George Calombaris: The Master Speaks

George Calombaris

George Calombaris

Your thoughts on Malaysian food?

Soulful, real, and honest. It’s not pretending to be something it’s not. I just hope young local chefs really embrace this heritage.

Are you inspired by any Malaysian flavours?

Tapioca! There is something in it that’s so interesting. I’ve noted it down in my book and will refer to it next time I create something. Rojak is another dish I am completely obsessed with right now.

How important is travelling in terms of being a chef?

Inspiration from the outside world is important. The minute we stop learning is the minute we should really give it up.

And how else do you broaden that imagination?

Delving into my Greek heritage and other chefs’ methods. Every year, about 30 or 40 of us meet in Margaret River for a gourmet escape and come up with interesting dishes. Massimo Bottura will be demonstrating one called ‘Oops’, where he drops a lemon tart! Mine is Zorba The Greek: we plate up and then smash plates over the dish. Sounds complicated but it’s fun. Food must put smiles on people’s faces. Why else do you go out for dinner?

Your mantra?

I don’t cook to feed stomachs, I cook to feed people’s souls.

A chef you admire?

Massimo Bottura of Osteria Francescana. We have a very similar idea of food, and everything he creates is playful and exciting.

Describe your restaurant, The Press Club, during service time.

I hate dull moments; there needs to be chaos. I want craziness but also discipline, focus, and precision: in the way we look, act, talk, and cook.

Your idea of comfort food?

In a bowl and eaten with a spoon, nothing more. It needs to warm your soul and make you happy, like my mum’s avgolemeno – traditional Greek soup of egg and lemon.

A life-changing dish?

From the South of Lyon, a chicken cooked in the stomach lining of a lamb, and the most mouthwatering pork chops on a Greek Island cooked over coal and wood.