It appears to be plain sailing at Rue & Co where Kong, St ALi and Jimmy Grants have popped-up. But creating great food in their new digs is not without its challenges. As Rue & Co heads into its third week, we sat down with two of its culinary maestros, Benjamin Cooper from Kong and St ALi’s Salvatore Malatesta, to find out how they adjusted to cooking from their temporary shipping container-kitchens. We also got them to supply a recipe recommendation for those of us who don't have the luxury of a large kitchen.
“It’s intense and busy and feels how I imagine a scullery or ship kitchen feels. There’s not a lot of room and at any one time there’s nine people – that’s a lot of bodies.” Talking to St ALi’s Salvatore Malatesta, it’s clear there’s a real art to maintaining the quality his cafe is known for, and making sure what is produced from its temporary pop-up venue is up to scratch. And a big part of that art is teamwork.
“I guess it’s not so much how we make use of the limited space, as how we work together,” he says. “The team matrix is pinnacle. Those guys are like seasoned ballerinas. They know each other really well, and know how to work around each other.”
Asking Kong’s Benjamin Cooper how he’s transitioned to a smaller kitchen, he’s similarly upfront. “We’re still learning, actually,” Cooper says. “You’ve got to be really clever about the way you bring a dish together, how you utilise that space. Before entering we thought we’d do things a certain way but now we’re in we’ve had to do them another way due to space or equipment limitations.”
“Making sure that the dishes are relevant and not too tricky – yet still quite complex without taking up too much space … it’s a work in progress.”
Both chefs have adapted their menus to ensure everything that comes from their Rue & Co kitchens reflects the quality and ethos of their restaurants.
To start with, it’s about focusing on a smaller menu to do justice to each dish. “We’ve focused on all-day breakfast and interesting burgers, as opposed to a full-kitchen menu,” Malatesta says. “The toast bar features different bakers, such as Dr Marty’s Crumpets and Zeally Bay Sourdough, with our specialty coffee to wash it down. We also offer five fun burgers, one for each day of the week.”
“Essentially we’ve taken some of the things off the Kong menu and adjusted them accordingly,” says Cooper. “Dishes that we would finish in a wood-smoke oven or BBQ grill we’ve now had to pre-roast and finish on the gas grill, or oven roast or deep fry.”
Work in progress or not, Kong, St ALi and Jimmy Grants are creating queue-worthy dishes, so we asked them to share their favourites for us to replicate at home.
Rue & Co recipes:
Rue & Co
80 Collins Street, Melbourne