New talent time: Meet Melbourne's emerging hospitality stars

Pasta star Ellie Bouhadana is now cooking at Hope St Radio in Collingwood.
Pasta star Ellie Bouhadana is now cooking at Hope St Radio in Collingwood.  Photo: Joe Armao

Young chefs don't want to be limited by traditional paths into the restaurant industry. Here's how they are making a name for themselves.

There's energy rippling through our city, with creativity bursting mains all over town.

Chefs are finding new ways to feed people and express their ideas outside the traditional training paths and the trappings of a bricks-and-mortar restaurant, whether it's a wine bar with no stove or a career start via Instagram.

Sit up and pay attention to these strong new players.

Ellie Bouhadana, Hope St Radio

Many people kept their heads down in 2020, but Ellie Bouhadana had her busiest year ever. When the pandemic put an end to her shifts at Balaclava's now-closed Ilona Staller, the self-taught chef started a pasta delivery business on Instagram.

"I got my home kitchen council-approved and was making hundreds of portions of pasta by hand," she says. "I started delivering to 20 or so people, then it got much bigger and I was suddenly delivering 160 portions every Sunday."

Bouhadana's background is Moroccan, Israeli and Jewish, and she describes her food as unfussy and Mediterranean.

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"I travelled in Italy for a while and learnt how to cook pasta there," she says. "But I really learnt how to cook at home, growing up watching my grandmother and my mother."

As restrictions eased, the business morphed into a pop-up trattoria, Ellie's Table, hosting dinners in her home suburb of Ripponlea.

"I wanted to bring some fun food options to my neighbourhood, so I took over a cafe, Spout, every month. I filled the street with tables and poured chilled wine and served antipasto and pasta. It made me super happy to see people eating my food 'in real life'."

Two of her guests were Pete Baxter and Jack Shaw, who were preparing to open Hope St Radio, a new wine bar, restaurant and music venue at the revamped Collingwood Yards Arts Precinct, which launched in May. They needed someone to lead the kitchen and offered Bouhadana the job.

The 27-year-old is thrilled to lead a mostly female kitchen cooking for more than 100 diners a night.

"Although I had really great experiences working at other restaurants, I did see a lot of stuff that was quite toxic," she says. "I want people to feel relaxed, and cook food we love, without that rigid restaurant feel. And I want it to feel like people are coming over to a dinner party."

35 Johnston Street, Collingwood, hopestradio.community

Will Murray and Denny Baring, Cathedral Coffee

It's been two years since Will Murray took over a tiny takeaway sandwich shop in the Nicholas Building's ornate arcade off Swanston Street.

"We just ran with it, and it's evolved since day one," says the 25-year-old.

By day it's a casual 20-seat cafe where they roast their own coffee, but it turns Paris-inspired wine bar in the evenings from Wednesday to Friday.

Chef Denny Baring used to run Supper Clubs, a Facebook group bringing young members together for private dinner parties, and Cathedral follows the same brand of in-the-know, somewhat anarchic hospitality.

"We serve a changing selection of natural wines with a weekly menu of fresh produce using whatever's going at the moment," says Murray. "We'll go to the [Queen Victoria] Market a lot and get seasonal boxes from Northside Fruit & Veg every week, then see whatever comes in from that."

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

A post shared by Cathedral (@ccmelbourne)

The blackboard offering usually features a handful of wine-friendly staples: deli meats, olives, pickles, bar snacks, plus more substantial plates including anything from raw sea urchin with lemon to slow-cooked lamb shoulder with herby chimichurri.

"It's a very funny kitchen," admits Murray. "It's basically just a stainless-steel prep bench, and we do everything haphazardly with appliances and stuff. It's very limited – there's no gas, no oven, no hotplate – so we've got to come up with dishes that require minimal cooking. I love it – whatever we can do, we do. "

The Nicholas Building provides a regular customer base of creative professionals, but with the building recently put up for sale, the future is hard to predict.

"It's kind of scary, because we rely on office workers and people coming into the city and they're just not at the moment," Murray says.

"But we're a renegade kitchen, which is why we love it. The magic of it is that it's put together in this ramshackle way that just works."

37 Swanston Street, Melbourne, instagram.com/ccmelbourne

Pipis Kiosk owners Tom Hunter and Jordan Clay.
Pic credit: Brian Doherty

Pipis Kiosk owners Tom Hunter (left) and Jordan Clay. Photo: Brian Doherty

Jordan Clay and Tom Hunter, Pipis Kiosk

When Canadian-born chef Jordan Clay was 18, he won a competition to cook in France, and never looked back.

"I ended up working at Le Chateaubriand in Paris just before it blew up on the World's 50 Best list," he says. "Everyone seemed to be having a really good time at work, but the food was really serious. I thought: this is what my life could look like."

Clay moved to Melbourne eight years ago, and met restaurateur Tom Hunter cooking at his since-closed Flinders Lane bistro Oter. The pair hatched a plan to launch their own place together, and searched for a site for more than a year before stumbling on an advertisement to take over the beach kiosk at Albert Park. After winning the tender, they opened a takeaway fish and chip window late last year.

In the background, they overhauled the humble snack bar into a sleek 38-seat dining room, Pipis Kiosk. It was a blessing in disguise. While they renovated, they were able to get to know the locals, who were confined to their neighbourhood by lockdown restrictions, and win their trust by serving quality fish and chips and coffee at the takeaway window.

