Ben Parkinson likes to fly under the radar. But if he keeps up the pace, the Brisbane-raised chef might not be able to keep a low profile for much longer.

Parkinson made one of the best dishes in Melbourne last year and is the head chef at Pipis Kiosk, a chef-favourite spot by the water in Albert Park.

He got his start in the industry working part-time as a kitchen hand at a function centre during high school. “From there I just haven’t looked back,” he says.

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Parkinson moved to Melbourne in 2012 before heading overseas in 2016. He then found himself working in kitchens in France, Belgium and England, where he was part of the opening team at The Moorcock Inn, a now-shuttered destination restaurant in West Yorkshire where everything from miso to charcuterie and butter was made in-house.

In 2020, the chef moved back to Australia and eventually took up a role as head chef at Sydney’s Monopole, leading the kitchen during the reopening of its original location and its eventual move to the Sydney CBD.

Having returned to Melbourne two years ago, Parkinson has rediscovered the city and its culinary scene. He shares the best spot in town for a first date, his favourite burger joint and more.

What’s your go-to for a quick takeaway?
I don’t do much takeaway, but when I do, I go to Andrew’s Hamburgers in Albert Park. It’s a great classic burger done really well.

How about lunch on the go?
I’m partial to the chicken sandwich from Heart Bakes in Port Melbourne. It’s a great little spot that was recommended to me by Tommy [Hunter, Pipis Kiosk co-owner] when I moved to the area. This sandwich is big and uncomplicated. It’s filled with chicken and salad and is made using some great bread. They always have a great selection of sweet pastries too, and I’ll grab one if I need something to keep me going into the arvo.

And for a snack?
Pretty much anything from the team at Zelda Bakery. I used to live round the corner and love Maaryasha [Werdiger] and her team, but there’s just something about the cheese and jalapeno pretzel – the salty spicy cheesy mix is just amazing.

If it’s a special occasion where do you go?
Stokehouse. I love what the guys are doing there, be it upstairs or downstairs [at Stokehouse Pasta and Bar]]. Have some drinks at the bar and then settle in for a stunning meal as the sun goes down.

What Jason [Staudt] and the team are doing in the kitchen is truly special and when you pair that with the view of the bay or the stunning eco building, it’s hard to beat.

If you’re looking for inspiration?
I love going to Manze to see Nagesh [Seethiah] and his team when I am looking for inspiration. They use spice and preserved food in an interesting and fun way, and because it’s a Mauritian restaurant, it has a huge scope of flavour. It’s also a cuisine I am very very unfamiliar with, so I always come away thinking about things, like how to balance heat and spice differently.

I also love the South Melbourne Market. It’s not far from me and as cliched as it may sound, I’m truly a sucker for wandering a market and seeing what’s coming in.

Where do you go for a big meal?
Soi 38. It’s fucking delicious and fun. You can’t go wrong.

If you’re recommending a spot for a first date?
Bijou Bottle Store & Bar. You can meet there for a glass of something and then if it’s going well you can head on somewhere for food or grab another drink, and if it’s not going well … it’s easy to bounce.

If you’re going out with parents?
My folks live interstate so when they do come to town it’s nice to make it an occasion. Gimlet would be my pick for them. They are not down in Melbourne that frequently, so it always feels right to go all out when they’re in town.

If you have visitors from out of town?
I’d take them to Bar Liberty for simple and really tasty food from Zack [Leon Furst] and the team. I’ve known Zack since I first lived in Melbourne, and it’s been epic to see him get his own kitchen and really do some interesting fun and tasty-as-fuck food there. Especially recently, as he has started to really champion his Polish roots.

Bucket list restaurant?
Somewhere I really want to eat right now would be Bobe in Copenhagen. Bo Bech’s food has been a constant inspiration and the venue looks gorgeous.

What’s your favourite dessert or sweet treat?
This time of year I am an absolute sucker for a cheap and cheerful hot cross bun from the supermarket. Yes, it’s big business and I know I can get much better ones from countless bakeries, but there is something nostalgic about them for me. I’ll eat this with way, way too much butter or be a bit of a freak and eat them plain and un-toasted.