Kitchen spy: Henry Wagons

The bespectacled alt-country singer-songwriter who changed his surname to the band he has played with for the past 15 years has made seven albums, the most recent of which was co-produced by former Bad Seed Mick Harvey. But it has been touring the US that has ignited Henry Wagon's passion for food, shown recently when he hosted Channel Ten's barbecue-focused Keepers of the Flame.

The 37-year-old Melburnian lives with his wife, Melvis Crawford, their 10-month-old daughter, Casper, and two dogs, Gordon and Peeps, in inner-city Carlton, but whenever possible they decamp to Goldview, his coastal studio and holiday house in Mount Martha to make music and braise meats.

The staples

My pantry You'll find chia seeds to sprinkle over my muesli, avocados, Kewpie mayonnaise for sandwiches and liquid smoke and cider vinegar to give my barbecue sauces that American tartness. My favourite is Stubb's Texas Steakhouse marinade but if you're pulling a generic barbecue sauce off the supermarket shelf, you can add a dash of vinegar and liquid smoke, and it turns (almost) into the authentic article. And I love Waha Wera kiwifruit and habanero sauce. It's great on eggs, pasta, nachos, anything.

My fridge It's a surprise chef springboard. I like coming home and factoring in the riff-raff I've got here, whether it be a weird stir-fry or a hamburger, sweet-and-sour meatballs out of the Elvis (Presley) cookbook, which incidentally is what he offered the Beatles when he met them at Graceland. So, I often have mince meat (lean mince is the enemy, it needs that fat content), beer, coconut water and I've got a proud Polish heritage so there's always a big jar of Polski ogorki (pickled gherkins).

Recipe stalwart

Pulled pork. I take a good piece of pork shoulder, put together a dry rub of paprika and brown sugar, shove it in the slow-cooker and pour in some barbecue sauce before I go out for the day. Twelve hours later you can pull it apart with one fork. It's always really, really good.


Colgin natural hickory liquid smoke. It's pretty potent. It's basically a shortcut to get that American barbecue quality and I add it to any sauce that's already a little smoky to supercharge it.

My inspiration

My Elvis cookbooks. He gets a bad rap - or a good rap, depending on your sensibility - for his banana and peanut butter deep-fried sandwiches, which are amazing. A passion of mine in my work is to have a combination of the pinnacle and the worst of Western culture at the same time. For me, fat Elvis is that: a man at the peak of his fame and success but also at death's door and clearly and completely messed up.


White truffle salt. If I'm lazy and want to watch a movie, making some popcorn and shoving some truffle salt on it is a very luxurious treat.

Secret vice

Crumpets with heaps of peanut butter and honey at non-breakfast times. Also, Cadbury Marvellous Creations, which I do think live up to their name.


Most unforgettable meal

The degustation menu at the Bellagio hotel in Las Vegas after I got married was amazing but I could have been emotionally corrupted as well. Then there was the Salt Lick in Driftwood near Austin, Texas. It was my first real taste of American barbecue.

Last night's dinner

Texas-style baby back ribs with mac and cheese and an Asian salad. For every rib I eat I try to balance it off with 50 chia seeds.

My toolkit

I don't use anything too elaborate to cook, really. I do my slow-cooked meats in a Le Creuset pot at home but here I use this cast-iron enamel Target rip-off - I call it my ''Pol Pot''. I also have a Mistral toasted sandwich press, motorised salt and pepper shakers that light up when you use them, and I use a Rocket blender for smoothies and spice mixes. I have a popcorn maker, too.

I'm drinking

On our latest record there's a song called Beer Barrel Bar inspired by this home bar. But I'm a whisky guy. On my riders I ask for ''Jamesons or up''. My favourite single malt if you're after something sweet and easy is Aberlour and for something a little more out of this world I like Laphroaig. Beer is seasonal for me. Mountain Goat Steam Ale is nice when it's cold but generally I like lighter, crisp beers. In terms of wine, I think you can't go wrong with a massive Barossa shiraz, like Turkey Flat, a sentimental favourite. I have uncles and aunts in the Barossa so when I'm scouring the shelves I always try to stay true to the family.