Vue de Monde's new executive chef, Hugh Allen, has been given his riding instructions: you can have total control over the kitchen but don't mess with the souffle, a menu fixture since the restaurant's Carlton beginnings 19 years ago.
The Melbourne-born chef, who did his apprenticeship at Rockpool and Vue de Monde, returns to the kitchen on the Rialto's 55th floor after spending the past three years at Rene Redzepi's Noma.
The experience took him to three continents – Noma's pop-ups in Sydney and Tulum, Mexico, and at its home base in Copenhagen – and taught him to look at all ingredients in a fresh way.
He's not averse to presenting challenging ideas. "But challenging doesn't mean it's not going to be delicious. It can be wild and weird but if it's not tasty, it's not going to happen."
Allen, 24, will be exploring Indigenous ingredients such as magpie goose, sea urchin and bunya nuts, and Australian food traditions, with a fine-dining spin on billy tea and the Aussie milk bar – a work-in-progress that may involve reinterpreting the sausage roll or the 20-cent lolly bag, served from a doll's house-sized replica of the neighbourhood store Vue de Monde founder Shannon Bennett frequented as a boy.
Five weeks in, Allen has already changed 50 per cent of the menu, but he's not stopping there. "I want it to be worth coming to Vue de Monde again and again."