Last year ex-Wide Open Road, Terror Twilight and Tomboy chef Pia Hambour returned to Melbourne after working in New York – first at Danny Bowien’s Mission Chinese Food, then at cult Brooklyn pizzeria Roberta’s. And like many chefs, she channelled her creative energy into a side hustle that’s since become her full-time gig.
Bodega Deli is a line of condiments and pantry items that she calls an Australian-American mash-up, inspired by her time in the US but tailored for Aussie palates and uses.
“Mission Chinese was my dream job; the reason I moved to New York was because I wanted to get a job there,” Hambour tells Broadsheet. “I think that really propelled that part of it all. We played around with lots of intense spice – spice rubs, chilli oil and all that.”
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She launched Bodega Deli just before Christmas with seven products, including an Asian-style chilli oil, chilli-infused extra-virgin olive oil, a fried chicken spice duo (one for the coating and another to dust on top), and spice mixes for curries.
The Everything Hot Sauce is the undisputed bestseller – Hambour tried not to lean too much into Mexican or Asian-style sauces so it could be used (as the name suggests) on everything.
“Someone actually told me they put a little bit in their coffee one morning which I found really weird, but they were a hardcore hot sauce fan,” Hambour says with a chuckle. “I don’t think I’d go that far.”
There’s also her newest drop: a hot honey called Bee Sting made with Rooftop Honey and habanero. Drizzle it on bread, cheese boards, ice-cream and cocktails. (Maybe it’ll work with coffee, too.) It’s inspired by Hambour’s time working at Roberta’s.
“The famous pizza there was called the Bee Sting – pretty much a margherita with spicy pepperoni and drizzled with honey at the end, so a kind of spicy, sweet, salty, delicious morsel,” she says.
If you’re stuck for ideas on how to use Bodega Deli products, Hambour has started a series of cooking videos on Bodega Deli’s Instagram – so far she dances with a raw chook for Nashville-style fried chicken and tries not to onion-cry while cooking butter chicken. Her sauces, spice mixes and seasonings are meant to work however you want, but they’re designed to make cooking easier, faster and more convenient.
“Instead of having 100 packets of spices open in your cupboard when you go to make butter chicken, for example, I’ve hand-toasted, hand-ground and mixed everything together and put it in a little jar to make it easy for everyone,” she says.
Expect more products dropping soon, too: Hambour is currently working on a spicy barbeque sauce and a seasoning mix for Thai curry, to round out her curry trio.