new head bozo also declared the new grill was shit and “colder than his mother”. You can just tell he’s a lovable person.

But the beef skewers. Cubed, then braised with a mirepoix and truffle, they would then be dried out over charcoal. The braising liquid came with a ridiculous recipe that involved heating together with some miso for 20 minutes, enough time for the miso to maybe diffuse throughout perhaps. When my head chef presented the miso soup esque sauce, he got yelled at that it wasn’t thick enough. It should be thick. It took 2 hours to reduce. You’d then slather 50ml of a thickass miso glaze that was according to the recipe, a miso soup consistency, onto each skewer. Then you’d microplane truffle over it. So I get that this is the head honcho’s thing. It’s his dish that’s followed him since that time he got a Michelin star 5 years ago doing another cuisine. Still, I don’t get why you cook it well one time and then fuck it all up after that. Just throwing miso doesn’t make it remotely Japanese. I felt like I was sampling American BBQ by way of someone who has no fucking clue about Japanese or American food or cooking in general. Why the fuck you’d put $2 worth of garnish everytime you sent a plate of shit like that out was beyond me. The only selling point for that crap was the fact that the word truffle was on the menu. You think beef shortrib and you think karubi/galbi and yea that’s fucking good chargrilled but not if it’s been braised and shit first and then slathered in more shit. Then dessert came and for some inexplicable reason, we got a massive chocolate ostrich egg with a thickass shell that you smashed after they poured “liquid nitrogen” at the table. Health hazards notwithstanding, the theatre seemed really gimmicky and completely stupid. I guess if you’ve never seen dry ice or liquid nitrogen before, it’s ok or maybe if you use it in context, like to keep something chilled etc. This just made no sense at all and seem like a really stupid and mildly dangerous stunt. It also looked like a freshly shat turd with fart fumes still lingering.

It was clear. The fuckers in charge had no clue and didn’t give a shit. They did their part coming up with the new menu and recipes that had no instructions and multiple different measurements like ounces and grams and liters and pounds all in one scrappy little page and it was our shit to deal with.They also came uncosted and tasted like shit for the most part. They were also mad impractical. Corn was cut into three pieces but each plate had 4! The plating style made them roll around as the waitstaff brought em out. The asparagus had a glaze that used chicken bones. The eggplant had a miso glaze that was overly sweet and undercooked and chicken mince running through it. Stuffed got topped with “dancing bonito” even though we used itogaki, shaved tuna. Travesty doesn’t begin to describe the way they mangled the menu. Customers weren’t particularly happy either. We got frequent “the shortrib’s really dry” or “the eggplant’s really small”. Oh yeah. You got 50 grams of eggplant with a chicken stupidly sweet miso glaze for $10. 5 skinny asparagus sold as “jumbo” on the menu for $12.

My distaste was also exemplified in my speech with the waitstaff when I told them I hated this shit as I plated up in front of them or when customers complained and my response was, “well, they’re right.”. I also grimaced every single time I had to serve thess stupid ass lamb cutlets that came on a mini hibachi that was useless. It came with a piece of charcoal per serve. I had to drizzle this horribly minty sauce they called a wasabi chimichurri where you’d never be able to pick out the wasabi. This made it smoke and my eyes water. 4-20 times a night. Lamb cutlets will sell because they’re lamb cutlets but a shitty emulsified mint sauce that we had to make every 2 days seemed stupid impractical. Then the waitstaff had to struggle to carry them to tables and when the tables got cleared, the KPs had to deal with still warm and sometimes glowing charcoal.

I got fed up with complaining and moaning and being unhappy and promptly handed in that white envelope. With 2 weeks to go, I’d only been promoted for 5 months. I questioned if I was being weak and taking the easy way out but that’s probably just that dogged AZN work hard mentality that’s been fucking my life over. Screw this shit. I’m out.

This is the best ice cream in Sydney. In no particular order.


  • Maggie Beer – Burnt Fig Jam, Honeycomb and Caramel
    It’s popular with everyone, it’s available everyfuckingwhere and it’s fucking sick. This should be more famous than her obsession for verjus or horribly sweet Pheasant Farm Pate. This is the BOMB.
  • Streets – Golden Gaytime
    A classic. This is what you eat if you’re visiting Australia. It’s more than just the name too.
  • Weis – Fruito
    Banana, Pineapple and Passionfruit. What a combo.
  • Pat and Sticks – Vanilla Lace
    Allow a little time for the biscuit to ease up and you’re good to go.
  • Coles Smart Buy – Neapolitan
    Actually, only the “strawberry” with it’s incredible un-strawberry like nuances is good. The choc and vanilla are unfortunately, taints.

