The Sydney Morning Herald Good Food Guide 2016: Pasi Petanen's kitchen

<i>The Sydney Morning Herald Good Food Guide 2016</i>.
The Sydney Morning Herald Good Food Guide 2016

Working behind a smoky bar after his year of compulsory national service in the Finnish army, The Sydney Morning Herald Good Food Guide 2016 Citi Chef of the Year Pasi Petanen was drawn to the camaraderie he saw among the kitchen staff. So it was fun, more than food, that drew him to culinary school and a career that has included stints in Michelin-starred and multi-hatted establishments including Chez Nico in London, Quay and Marque in Sydney. His first independent venture, Cafe Paci, opened as a pop-up in 2013 but has been so popular it hasn't yet popped back down.

The staples

My pantry: I get lots of food for home from Ikea; crispbread for a snack after work with the cod roe in the tube which is super strong and very addictive. You have to have it with butter, cheese and pickles – it's a full meal. I have a heap of different vinegars just to get some acid into a dish. I like molasses drizzled over strawberries and yoghurt. Fish sauce is great for deglazing a pan of brussels sprouts and finishing with a touch of sesame oil and lemon juice. Anywhere you'd use salt you can use a bit of this. It doesn't go fishy but makes it super rich with umami flavour.

My fridge:

I used to cycle a lot but I've stopped that since I bought a Vespa so I'm trying to be healthy at home. My wife reckons this Nuttelex is healthier than butter but I don't know. Jarlsberg cheese and pickles, always, for snacks with the cod roe.

Last dinner at home

I made jaffles with white Castello cheese and tomatoes.

Secret vice

I have a bad sweet tooth, terrible. I love licorice, all kinds. And Daim bars. Mum sends me lollies from Finland too.

I'm drinking

I don't drink coffee or tea at home. We do a lot of juicing on the weekend. This Lonkero ready mixed grapefruit and gin drink is my taste of Finland. I love a good cider like the French brand, Baladin. And rieslings I love. Now I have one by Markus Molitor and a Farr Rising Pinot Noir but whatever we have left over from our by-the-glass list I bring home – if I really like it I'll bring a whole bottle home. But I drink so little these days – I'm so busy I don't have the energy.

My toolkit

The gadget to slice hard-boiled eggs is super important as is the cheese slicer. Eggs, cod roe and herrings on top of crispbread is great. Joyce Chen scissors are good for snipping herbs, cleaning fish and chicken. My blue braising pot was the first thing I bought when I moved to Australia and I still use it all the time. This knife was a present from Mark Best – it's really, really good so I don't take it to work.

Favourite

All my Moomin crockery. In Finland every kid reads Moomin books and every birthday my Mum sends me a piece with a different Moomin character.

Inspiration

It's always ingredients. The best dishes always come from having too much of something or finding something in the fridge that needs using up. Desperation is the best motivation.

Wish I had

A gas cooktop – my electric one never gets hot enough.

Food discovery

Prezioso apple balsamic vinegar is great with bitter leaves like radicchio and treviso. Deglaze a pan of roast beetroot with it and it's amazing.

Most memorable meal

It was at Pierre Gagnaire in Paris in 2006. I can still remember pretty much every dish I had. Everything was silver service. The first course they served some pickled onions topped with a massive Brittany oyster, on top of that they served some jellied chicken consomme, on top of that they served Comte cheese toast and then they microplaned some chorizo sausage on top of that. That was just one course. He did simple sauteed tomatoes with ruby grapefruit and lightly battered, deep-fried avocado. The combinations were all crazy but so good.

QUOTE

"People say my cooking's avant-garde or "challenging" but I don't see it that way. I think it's simple."

The Sydney Morning Herald Good Food Guide 2016 will be available for $10 with the Herald this Saturday. It can also be purchased in selected bookshops and online at smhshop.com.au/smhgfg2016 for $24.99.