Did you know about the Australian Open Chef Series? Chefs Duangporn Bo Songvisava and Analiese Gregory tell us more...
Earlier this year, at the Australian Open Chef Series (AO Chef Series) in January, three women chefs cooked up a storm. For those who are wondering what this series was all about, here’s the story. While the Australian Open 2020 tennis tournament was ongoing, a simultaneous series was being shot to give viewers an intimate look into the AO Chef Series, an innovative pop-up dining experience that was hosted during the tournament.
The five-part documentary series followed Sarah Todd, the celebrity chef known for her appearance on MasterChef Australia Season 6, Duangporn Bo Songvisava, one of the most celebrated Asian restaurateurs who was profiled on Season 5 of Chef ’s Table, and Analiese Gregory from Tasmania, who was a finalist at the Chef of the Year 2019, and appeared on Gordon Ramsay: Uncharted Season 2. The three renowned women chefs were put under pressure to test their culinary skills. The documentary series is on air on Sony Six. On Zoom interviews, two of them, Bo and Analiese, spoke about their participation and culinary journeys so far. Excerpts:
Tell us about your experience of being part of The Perfect Serve.
Bo:It was a wonderful and amazing experience. The organisers supported us really well, especially when it came to sourcing the right produce for our teams to cook. We got to share our passion of Thai food and some of our authentic Thai flavours. It was an honour to be part of it.
Analiese: It was a bit overwhelming in the beginning because all I knew was that I would be cooking at the Australian Open which was a big thing in itself. But when they said, ‘We will be filming it, do you mind it?,’ I was like, ‘Ah! Okay sure!’ The next thing before I could realise was that a film crew was at my house. I finished my work at Franklin (restautant), by night and the next day I was sitting on my couch being interviewed about the Australian Open. I live at a 45-minute drive away from the city in Tasmania, and there were these drone cameras that were hovering on top of my car filming me as I drove back from work, into my town. All my neighbours, who are farmers, were looking up wondering what those drones were, so it was a bit of a culture-shock as well.
Both of you come with unique stories as chefs who have worked in different parts of the world. Tell us a little bit about your journey so far.
Bo: The reason to open Bo.Lan was that we realised there was nobody serving authentic Thai food within a good ambience. There were restaurants that weren’t true to the roots of Thai food but had great ambience, and there were eateries that served really yummy food but diners had to sit on plastic chairs and tables. That’s why we thought of filling this gap with Bo.Lan. When we opened, we focused only on the culinary traditions for four years. Later we started focusing more on the environment side of our food. We work with small farmers and fishermen. We also look at minimising the plastic waste we generate and have set up environmental programmes to upcycle waste.
Analiese: I am originally from New Zealand. I always had a desire to travel the world like most Kiwis do and cooking was a career that enabled me to do that. I have learnt different things from every part of the world where I have worked. In Spain, I learnt more about creativity because of molecular gastronomy practices there. In London and France, I learnt about classical French food. Working with Peter Gilmore (at Quay in Sydney) I learnt about what’s locally grown in Australia and its seasonal produce, and also about Japanese and Asian ingredients. In Tasmania, I am kind of able to bring all these things together in my cooking.
Who are your biggest influences and favourite chefs?
Bo: Inspiration and influences never end. In my early days, they were David Thompson, Amanda Gill, the first lady chef I worked with when I started my career. There are other chefs who I may not have worked with but follow their work and get inspired by. Apart from Nahm (David Thompson’s Nahm is one of the world’s best Thai restaurants and has a Michelin star) where I worked, Michel Bras in France is my favourite. The concepts, practice, implementation and the understanding of produce that Bras had 20 years ago is still applicable today.
Analiese: Michel Bras in France, it impressed me a lot even before I worked there. The other big influence has been Pierre Koffman.
What is keeping you motivated to move forward during difficult times like these?
Bo: To rediscover my own cuisine is something very exciting. Even today when I travel within Thailand I discover something new. I learn to apply such learning in my work and present something new to the urban crowd in Bangkok who otherwise wouldn’t have come across such food. We had never done delivery before, so we have started takeaway and delivery. We are also working on a few educational programmes to talk to people about food and where it comes from.
Analiese: It’s been very hard for the hospitality industry. It will take a few years for everyone to come back. But the positive thing is that before the pandemic nobody had the time to sit and think about anything. This has given everyone time to think about what next, and that’s what I have also been doing. I just started shooting a TV show where I travel around Tasmania. It’s called A Girls Guide to Hunting, Cooking and Fishing. I do a lot of diving, fishing and cooking outdoors.
Watch The Perfect Serve on November 7, 6 pm. On Sony Six