Kitchen spy: Inside Mike McEnearney's kitchen

It's shaping up to be a busy year for Sydney chef and wholefoods champion Mike McEnearney. In addition to running his CBD restaurant, Number 1 Bent Street, and acting as creative director to the widely popular Carriageworks Farmers Market, he will open a new iteration of his previous canteen, Kitchen by Mike, at Sydney International Airport in February, with a second canteen on the cards for later in the year.

The staples 

My pantry 

Olive oil is a staple in my pantry, which I use for making dressings and cooking with. We also like to make cakes for my children, particularly sponge. We love using honey as it's a good substitute sweetener [and] it's also good for your health, being anti-microbial. We enjoy eating honey from within our area  – we are so lucky nowadays that the urban honey movement is progressing. Anchovies are always great to have in the stores. They are really versatile to cook with as they add a lovely salty flavour when added very early on and are delicious with salads and with a nice boiled egg. A good can of tomatoes will always pull you out of a pickle when you need to make something fast for dinner. And, lastly, a good selection of spices to add a bit of punch and excitement to cooking. I love cooking Middle Eastern food so they are essential. 

My fridge

A high quality butter is always in my fridge. I like to eat it like cheese on my bread. Big slabs of it! A nice bottle of white wine, both for cooking and drinking. Parmesan cheese is a must with most pasta and Italian dishes. I love a slither for a cheeky midnight snack with a slice of pear. Cos lettuce as its texture is wonderful and it has a very clean flavour. My sons and I fight over the heart and usually they win. I guess you choose your arguments and this is a good one for them to win to encourage them to eat their vegetables. There's always at least two shelves in our fridge door taken over by jams and chutneys. I like to pickle and jam seasonal fruits and veg to keep us going throughout the year. 

Last meal at home

Quite often I am given the role of being creative with the leftovers in the fridge before it is fully stocked with new ingredients. I am the master of braising things, making salads and soup. My ingredients on Sunday were leeks, rosemary, potatoes and the rest is history. No prizes for guessing what I made.

Secret indulgence 

My wife would agree that this is certainly an indulgence, so much so that it could damage our marriage forever … I have to admit I really enjoy a late indulgence of cheese and glass of red, which makes me snore.

I'm drinking

My chefs and I love Nespresso coffee. It's definitely my go-to drink at work during a long day, when I need to rely on a quality coffee.

Saturday night tipple 

I like a little punchy beer to start with, never a schooner. Just a little middy is fine to quench the thirst. Then I go for a negroni to lift my spirits and my appetite and  settle down to white or red wine or maybe both, depending on where I am and what I am eating.

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My toolkit

A sharp knife really makes a difference. At the moment I have a very beautiful Shun Dual Core knife. Another thing I can't do without is my Vitamix blender and a whisk.

Favourite

My Nespresso coffee machines are my favourite in my kitchen at home and at work. At No.1 Bent Street we installed a Nespresso Aguila 220, which makes the perfect latte for late nights in the restaurant. Or for me the perfect macchiato.

My inspiration

I'm inspired most by visiting the Carriageworks Farmers Market to see seasonal ingredients at their peak, which fill my mind with so many possibilities. I forever touch base with classic cookbooks like Elizabeth David or modern classics such as Alice Waters's Chez Panisse Cooking. These are very simple books that remind me to keep it real.

Kitchen highlight

My absolute love is the stove that was made for me in London by Rosinox. It's a commercial stove and basically took up our entire tiny kitchen … It broke my heart to leave it behind when we relocated to Sydney. I'm hoping to ship it out one day. 

Best ingredient discovery 

Something I use every day and has changed the way my restaurants operate is sourdough. When I discovered making a sourdough starter for the very first time it was a revelation. It drove home to me that the old way of cooking is often the best way. We make all of our own bread at No.1 Bent Street and Kitchen by Mike and can never imagine going backwards. We would never eat any fast bread anymore. 

Most memorable meal 

My most memorable meal was probably in the late '90s when I went to El Bulli for the first time. I had never seen food like it and although I don't aspire to cook like it or eat it every day, the sheer difference in comparison to what I was cooking and eating at the time was vast.