Issue Twenty One SUMMER
Flower Drum,
Tom Foster,
Lucas Restaurants,
the MCG and more

Editor’s Letter

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Welcome to our Summer Issue – a season some consider the most wonderful time of the year, and I tend to agree.

Each January, Australian Lamb hits the spotlight with the release of the Summer Lamb campaign and the infamous Australian Lamb Ad – the tongue in cheek narrative plays on Australian culture with lamb as the centrepiece.
It’s more than just an ad, it’s a fully integrated marketing campaign that puts lamb front and centre in the hearts and minds of Australians over the Summer months – and provides a platform for foodservice businesses to leverage the increased awareness and desire for lamb with their own on menu lamb specials.
In this issue, Pat Nourse catches up with Jason Lui at Flower Drum, a Melbourne fine dining institution for 47 years where the quality of Australian lamb sees it appear multiple times on the menu – not a common occurrence in Cantonese cuisine.
Mark Best shares his love of lamb with three recipes that celebrate the quality and diversity of Australian lamb – there’s a Sichuan-style tartare, a beautifully blushing rack and a Christmas glazed long leg to give the ham a run for its money.
Myffy Rigby goes full Summer with a visit to the Gold Coast for What’s Good in the Hood – the Goldy is emerging as a destination as much for its food as for its golden stretches of sand and shimmering seas.
Our Young Gun this issue is the 2023 Good Food Guide Young Chef of the Year Tom Foster. Currently head chef at ELE by Federico and Karl, Tom has worked in the fine dining space for 10 years using modern techniques to showcase hyper seasonal produce.
Aligning with the Summer Lamb campaign, Lucas Restaurants have implemented special lamb dishes across several of their venues to celebrate Australian Lamb. We showcase two dishes from Benjamin Cooper at Chin Chin and Andrea Kok at Hawker Hall for our Summer Lamb Two Ways.
Finally, for our Big Business section we visit the iconic Melbourne Cricket Ground where Australian Lamb has produced a Hat Trick with a dedicated lamb venue selling three lamb dishes kicking off on Boxing Day and continuing throughout 2023. Howzat?!
So sit back, relax and let the lamb do the talking.



Mary-Jane Morse
Meat & Livestock Australia
[email protected]


Copyright: this publication is published by Meat & Livestock Australia Limited ABN 39 081 678 364 (MLA).


People Places Plates

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It might give the appearance of being perfectly changeless, but for this landmark of Australian fine dining, evolution is constant and quiet innovation keeps it on top.

To the casual observer, Flower Drum is about as classical as it gets. The carpet is red, the tablecloths are white, the dining rooms divided by lacquered screens. Some of the waiters give the impression they might’ve been working the floor for all of the restaurant’s nearly 50 years in business.

Flower Drum opened in 1975, and, apart from a move in 1985 from the original Little Bourke Street site to the current Market Lane address, for that casual observer, it has been a story of constancy and changelessness, its place at the pinnacle of Chinese dining in Australia secured by fine cooking and courtly service from a tight-knit and long-serving staff.
But in truth, that constancy is achieved only by constant work. Pick your analogy here. There’s the way the harbour bridge in Sydney is being painted with a new coat on one side just as the last coat is being finished on the other bank. Or the way good hotels never stop renovating, room by room, wing by wing. Or, this being a Cantonese restaurant, perhaps it’s the image of the smooth, seemingly effortless way a duck makes its way through the water, legs working hard below the surface all the while. However you want to slice it, the message is that staying timeless in this way involves plenty of hard work and no small amount of innovation.

Jason and Anthony Lui at Flower Drum - a landmark of Australian fine dining

Jason and Anthony Lui at Flower Drum – a landmark of Australian fine dining

Just ask Jason Lui, the GM. He hasn’t been around quite since the very beginning in 1975, not being quite yet born then, but he almost literally grew up in the restaurant. His father, Anthony Lui, moved to Australia from Hong Kong to join the kitchen, and bought it from founder Gilbert Lau in 2000, having never worked a day in another restaurant in this country. Jason has worked right across the business, as a busboy, at the bar, as a cashier, absorbing the lessons of a master maître d’ and restaurateur at Lau’s side, and his vision for Flower Drum is perfectly clear.