One of the location's key attractions is the lack of other businesses in the area, says Clay, now 32. While many people love Donovan's and Stokehouse in St Kilda or Sebastian in Williamstown, there are precious few spots to enjoy a glass of wine and a snack gazing out on Port Phillip Bay.

"We asked ourselves why this was, because on a beautiful sunny day, or a stormy day in the middle of winter, it's completely beautiful."

The Sunday Age ,The Serve  Pipis Kiosk.  Pic Simon Schluter 7 May 2021

Inside the renovated kiosk. Photo: Simon Schluter

Renovations complete, Pipis is now serving a compact, polished menu with a focus on seafood from Lakes Entrance, Portland and Tasmania, and also steaks, pasta and heritage vegetables cooked on a wood-fired hearth.

And the attention to detail drilled into them by their fine-dining training guarantees the fish and chips from the takeaway window are a cut above.

129a Beaconsfield Parade, Albert Park, pipiskiosk.com.au

Dom Gattermayr and Rose Richards, Florian

After learning the hospitality ropes at her mother's South Melbourne bakery, Austro, Dom Gattermayr decided to break out on her own.

"I worked with mum during the lockdowns and saw the business flourish in a weird way and that enabled me to see what can work on a smaller scale," says the 25-year-old.

Gattermayr (left) teamed up with childhood friend Rose Richards (right), and signed the lease at the former site of Rathdowne Street Food Store and Small Victories in Carlton North.

"It's been a pipedream for a really long time, but how and when we were going to do this wasn't set in stone," she says. "When the shop came up, we knew it was perfect."

The stylish brunch/lunch hangout has been a hit since opening in March, with Gattermayr running the floor and Richards running the kitchen. Crowds pack the street in the hopes of landing a table.

The secret? Keep it simple. "If you just do the simple things well, you can make people happy and serve good food consistently," she says.

"Most people are happy to choose from five things over 15 … and that way we can change the menu every few weeks.

New chef Jason Proctor (ex Bar Liberty) is contributing inventive breakfast dishes and all-day fare, including grazing plates, salmon gravlax, quiches and sandwiches.

"Eggs Florian is the staple item – people just love it," she says of the hit brunch dish riffing on the classic Florentine, with soft-boiled eggs, paprika-spiked cavolo nero, a grating of aged comte cheese and a spoonful of rich bearnaise on dark rye bread.

Gattermayr says it was daunting coming into the established village.

"People were wary of us initially but it feels like home now," she says.

The business was recently granted a liquor licence and plans to serve wine at weekends and eventually to open nights.

"Being busy is a double-edged sword, as we want things to be more laid-back but it's got that really hectic cafe buzz at the moment," she says. "The business has got a lot more to come."

617 Rathdowne Street, Carlton North, floriancarlton.com.au

Campbell Burton, owner of Public Wine Bar in Fitzroy North, with chef Ali Currey-Voumard.

Campbell Burton, owner of Public Wine Bar in Fitzroy North, with chef Ali Currey-Voumard. Photo: Supplied

Ali Currey-Voumard and Campbell Burton, Public Wine Shop

Following high-profile gigs at Tasmania's Agrarian Kitchen Eatery and South Australia's Summertown Aristologist, Ali Currey-Voumard spent most of last year on JobSeeker. "I was trying to get lots of little start-ups off the ground but nothing moved past the planning stage," says the chef.

She called her friend Campbell Burton, who she met while working at Andrew McConnell's Moon Under Water. Burton had opened Public Wine Shop in Fitzroy North in late 2020 and was planning to relaunch with a substantial food offering. Currey-Voumand was sold, and moved to Melbourne for the role.

While Agrarian has 80 seats, Public has just 18, and the kitchen will use appliances such as a plug-in oven, induction cooktop, and a slicer, with no gas burners when it opens in early July.

"At Agrarian we had different restraints because in Tassie it's a lot harder to access the produce. Now there's only a couple of ways we can cook things, but more breadth of ingredients."

Currey-Voumard is talking to suppliers such as Ramarro​ Farm and Day's Walk Farm to provide the fresh produce, and plans to make her own cheeses and other bites to pair with the natural-leaning wine.

"We want people to jump off the tram, have a glass of wine, a plate of food, and think: what a satisfying dinner I've just had," she says.

The food will be European-leaning, broadly inspired by English food writer and chef Simon Hopkinson.

"I love classic dishes, where everything is tried and true and delicious – like steak tartare, or vegetables with the sauces they are meant to go with, or sprouting broccoli and blue cheese," she says. "They're classic friends and always have been."

179 St Georges Road, Fitzroy North, publicwineshop.com.au.

Young Chef of the Year nominations

Are you a young chef under the age of 30, based in Victoria, and awesome? Enter this prestigious competition for a chance to join a roll-call of some of this country's most influential chefs.

Five finalists will be chosen to appear in front of a panel comprising three industry veterans and a senior Good Food Guide critic. They will be interviewed and asked to cook a dish that best highlights their skills.

Young chefs may work in any section of the kitchen, at any position, as long as they are aged under 30 on November 19, 2021.

For an entry form, please email National Good Food Guide editor Myffy Rigby (myffy.rigby@goodfood.com.au). Entries close July 31, 2021.

The Good Food Guide Awards, presented by Vittoria Coffee and Citi, will take place later this year.