It’s an unlikely collaboration, but it’s one we can definitely get behind: “Big” Sam Young, head chef at Dan Hong-led Merivale restaurant Lotus, will be turning out handmade lasagne al forno at Sydney chook shop and institution Chargrill Charlie’s this weekend. He’ll be putting an Asian twist on the classic dish, seasoning the bolognaise sauce with soy sauce, fish sauce and soy paste for depth of flavour and a whack of umami.
Young is part of a rotating roster of local chefs who are collaborating with Chargrill Charlie’s as part of its Local Flavours community initiative. Each week, the popular chain is offering a limited-edition dish or menu from a chef who has lost work because of Covid-19. It kicked off last week with Michael Rantissi from Redfern Israeli diner Kepos Street Kitchen, who was serving up menu favourites such as falafel, hummus and meatballs.
The program aims to give local businesses that don’t have the resources to offer takeaway a platform to continue selling their food.
“We are proud to have built our business on connection and community,” says Ryan Sher, co-owner of Chargrill Charlie’s. “We really want to show our support for friends and peers in hospitality. We have the technology and the customer base and want to help in the best way we know how.”
In keeping with the collaborative spirit of the project, Young has enlisted his friend Enrico Tomelleri, former head chef of respected Paddington wine bar 10 William St, to make the lasagne sheets.
“He’s the pasta master, right?” Young tells Broadsheet. “And the thing I love about this is collaboration. I can still put smiles on people’s faces and send the love, but at the same time help other businesses and my fellow chefs.”
Putting smiles on faces was exactly what led Young to choose the ultimate crisis dish for his collaboration. “[Lasagne] is a big comfort food for me,” he says. “My vision is, ‘I can cook, so I can take care of a lot of people.’ They can just heat [the lasagne] in the oven, it’s really easy.”
Chargrill Charlie’s has been operating since 1989, so it has a solid customer base to draw upon. And according to Young, those large numbers are crucial for the hospitality industry right now. “With the volume increase I can afford to get my [chef] friends to cook together,” he says. “Every dollar counts at this difficult moment.”
Young’s lasagne al forno ($25) is available for pick-up and delivery from today until Sunday from Chargrill Charlie’s stores in Rose Bay, Woollahra and Annandale. Availability may be extended depending on popularity.