“We’re a traditional Cantonese restaurant working with the best Aussie produce we can find,” he says. “Our menu is quite broad; after 47 years you pick up a lot of things along the way, and we’ve still got regulars from 30 or even 40 years ago who still order the same thing, even if it’s not on the menu anymore. We still keep skewers in the kitchen in case someone comes in asking for satay.”

Glance at the written menu today and there’s everything you’d expect at the highest of high-end restaurants in Hong Kong: delicate dumplings in translucent gossamer wrappings, noodles dancing with the breath of the wok, soups of exceptional depth and clarity. You can have your rock lobster stir-fried with XO sauce and dried scallop, or whipped with egg whites and cream into an airy omelette. The Peking duck is one of Australia’s finest examples, served tableside on featherlight pancakes, and fried rice, crisp-skinned chicken and barbecue pork are all present and correct.

Anthony Lui moved to Australia from Hong Kong in 1980 to work in the Flower Drum kitchen - where he continues to work to this day

Anthony Lui moved to Australia from Hong Kong in 1980 to work in the Flower Drum kitchen – where he continues to work to this day

But there’s also a double-boiled soup made with wallaby tail and red dates – not something you see every day in Kowloon or Wanchai – and preserved egg wrapped in deeply savoury minced quail, like a Cantonese Scotch egg. The meat of the pearl oyster – not the usual eating family Ostreidae, but the Pinctada maxima used to culture pearls off the coast of Broome – is served on its shimmering shell, its dense, almost abalone-like flesh dressed with ginger and spring onion.
Zoom in on the red-meat situation and that quiet edge of innovation becomes even more apparent. While beef is prized as a special treat, Cantonese diners – southern Chinese diners in general, in fact – are traditionally not big eaters of lamb or mutton. Or, as Irene Kuo puts it rather more bluntly in her 1977 landmark The Key to Chinese Cooking, “beef is scarce in China and lamb is disliked by most Chinese because of its strong odor”.
At Flower Drum circa 2023, though, it’s a different story. Cantonese cooking is, after all, about bringing out the best qualities of the best ingredients to hand, and in Australia, that means fine lamb and beef. “It’d be silly not to use it,” says Jason. In the lamb department, Anthony Lui favours saltbush lamb, and works with Bultarra, the certified organic producer that runs White Dorpers in northern South Australia, grazing them on the saltbush and native grasses of the Flinders Ranges.

Typhoon Shelter Lamb Cutlets - traditionally made with seafood, at Flower Drum the dish highlights the quality of Australian lamb

Typhoon Shelter Lamb Cutlets – traditionally made with seafood, at Flower Drum the dish highlights the quality of Australian lamb

One of the more unusual dishes that it appears in is typhoon-shelter lamb. The typhoon-shelter style comes from the fishing community of Hong Kong, the name referencing the refuge they’d take during heavy weather. It’s traditionally used for seafood, typically tiger prawns or mantis shrimp stir-fried with a vast quantity of fried garlic, ginger, black bean, spring onion and chilli. At the Drum it’s reimagined as a way of presenting lamb cutlets. They’re dusted and lightly fried together with a relatively restrained quantity of garlic chips and chilli: spicy, crunchy, delicious.
The claypots walk a more traditional path. “Again, it’s saltbush lamb, and we’re using brisket,” says Jason “We braise it on the bone for more flavour – after a couple of hours they just slide out – and it’s flavoured with red dates and ginger. There’s also some bean curd sheets with it that we fry first then braise with the meat so it gets nice and soft.” The finished dish is served with spinach leaves cooked in the sauce with the lamb, and a fermented bean curd that the kitchen breaks down into a sauce. “Very savoury, very pungent.”
Another dish takes its cues from Shanghai, working with bread pockets made with a semi-sweet white dough very similar to that you’d see used for barbecue pork buns, sprinkled here with sesame seeds. The kitchen stir-fries lamb cut from the rack with leek, miso bean-paste and ginger, which is then stuffed into the bread pockets like a sandwich.
Lamb spring rolls are a highlight, too. “This was actually born out of having some offcuts left from braising the claypot lamb,” says Jason. “We decided to make them into small parcels and serve them as spring rolls, so they have all the elements of the lamb claypot except for the beancurd sheets, plus spinach, ginger and water chestnut.”

