Like many people across the globe, Ian Tran’s business took a coronavirus hit. He’s the director of Sydney-based laser cutting and 3D-printing design studio, Domus Vim, which collaborates with architects and designers to make installations, models, prototypes and sculptures.
“Most of our clients are retailers, artists, installation designers and university students, and most of them have been affected by coronavirus. After Vivid was cancelled, pretty much all of our clients pulled out of jobs within two days,” Tran tells Broadsheet.
With the extra time on his hands, Tran started cooking up ways to keep creative. Using offcuts of perspex he’d accumulated from past projects, he started recreating dishes from his favourite restaurants and sharing them on his Instagram account Dinner A La Perspex.
So far this includes the Yamba sardines with fennel oil from Paddington’s innovative seafood diner Saint Peter; the smoked ham, pineapple and breadsticks from Newtown’s Cafe Paci; and Belles Hot Chicken’s Sex Panther chicken with chips and pickles. Sydney’s most famous pizza, Bella Brutta’s clam pizza, has also been immortalised in plastic. As has the city’s uber-famous A1 Canteen sandwich, the muffuletta.
They each take him about 30 minutes to an hour to create; although as he takes on more challenging recipes (particularly those with smooth edges), they’ll start to take longer. That’s okay, says Tran. It’s a nice therapeutic test of his skills.
Tran’s decided to only make meals from restaurants he’s dined at and eaten, and uses photos he’s personally taken of the dishes to recreate the plastic masterpieces. It’s led to chefs inviting him to their venues so he can preserve their dishes.
“I’ve had Mike Eggert from Totti’s message saying he’ll swap an ice-cream sandwich for an ice-cream sandwich, and Nick Hill from The Old Fitz ask if he could trade a pie for a pie,” says Tran. “I’ve got meals booked for all next week. It’s pretty funny, but it’s great.”
Josh Niland from Saint Peter has already received his perspex lemon tart, and Tran’s fielded calls from Melbourne chefs to visit – a “business” trip to the Victorian capital is on the cards once borders reopen.
But if you ask him which chef he’d most like to hear from, there is no hesitation: Mat Lindsay from Chippendale’s Ester. It’s the only account his Dinner A La Perspex Instagram page follows apart from Domus Vim.
It’s not just chefs who are interested in purchasing Tran’s plates of perspex. “I’m actually working on an online shop right now,” he says. “But I’ve never done this e-commerce thing before. It’s all new territory.”
It should launch any day now and the plan is to release a new “menu” each fortnight that features one snack, one entree, one main and one dessert. Because they are made with recycled offcuts, he’ll only be able to make limited numbers – maybe five or six of each.
They’re going to cost between $65 to $90 depending on the amount of acrylic used, and we predict they’ll prove as popular as the original dishes.
Looking for more mementos of your fave Sydney dishes? Check out our story on Good Food Crap Drawing.