Australian artist Anna Vu loves the fried calamari at Fratelli Paradiso. She also has a soft spot for Ester’s famous blood sausage sanga and the sardine katsu sando from 10 William Street. And the snack plate from Automata, too. So much so that she’s immortalised these Sydney dishes – and more – in ink and texta via Good Food Crap Drawing, a Tumblr turned nine-year-long (and counting) side hustle in which Vu documents memorable dishes in her distinctive flattened style. Not that Vu thinks she has a particular style.
“There was never a conceived style other than to not take it too seriously,” says the former Australian Gourmet Traveller art director. “I was never a drawer; I didn’t start drawing because I had a particular knack for it or anything. I literally just started drawing the food I ate one day and my style evolved from being crap to less crappy.”
Since starting the project in New York in 2011, Vu has published zines and exhibited her work in Australia and Germany, was appointed an artist-in-residence for the 2017 Melbourne Food & Wine Festival, and has completed commissions for restaurants, bars and even wine-delivery services. At the end of the day, though, Vu is a fan of eating and drinking. Although she has lived in Berlin for the last two years, she remains connected to the restaurant and bar scene back in Australia.
“I didn’t expect to be so saddened by the closure of some of these restaurants [in Sydney],” says Vu. “I know a lot of the people who work at these restaurants and worked with them. These people are my friends as well. These weren’t places I went to get fed: they also offered me employment, a network of friends, purpose and so much more.”
Despite being some 16,000 kilometres from home, Vu wants to play her part in celebrating and supporting Australian restaurants affected by the Covid-19 pandemic. For every print ordered from her online webstore, Vu will donate $5 to the restaurant behind the dish. (Should the restaurant be closed, Vu will redirect the donation to a hospitality-based charity or fund in the restaurant’s city).
Thirsty and generous supporters can also opt for a “wine pairing” that includes a print from her grape-based spin-off, Good Wine Crap Drawing, and a second $5 donation.
Prints are $75 each (regular postage within Australia included) and Giclée printed in Australia on demand using archival A4 paper (Giclée is a kind of inkjet printing). Prints take around two weeks to produce.
Vu’s Good Food Crap Drawing oeuvre features plenty of key Australian and international restaurants – among her favourite Australian dishes she’s drawn are Fratelli Paradiso’s bistecca and the abalone schnitty from the 2016 Noma Australia pop-up in Sydney. Other dishes she’s immortalised include 10 William St’s pretzel with whipped bottarga; poached chicken from Sean's Panaroma; The Dolphin Hotel's n'duja spaghetti; a Mary's burger; and a lamb and fennel sausage roll from Bourke Street Bakery. But she is also very happy to accept commissions.
“You get into survival mode, I guess,” says Vu, who has shared 275 meals from her travels around the world. “As a creative, you have to drum up ways to make money, not just to help yourself but to help others. It’s a no-brainer.”