Lamb Pockets - saute saltbush lamb from the rack served with sesame bread pockets

Lamb Pockets – saute saltbush lamb from the rack served with sesame bread pockets

“Southern Chinese people have a perception that lamb is very … lamby,” says Jason. “Aussie lamb is very good, though, so when we have travellers here and we can convince them to try it, they find that it’s very nice.”
One of the secret weapons of the Flower Drum kitchen in winning southern Chinese diners over to Team Lamb comes as something of a surprise. “We use fish stock,” says Jason. “Instead of chicken or beef or whatever, we use a stock made from all the pieces left from filleting all our fish, and we use that as the base to braise the lamb. My dad came across that because in Chinese somehow the word ‘lamb’ has the word water or sea in it, and thought he’d give it a try – it takes away some of that lambiness. We’ve been doing that for 10 years now, and it works for us. It sells.”
On the beef side of the ledger, short-ribs do the occasional cameo, braised then battered and fried, as does wagyu cheek, and Black Angus appears in the form of a fillet stir-fried with a superior-soy mix, stir-fried with mushrooms. Westlake beef soup is standard, bringing together chopped Black Angus, coriander and spring onion, all thickened with egg white, and there’s also a pao fan, a variation for the colder months, that’s like a loose congee made up of rice cooked in a clear broth with, coriander, not-quite minced beef and topped tableside with a crisp rice. “You mix it all together and have it as something to finish a meal, garnished with coriander and century egg.”

Braised Lamb Claypot - saltbush lamb brisket slow braised on the bone

Braised Lamb Claypot – saltbush lamb brisket slow braised on the bone

And then Jason throws another curve-ball. Flower Drum is famed for the breadth of its off-menu offering – most of the real regulars verbal their whole order without ever cracking the pages of the carte. But even so, learning that the Drum does a steak still comes as something of a shock. Will it be Black Angus eye fillet or Robbins Island wagyu porterhouse? “We do those with black pepper sauce or our Sichuan sauce,” Jason says. It’s more usual for these cuts to be sliced into strips before they’re cooked here, of course, as you would in any restaurant where chopsticks are the weapons of choice at the table, but the Drum also has guests who prefer it as a steak, and, this being a can-do sort of place, they’re always happy to serve them. “We’ve got seeded mustard here if you want it.”
So how does it work, this business of being both a timeless institution but at the same time constantly evolving?

“The techniques we use are still very traditional, they work for a reason,” Jason says, “but we have a bit of fun playing around with things and doing things differently with certain dishes. Even our spring onion cake we do with puff pastry rather than the usual pancake – you can’t just do the same thing all the time.”

Flower Drum is famed for the personal quality of its service. Jason Lui speaks fondly of Gilbert Lau’s total commitment to the job and his fastidious way of working, talking about him running his fingers under the chairs to check that they were clean all over, or drilling staff not just on the menu and the wine list but on the varieties of flowers arranged around the dining room.
“Above all it was him teaching us how to look after people, how to make them want to come back. Even if they’ve got to save for a year before they can come back, you overwhelm them with service and attention to detail, and the food is so wow – you make it so that they can’t not come back.”

Jason Lui says the key to return diners is to overwhelm them with service, attention to detail and exceptional food

Jason Lui says the key to return diners is to overwhelm them with service, attention to detail and exceptional food

What will Jason be doing this Lunar New Year? “I’ll be working. It’s the second-biggest week for us, after Cup week.” Menus for New Year at Flower Drum are months in the making, as is the wrangling of the tables because so many diners come from overseas and out of town for it. “There’s a bit going on.”

“New Year’s Eve is mostly Chinese diners, and it’s booked out a year in advance, and it’s the same families coming back year after year, booking 12 or 20 or 50 people. Every year it’s the same people. New Year’s Day is more of a mix, but it’s booking out well in advance now too.”

Flower Drum takes its name from a 20th-century Broadway musical, The Flower Drum. But that’s just its name in English. In Chinese, it’s quite different. “The best I can translate it,” says Jason Lui, “is Ten-Thousand Generation Palace.”

As we enter the Year of the Rabbit, as the restaurant eases closer to its own 50th year, what does Jason want the wider world to know the Flower Drum is all about?
“I’d say don’t be afraid to have a chat with us,” he says. “The menu can be daunting for some people but it’s just a snapshot of what we can do for you. Tell us what you like, tell us what you don’t like, and let us do something for you. That’s when most of my guests have the most fun. Do something different. You’ve made the booking and waited two months to come in – let’s go all in.”


