Jesse Blake first made waves in 2016 when he left Melbourneâ€™s celebrated restaurant Cumulus Inc to head Petition Kitchen â€“ a casual-chic bistro serving up a spread spotlighting local produce. Last November, he joined the edgy new Double Ì¨Rainbow, dishing out tongue-tingling Asian-inspired flavours. Think a traditional som tum (Thai green papaya salad) given a textural edge with the addition of crisp-fried shredded papaya and tender raw local yellowtail kingfish â€“ a dish Blake feels best represents his current culinary style. He shares his culinary journey, inspirations and insights with us.
What has contributed to your growth as a chef?
Getting out of my comfort zone. For a long time, I was openly cooking whatâ€™s been deemed European food, following on from Cumulus Inc. The many opportunities I have been given have enabled me to express my thoughts and ideas freely with minimal constraints. This has allowed me to learn and grow through trial (and error) and learn, through my own experiences. (Now, at Double Rainbow) I am able to explore a style of cooking Iâ€™ve always wanted to touch on â€“ having visited a number of Asian countries and having quite a largeÂ appetite for Asian food. I am able to reinterpret many of the food moments I have experienced throughout my time as a chef abroad. you arrived in Australia in 2010.
What has left the deepest impression on you?
The quality of produce here is unreal and the people who want it bad enough make time to go out and find (the best). They also put a huge emphasis on making a connection with those who grow it and where it comes from.
What appeal does Perth hold for the travelling gourmet?
With much of the limelight still focused on Sydney and Melbourne, it has a little way to go. But Western Australia (WA) hasâ€¦ strength in numbers. There are great places here which donâ€™t get the public attention they deserve. In Perth, there has been a positive shift in the number of great restaurants and bars that have opened in my time here. The amount of local talent coming through is also a good step in the right direction. There seems to be an influx of very creative individuals, who strive to add something new to the F&B and tourism industries, be it through new openings and micro festivals or major food festivals and site activations.
Your favourite places to eat/drink at in Perth?
Sumiya Gin (sumiya-gin.com. au) in Northbridge. Great little BYO place for Japanese- style barbecue.Â Mummuccâ€™Â in Wembley. Good food and natural wines at this Italian bar.Â Lulu la DeliziaÂ in Subiaco. A must- go dinner spot: good small plates, great pasta.
In 2014, Wanwipar Thanasothorn (Dao) and five of her university buddies started gourmet Thai street food catering company Bangkok Jump Street in Perth. Its resounding success led to Dao opening Baan Baan with a warm, vibrant energy laced with cascading pot plants and local street artist @ emblem_inkâ€™s works on the walls last year. The menu zeros in on Bangkok as well as regional Thai dishes. Must-orders include the grilled fish in red curry custard presented in a banana leaf parcel looking like a mini loaf , the unctuous beef ribs slow-cooked in a northern-style curry, and the steamed dumplings stuffed with prawn, radish andpeanuts. All the flavours are fresh, bright and addictive, and you would do well to come with a larger group to sample more of the deliciousness offered.Â baanbaanperth.com.au
In a city populated with sleek watering holes and edgy speakeasies, cafe-cum-bar Jungle Bird in Fremantleâ€“ with its real emu ambassador that hangs out with the patrons and Carribean menu â€“ stands out with its intensely bright colours and devil-may-care tiki theme. For all its laid-back attitude, it has a serious stash of rum â€“ some 70 boutique labels, from Papua New Guinea to Nicaragua and even a couple of gems distilled in Australia such as Cocos Nucifera from Rum Diary Spiced Experimental Kitchen in Melbourne â€“ and an interesting list of craft beers and cocktails with whisky and and dark spirits. Opened last June, Jungle Bird snagged the 2019 Best New Small Bar Award presented by the Western Australia Small Bar Association, beating hot nominees Mummuccâ€™ in Wembley and its neighbouring Madelenaâ€™s.Â www.junglebirdfreo.com