In August I was having dinner at Matilda in the Melbourne suburb of South Yarra, sitting up at the kitchen bar. Acclaimed chef Scott Pickett was on the pass, calling out the orders and overseeing the plating at his six-week-old restaurant. We were catching up between dockets coming in, and I heard about the effort it took to open the ambitious space beneath United Places, a brand new boutique hotel.
I could relate – I was in the middle of my own restaurant challenges.
For months and months my team and I had been working on setting up the Broadsheet Kitchen, an incubator for the country’s most talented and ambitious food minds. The idea was to give four young chefs three months each in the space to test their concepts on Australian diners. If successful there, we hoped they could use the Kitchen as a springboard to open the next generation of great Australian restaurants.
There was just one problem: the location was about to fall through. An old extraction fan in the kitchen needed replacing – at a cost of $200,000. This made the site unviable.
As I relayed this saga to Scott and told him more about the project, I saw his eyes light up.
I could see he was thinking about something. Anyone who’s opened a restaurant – let alone five, like Scott – knows what a battle it is to find a suitable venue, only to discover all its quirks, such as a perfectly good-looking kitchen that needs to be rebuilt.
“I might have an idea,” he said. “Give me a call tomorrow.” A few days later, over a coffee with him and his GM Kim Berkers, Scott was telling me about Saint Crispin, his casual fine diner in Melbourne’s inner north. “It’s been six years. It’s doing well. We could keep it running forever. But we’re starting to think about what we do next. Maybe we change the cuisine, maybe we change it up. It’s got a good team, and it’s running like a dream. Maybe we host the Broadsheet Kitchen. It’s time to challenge ourselves.
“Alright. Let’s do it, let’s have some fun, Nicky.” And so the Broadsheet Kitchen at Saint Crispin was born. After a frantic couple of months we’ve transformed the space, tested dishes, written wine lists and opened with our first resident chef, Ryan Dolan.
Ryan spent six or seven years cooking in Lyon, where he ran some impressive kitchens. He’s returned to Australia and settled in Melbourne, with the air of someone with something to prove.
What excites me about having Ryan as our first resident is: he couldn’t be a more perfect fit for what we’re doing here. This project is an opportunity for Broadsheet to actively contribute to dining culture, to unearth new talents and give them a chance to showcase their ideas and skills.
I think Ryan is going to impress you. He’s impressed me. I hope you can join us for a meal before his residency ends in late January.
I’ll see you there.