Spotlight On

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Australian lamb is renowned for its quality

Australian lamb is renowned for its quality

My enduring memory of Sunday mornings as a kid was being woken by the crackle, pop and smell of a mutton roast in the Sunbeam frypan.

The spuds were added to the golden fat fairly early and were only distinguishable by texture and shape due to the amount of lamby goodness they had taken on board. It was a family tradition where the Sunday roast was big enough to go into heavy rotation for the remainder of the week as cold cuts and sandwiches of white bread and cauliflower pickles.
Sheep meat has always been part of the Australian appetite and if I had to choose one meat to describe our cultural diet – sheep meat would be it. According to the OECD the global average per capita consumption of sheep meat was 1.8kg, while the average Aussie’s was approximately 5.9kg and rising.

Australia has long had an affinity with sheep with the first settler’s relying on them for meat, primarily, and wool being the secondary product. John Macarthur changed that equation establishing the wool industry at Elizabeth Farm in NSW with such success that Australia ‘riding on the sheep's back’ was coined due to the degree of wealth generated by the wool clip.

Things have come full circle however with an industry shift from predominantly wool to an increased emphasis on meat production over the last three decades underpinned by lamb production and corresponding improvements in lambing rates, genetics and carcase weights.
Sheep meat’s position in consumer diets around the world varies greatly, subject to a range of cultural, economic, social and geographical factors. It is considered the preferred meat in many countries – especially those with predominantly Muslim populations. Surprisingly – at least to this chef – China has the world’s largest sheep flock with 95 percent of it being consumed locally.
In Australia, lamb enjoys strong awareness and preference from a long history of consumption. Immigration and our burgeoning multicultural mix have long been Australia’s strength and accounts for our increasing taste for sheep meat. While traditional mutton is on the decline, there is an increasing consumer demand for Australian lamb within large demographic segments where sheep meat has traditionally constituted a major part of the diet.

Australian White ewes at Tatty Keel – a purpose bred meat sheep

Australian White ewes at Tatty Keel – a purpose bred meat sheep

As consumers continue to dine out in increasing numbers, demand for sheep meat in foodservice is growing. The quality and diversity of Australian lamb means it is now often the first choice amongst a younger, cashed up dining public. A bonus is that lamb has no religious or cultural restrictions – a distinct advantage in a culturally diverse market. As a protein choice, lamb stands deliciously on its own as a simple grilling or roasting cut – or is a willing cipher for your creativity.
It is this broad ability that has me turning to lamb time and again, whether for family or function, there is nothing better than lamb for scalable deliciousness. Here are three of my favourite ways to prepare lamb – raw, roasted, and a wow-factor sub for the Christmas ham.


Sichuan-style lamb tartare with nori crisps


Serves 6

Cooking and eating in China gave me the taste for Pixian or Doubanjiang – otherwise known as Sichuan broad bean paste. Cooked until fragrant with the addition of Sichuan pepper, garlic, ginger, sesame oil and green shallots it makes the perfect, heady counterpoint to the richness of finely diced lamb leg as a Sichuan-style tartare.
Make sure to prepare and serve immediately with the nori sheets. On the rare occasion that there are leftovers – it makes an exceptional spicy burger patty.


600g boneless lamb leg
10ml cold pressed sesame oil
30g Sichuan broad bean paste (Pixian or Doubanjiang)
10g tomato paste
50g tomato ketchup
120g spring onions
30g chopped ginger
20g chopped garlic
10g Sichuan peppercorns
24 sheets Korean nori sheets


Trim lamb of all sinew and finely dice. Heat the sesame oil and add Doubanjiang, tomato paste, garlic and ginger and cook quickly until fragrant. Add tomato ketchup. Allow to cool then add to meat. Add finely chopped spring onions (green and white parts) and add to the meat mix. Dry roast Sichuan peppercorns and grind finely then add to the meat. Mix well and adjust seasoning. Serve with nori sheets.


Lamb rack with fondue of sweet onions and medjool dates


Serves 6

For such an exceptional cut of lamb I served a fondue of small white onions finished with finely shredded mint and a compote of Aussie grown Medjool dates. It’s a dish I learned from the great Alain Passard at Arpége and cheekily used to audition for Raymond Blanc at Le Manoir aux Quat’Saisons.