Gelato Shops

  • Gelato Messina
    Queues are now insane. The Darlinghurst spot was my first date spot. That was how much more civil it used to be. Nowadays, it’s just absurd and they’ve got multiple stores, even one in Melbourne. Still, prices haven’t changed and at ~$7 for 3 scoops, it’s just straight up the best dessert deal in Sydney. Quality and flavours are just as good as ever. My faves include but are not limited to: Salted Caramel & White Choc, Blood Orange, Chocolate Sorbet, Hazelnut, Pistachio
  • Cow & The Moon
    Pretty damn popular but not on the Messina scale. This Enmore shop has a constant stream of people in it from opening to closing. It’s also priced well and the servers scoop awesome gelato scoop quenelles onto cones and cups alike. My faves are: Chocolate Sorbet, Honey, Popcorn
  • Pompei’s
    This Bondi pizzeria has got some awesome Amedei 65% chocolate sorbet (see a trend yet?) plus Fior di Latte, White Peach, 70% dark Amedei gelato, 40% Milk Amedei gelato and solid hazelnut and pistachio too. Pricey but the choc sorbet is unbeatable. Clearly, if you don’t like luscious and insanely rich stuff that melts away with unbearably so inside your mouth, you ought to reconsider life.
  • N2 Extreme Gelato
    Truth be told, I only like the texture. I find the flavours pissweak and different for the sake of and a lot of it’s just pure gimmickry. However, despite the fact that this is one of the best examples of not getting the point about modernist cooking, it’s also a great example of what’s good about modernist cooking. You can’t beat using liquid N2 to quickly freeze ice cream such that bigger ice crystals don’t have to chance to form. The texture is just spectacular but if you had access to a stand mixer and a license for renting liquid nitrogen dewars, you could do this at home too son.
  • Antica Gelateria
    Tucked away in one corner of Crows Nest, this is a little under the radar store that isn’t quite as good as some of the more popular shops in the city but it’s still pretty damn good. When I lived around the area, they had this sick black sesame chocolate chip and also an amazing banana split plus a really good choc sorbet, nut flavours etc. I just kinda wish it had a better location/concept. The product is just really good.

Now I know there’s more than this. There’s plenty of places in Sydney that do great Gelato/Ice Cream that I haven’t had the chance to try. This is my list and yes there are some cliches but we all fucking scream for ice cream. So, in summary:

Hands down, my favourite thing to put on my bottom half has to be my Voronoi pant. When I put em on, I can’t stop stroking my thighs and putting my hands on my ass pockets in brazen displays of public self-love. It’s simply because the fabric feels so fucking good. It’s like the smoothest twill evar! In the light, the charcoal colour takes on a slight greencast or yellowcast depending on the angle, iridescent like mother of pearl. The weight is fucking nonexistent and yet, it stands up to abuse. The roomy top block means I can stuff more food in my face whilst the trimmed down legs and silhouette ensure I am forever sexy. You fucking wish you were stroking the inside of my ass pocket. I’ve had various other favourite pants/shorts in the course of my life but these are simply the best. Time worn denim jeans, $10 camo print shorts, tailored performance, high fashunz… whatever.


And then we have the Blazer LT, which is so BAWSE LEVEL. I rook rike Bae Yong Joon is what it’s like. It’s the perfect blazer for me. Informal, with a slightly crinkly fabric that still manages to look crispy and sharp. It’s like my Raf blazer, except better. It’s lightweight, breathable, water (at least until the next reproof) and wind resistant. There’s also no visible external shit. No buttons, no noticeable pockets. Nothing. You don’t notice my wallet or my phone hanging there. There’s not even snap buttons. For stealth purposes, Veilance prefers to use these slide buttons that make little noise. The collar pops beautiful too. Worn open, it’s like fashunz. Worn closed, it’s like I’m so seriouz.

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Next up, we be gettin’ da Insulated Field Jacket and probably a Graph Sweater plus Component Shirt.