The Best Advice Ever: Rosheen Kaul on Supporting Young Chefs, the Future of Australian Cuisine and Being a Sponge for Knowledge

We spoke with Rosheen Kaul about writing her next cookbook, collaborating with other chefs and judging 2024's upcoming S.Pellegrino Young Chef of the Year Academy competition.
Andrew Zuccala
Published on July 04, 2024

Right now, the culinary name on everyone's lips in Melbourne is Rosheen Kaul. The chef made a name for herself when turning Brunswick East's Etta into one of the city's best restaurants and publishing her hugely successful cookbook Chinese-ish: Home cooking, not quite authentic, 100% delicious. Kaul has made it to the big leagues, but still doesn't feel like she's fully cooked — "I will not say I've reached my final form as yet," she shares with Concrete Playground.

To get closer to that final form, Kaul decided to leave Etta and throw herself back into the wild. She's now writing a new cookbook, collaborating with chefs all over Australia and judging the upcoming S.Pellegrino Young Chef Academy Competition — alongside the likes of Josh Niland, Jake Kellie, Brigitte Hafner and Brent Savage.

Rosheen Kaul - Etta

Kaul has already played a great part in helping develop what contemporary Australian cuisine is and can be, but she has plenty more to give.

We also spoke with her about her future plans — both for herself and the country's culinary landscape — as well as the best advice that she has ever received and how it helped her become so successful.


Rosheen Kaul - Etta

On Joining the Big Leagues in Melbourne's Food Scene

"There is an incredible responsibility that comes with being a more-prominent face in the Melbourne food scene. I am acutely aware that I represent a demographic that is only now seeing representation in food media, and I am both honoured and empowered to have a platform to share my experiences as a female chef and as an Asian Australian."


On What Kaul Has Been Up to Since Leaving Etta

"I had planned to take a break when I left Etta, but I definitely underestimated how bored I'd be without the high energy and stimulation of kitchen life. I'm nearly at the finish line with the manuscript for my next cookbook, and I'm spending the rest of the year travelling around Australia cooking with some of my amazing friends and peers in their venues interstate.

It's a brilliant way to keep myself in the kitchen, and frequently put myself well out of my comfort zone. Cooking my food in different spaces and running different types of services is really helping me zone in on the core of my style of cooking.

Beyond the woodfire, beyond a specific style of service, I've had to figure out precisely what makes my food 'me' — that can be applied to say a breakfast pop-up, a charcuterie pop-up, a rural pub takeover or a completely lo-fi open fire in the bush. I'm excited to see all of the different forms my food takes around Australia."


Rosheen Kaul - Etta

Annika Kafcaloudis

On Kaul's Upcoming Cookbook

"I'm incredibly excited about this next book. I can't reveal the title as yet, and it will be published with the same publisher as Chinese-ish — so it will be fantastic.

After the international success of Chinese-ish, I didn't think I would write another one as I felt like I couldn't possibly top the first, but inspiration comes from all sorts of places, and I was hit with an absolute bullet train of inspiration one day and I knew I had to get it all out in a book.

See, the thing is I wrote Chinese-ish before Etta, and still didn't quite know who I was as a chef, nor had I really zoned in on my style of cooking as yet. Writing Chinese-ish gave me an incredible insight to my own identity as a person straddling multiple worlds and cultures, and my time at Etta gave me the platform to put that on a plate and the time to refine my ideas.

I will not say I've reached my final form as yet, but I am miles away from the chef I was when I wrote my first book. There was no need for me to reach into my past for recipes this time — rather, each of the 160-odd recipes are Rosheen originals born from the confidence and self-awareness I've gained over the past few years.

Vibrant, colourful, delicious and bold — it's a book of sauces, condiments and dressings as wildly cross-cultural as I am. I can't wait to share it with you all next year."


Rosheen Kaul - Etta

On Judging at the S.Pellegrino Young Chef of the Year Academy Competition with Some Huge Names in Food

"Big names indeed, and I'm honoured to be counted among them. Josh Niland, particularly, is a chef whose work I've followed for many years, and learned so many techniques from that I've applied in my own kitchens and taught my own chefs.

Brigitte curates one of the most incredible, immersive dining experiences in the country with such a generous style of cooking and I've had the privilege of dining at Tedesca Osteria twice.

Brent Savage's restaurants are legendary, and some of the most pitch-perfect dining experiences I've had in Sydney were at Bentley and Cirrus.

And Jake Kellie, I've admired for many years during his time at Burnt Ends, and I'm thrilled to be cooking with him at Arkhe in August."


On the Importance of Celebrating and Supporting Young Chefs

"Australia doesn't share the same long history of haute cuisine as other countries, and it is only now that we are beginning to articulate what 'Australian cuisine' is, was and can be — encompassing native and traditional ingredients and influence from waves of immigration, and reflective of where we are as a nation.

It's hugely important to support our young chefs in Australia on that journey to define who we are, and to have more chefs that thrive on the world stage.

For Australia, we're at the precipice of our culinary journey, and we have to see the ideas of the current industry taken to the next level by the next generation of chefs."


Rosheen Kaul - Etta

Etta by Annika Kafcaloudis.

On How Melbourne's Food Scene Stacks Up Against Other World-Leading Culinary Cities

"I'm originally from Singapore, and I can say with certainty that the dining scene in Melbourne is well up there with cities like London and Paris.

Not as saturated, sure, but the fresh ideas, breadth of styles and respect for ingredients coupled with incredibly strong skills puts this city firmly in the same calibre. Melbourne did host the World's 50 Best a few years ago for a reason, so I certainly am not biased in this opinion.

What I do love about cooking in Melbourne is the freedom. We have sensational produce, young farmers serious about healing our topsoil — growing truly delicious ingredients ­— and such a wealth of cultures and histories to be inspired by. It's an incredible time to be a chef in Melbourne."


Rosheen Kaul - Etta

On the Best Advice That Kaul Has Ever Received

"I've been told a few things in my life that have focused and sharpened my trajectory, the major one being to be a sponge: learn anything and everything from the people around you.

Everyone is good at something, and whether it be a Demi-Chef or a Head Chef training you, there is always something to learn, whether you agree with them or not. The more talking you're doing, the less you're learning.

When I was working at Dinner by Heston Blumenthal, Chef Ashley Palmer-Watts once said 'the moment you lose your temper, you've lost control of the situation'.

I held that statement close when I started running my first kitchen. If you stay calm, calculated, and ready for any and all possibilities, you'll never be taken by surprise. Three steps ahead, always."

And Some Advice for Young Chefs Looking to Succeed in the Industry

"Leave your ego at the door.

You also have to continually challenge yourself — don't ever be the smartest person in the room — because complacency is akin to failure, and there were times when I was feeling a little too comfortable at Etta.

The best thing I could do for myself as a 31-year-old chef was to throw myself out into the world again and seek new challenges. It's a scary thing, defending your credibility, but I know I can be more, and it is worth every bit of fear and discomfort."


Top image: Kristoffer Paulsen.

Published on July 04, 2024 by Andrew Zuccala
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