Lamb Rack Ingredients

2 lamb racks
Salt flakes
Freshly ground black pepper


Carefully remove skin from the fat cap and score fat at 1cm intervals diagonally and then repeat to achieve a fine crosshatch pattern. Don’t cut into the meat. Season liberally with salt and pepper. Roast fat side up at 170c for 40-45 minutes until 60c at the bone. Rest in a warm place for 15 minutes and carve.

Fondue Ingredients

1 bunch green onions
100g salted butter
3 sprigs mint
1 tsp salt
½ tsp freshly ground white pepper
100g Medjool dates
50ml orange juice


Trim the onions and slice very thinly then add to a heavy based pan with the diced butter, salt and pepper. Cover with a cartouche and cook over a low heat until the onions are soft and emulsified with the butter. Thinly slice the mint and add to the onions. Deseed the dates and cut into quarters. Place in a small pan with the orange juice and cook slowly until soft. Serve the lamb with a spoonful of the fondue and date to the side.

Glazed Christmas lamb long leg with mint verde


Serves 6

I have long been a fan of the traditional long leg – from the H bone to the shank. Leaving the muscles attached means there is less shrinkage and the muscle fibres remain elongated, finer and more tender – just a pro hack chefs. This also presents exceptionally well.
This Christmas I will treat the long leg like a ham and score the fat in a traditional cross hatch pattern and stud with cloves. You can use your own glaze recipe or mine made by simmering homemade apricot jam [from dried apricots: if you know, you know] thinned with cider vinegar and spiced with star anise, cinnamon quills and fresh bay leaves. Brush glaze on as you roast the leg for some hours in a slow oven for a true festive delight.

Lamb Leg Ingredients

1 lamb long leg
2 tsp salt
1 sprig bay leaves
10g cloves


Remove the skin from the lamb and score the fat in 2cm intervals. Preheat the oven to 160 Celsius. Stud the lamb with cloves at intervals and pin bay leaves. Place the lamb onto a baking tray and season well. Brush on the glaze and cook for 1.45 – 2 hours depending on your preferred doneness. Brush on the glaze every 15 minutes or so. Serve with roasted potatoes and the mint salsa verde.

Glaze Ingredients

100g apricot jam
6 star anise
1 tsp white peppercorns
2 cinnamon quills
50ml cider vinegar
20ml light soy
50ml water


Bring all ingredients to a boil and then leave to infuse for at least an hour

Verde Ingredients

1 bunch mint
3 tbls tiny capers
1 tin anchovies
1 lemon juice and zest
100ml olive oil


Pick the mint and then blend with remaining ingredients to a smooth paste.


What’s Good in the Hood

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For generations, the Gold Coast has represented a very particular slice of Australia – blonde, tanned and spotted mainly in swimwear.

But the Goldie, particularly that south of Surfers Paradise – think Mermaid Beach, Palm Beach, Currumbin and Coolangatta – has seen new life injected into it over the past few years. Now, it’s a matter of being spoiled for choice, not starved.
Here’s What’s Good in the Gold Coast Hood.

Myffy explores the Gold Coast to discover What’s Good in the Hood

Myffy explores the Gold Coast to discover What’s Good in the Hood


Shop 1/1114 Gold Coast Highway, Palm Beach
You had us at sandwiches and natural wine. Perry Scott’s micro-bar and luncheonette delivers big vibes.
It’s all about the sandwiches here, from the cult Philly Cheese Steak Melt (Scott’s take on an Aussie steak sandwich amped up with all the cheesy, pickley flavours of a Philly cheese steak) with a side of skin-on chips; to the Scott’s Reuben made with house-cured corned beef.

Scott’s Reuben with house-cured corned beef

Scott’s Reuben with house-cured corned beef

Perry Scott at Scott’s Luncheonette & Bar

Perry Scott at Scott’s Luncheonette & Bar

Perennially packed, Scott’s merges from sandwich shop to wine bar as the sun goes down. Scott’s by day, Scott’s by night, deliciousness all the time.


8 West Street, Burleigh Heads
If there’s one restaurant that truly captures the rejuvenation of the Gold Coast as a legitimate food destination, it’s Restaurant Labart, from chef Alex Munoz.
You might know him from Sydney heavy hitter Monopole. Here, he’s taken all his Inner East, moody wine bar/fine dining sensibilities and applied them to this contemporary bistro.
Check that beef tongue, inspired by his Chilean roots. Thirsty? Munoz and Co have opened up a wine bar, Paloma, just a two-minute walk from the restaurant.

