The Broadsheet Kitchen event series is coming to you. Touring Melbourne, Sydney, Adelaide and Brisbane, each stop on the itinerary will see a young-gun chef given the opportunity to realise their own vision for service at some of the best venues in town – for one night only. With mentoring from industry leaders along the way, this series will showcase and support some of the country’s best new talent.
The first stop is Andrew McConnell’s revered Mebourne south-side Japanese diner Supernormal Canteen. There, senior sous chef Carl Dahren will create an experience called Yaowarat. Named after Yaowarat Road, ¬a vibrant street-food district in Bangkok, Dahren plans to transform the space into a lively, smoke-filled South-East Asian street market.
“I want to create a vibrant, party-type atmosphere,” says Dahren, “with plenty of smoke coming off the hibachi and the music up loud.”
That atmosphere is wholly intentional, says Dahren. “What I love most about Thai street food is a lot of the flavours are in the air. You can smell the intensity of the chillies, the charring of meat caramelising over hot coals,” he says. “That scent is so distinct and all of it aromatically wafts together. It’s intense."
Though he’s still ironing out the menu, Dahren says to expect elevated, classic Thai street food such as marron charred over coals and sour-pork sausage from McConnell-owned butcher Meatsmith.
“It’s going to be playful with a spread of sharing dishes rather than a traditional three-course menu,” says Dahren. “Lots of sour, punchy, mellow and sweet flavours with a couple of really hot chilli numbers. A favourite is nam phrik hot relish. [It’s] freshly charred vegetables, tamarind and chilli all smashed together. For me it’s such an iconic flavour of Thailand and a real staple."
Prior to working for McConnell, Dahren was a sous chef at the now-closed Smith Street Thai restaurant Easy Tiger, where he learned a lot about cooking Thai food. He began working for McConnell in 2016, first as sous chef at the CBD Supernormal, then as head chef of the Builders Arms Hotel in Collingwood.
Dahren will be mentored by McConnell to help deliver his vision for Yaowarat. “His book of flavours (which lives in his head) is absolutely amazing,” he says of his boss. “He can take a dish that’s pretty good and source ingredients [to] step it up a notch.”
He also admires McConnell’s famed aesthetic sensibility. “As a chef you pay a lot of attention to the kitchen,” says Dahren. “But when Andrew is in the kitchen he’ll know what’s happening over the other side of the restaurant: how a garnish is sitting, and so easily rectify something that doesn’t look quite right.”
It’s lessons like these Dahren hopes to implement himself at his takeover. He knows there are challenges ahead – which is why it’s a thrill. “I want to show a different side to my cooking,” he says. “I’m really excited to show something completely different.”
Stay tuned for more details on the Broadsheet Kitchen event series coming to your city.
Yaowarat will pop up at Supernormal Canteen, St Kilda on Thursday July 18. Tickets are $65 per person, and limited – book now.