Alex and Karla Munoz at Restaurant Labart

Alex and Karla Munoz at Restaurant Labart

Beef tongue with pastrami spices at Restaurant Labart

Beef tongue with pastrami spices at Restaurant Labart


2460 Gold Coast Highway, Mermaid Beach
It’s all about la famiglia here where Piatto (a neighbourhood Italian restaurant run by Brad and Thea Pearce) and Cantina (a rollicking bar and small plates fun diner run by their son Harry and his partner Missy) sit side-saddle.

Brad and Harry Pearce

Brad and Harry Pearce

Start with a tiny beer and slow cooked lamb shoulder with cucumber, ajo blanco and mint at Cantina then mosey over to Piatto for the beef short rib rotolo, then waddle back over to Cantina for a nightcap.

Cantina’s lamb shoulder and Piatto’s beef short rib rotolo

Cantina’s lamb shoulder and Piatto’s beef short rib rotolo


2/16 Griffith Street, Coolangatta
One of the few places in Australia serving traditional Mexican-style barbacoa. Here, lamb is slow cooked in banana leaves and served with a lamb consomme on the side for sipping or dipping, and tortillas for mopping.
The restaurant is more like one big open kitchen with communal tables – somewhere to sit and keep the chef company with a mezcal margarita rather than a ‘traditional’ restaurant setting. Eat from beautiful handmade ceramics and consider going back for a cooking class with chef/owner Kristal Smith.

Clay Cantina’s lamb barbacoa

Clay Cantina’s lamb barbacoa


Shop 20/58 Marine Parade, Coolangatta
@barevelyn_ on Instagram
First there was Leonard’s House of Love and Leonardo’s Pizza Palace in Melbourne. Then there was Ciao Mate in Bangalow, and here is Nick Stanton representing once again with his latest project, Bar Evelyn.

Nick Stanton brings his pizza pizzazz to Coolangatta

Nick Stanton brings his pizza pizzazz to Coolangatta

Lamb and honey sausage on a chilli and garlic base

Lamb and honey sausage on a chilli and garlic base

With a brand new pizza oven and a very exciting wine list, it’s good times ahoy in Coolangatta. Highlights include locally made lamb and honey sausage on a chilli and garlic oil base; those bold flavours softened with a blob of macadamia cream. Don’t miss the Margherita, either. Bonus points for shakers of ‘ghetto parmesan’ and extra spicy chilli oil.


818 Pacific Parade, Currumbin
Once upon a time, the most remarkable thing about Currumbin was the bird sanctuary. Which, by the way, still slaps. But there’s also the Riverina rib eye on the bone with a trio of condiments at Tommy’s Italian to contend with.

Steak by the sea - yes please

Steak by the sea – yes please

Can’t commit to the full bone-in situation? Consider the sirloin tartare with plenty of capers for bite, topped with a squiggle of anchovy mayonnaise. Make sure to book an upstairs table for extremely heavenly beach views and sweet sea breeze.

Sirloin tartare at Tommy’s

Sirloin tartare at Tommy’s

Cut Two Ways

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Lucas Restaurants, founded by restaurateur Chris Lucas, is home to some of Australia’s most acclaimed restaurants encompassing a range of cuisines and dining experiences.


Lucas Restaurants chefs Benjamin Cooper and Andrea Kok

Lucas Restaurants chefs Benjamin Cooper and Andrea Kok

From high end fine diner Society and contemporary Japanese restaurants Yakimono and Kisumé; to the lavish wood fired Grill Americano and south-east Asian favourite Chin Chin; along with the lively Hawker Hall and Italian neighbourhood eatery Baby – Lucas Restaurants offer something for everyone.
This Summer, Lucas Restaurants partnered with Australian Lamb to develop and promote special lamb dishes over the January period at Chin Chin, Hawker Hall and Grill Americano – featured here are the dishes of chefs Benjamin Cooper of Chin Chin and Andrea Kok of Hawker Hall.


Benjamin Cooper – Executive Chef

Chin Chin

The inspiration for Benjamin’s dish came from an old family favourite recipe for Burmese butter beans. Not overly spicy but really fragrant and delicious, it works beautifully with lamb.
A Melbourne institution for 12 years, Chin Chin has been Benjamin’s culinary playground since it first opened.
“I’ve been at Chin Chin since the beginning and it’s been an absolutely crazy ride, we’ve had the most incredible time and it’s been crazy busy since day one. I’m really fortunate to have an amazing front of house and back of house team – the crew is amazing. For a restaurant as busy as it is, it’s probably the calmest kitchen I’ve ever worked in.”

Chin Chin executive chef Benjamin Cooper

Chin Chin executive chef Benjamin Cooper

“We work really hard at ensuring that guests get an amazing experience whenever they come to dine with us - consistency is king. To be able to run an incredibly busy restaurant in one of the best food cities in the world is certainly very humbling and keeps me really energised and driven to continue making tasty food,” Benjamin said.

Grilled Lamb Backstrap with Turmeric Spiced Butter Beans and Fennel Salad


Serves 4 (Main) or 6-8 (Banquet)


Spice Paste

80g turmeric
20g dried red chilli
20g coriander root
40g garlic
45g ginger
5g salt
Blend all ingredients or pound in a mortar and pestle to a textural paste.

Marinated Lamb Backstrap

2 lamb backstraps
1 ½ tbs cumin powder
1 ½ tbs fennel seed
40ml olive oil
Mix the marinade ingredients in a bowl then cover the backstraps, wrap and allow to marinate overnight.

Turmeric Spiced Butter Beans

400g tin butter beans or dried beans soaked overnight
50-60g spice paste
300ml coconut cream
70ml chicken stock
15g sugar
Salt and pepper to season
100ml olive oil
In a heavy based pan, heat oil and fry the spice paste till fragrant, add butter beans and toss to coat. Add the chicken stock, half the coconut cream and bring to the boil. Reduce to a simmer and cook until beans are tender and creamy, stir frequently and add more coconut cream as required. Remove from the heat and set aside ready for the lamb.

Fennel Salad

½ head fennel finely sliced
½ bunch garlic chives cut into 4cm batons
1-2 spring onions finely sliced
Small knob ginger julienned
¼ bunch coriander picked
¼ bunch mint picked
1 red chilli sliced

Tamarind Dressing

40ml tamarind water
40ml lime juice
70ml lemon juice
10-15g scud chilli sliced
40ml fish sauce
40ml oyster sauce
Combine all dressing ingredients in a bowl then check seasoning – should be tart, spicy and fresh.

To Serve

Grill lamb to desired doneness then allow to rest for four minutes. While lamb is cooking, heat the beans and prepare the salad. Spread butter beans on the plate, slice the lamb and place on top. Dress the salad and place on the lamb. Drizzle plate with coconut cream and chilli oil.



Andrea Kok – Head Chef

Hawker Hall

Andrea was born in Malaysia and grew up in Kuala Lumpur. Her cooking career has seen her travel the world including seven years in Singapore and 18 months in America before returning home to Malaysia. She moved to Melbourne where she worked to open Yakimono before moving into her head chef role at Hawker Hall.
“Hawker Hall’s flavour influence is mostly Malaysian and Singaporean with a little bit of Indian as well and we try to keep our flavours as authentic as possible to the roots of these cuisines.”

Hawker Hall head chef Andrea Kok

Hawker Hall head chef Andrea Kok

“The inspiration for this dish was mostly from when my dad used to take me to Indian restaurants in Malaysia where the star dish was usually lamb. Here I have used lamb shank to make this Indian inspired braised lamb.”

Lamb Shank Curry with Pilaf and Garlic Butter Naan


Serves 4 (Main)


Curry Paste

30g long red chilli
30g shallot
20g garlic
20g red onion
10g ginger
1 tbs Baba’s brand meat curry powder
1 tbs turmeric powder
½ tsp chilli powder
3 tbs vegetable oil
2 tbs lime juice
1 tbs sugar
1 tsp salt
For the curry paste – add all ingredients to a blender and blend into a puree paste.

Lamb Shank Curry

500g lamb shank
1 tbs curry paste
5 tbs yoghurt
1 tbs Baba’s brand meat curry powder
1 tsp chicken powder
1 tsp salt
1 tsp sugar
1 tbs vegetable oil
Pierce the lamb shank and marinate it in a vac bag with the other ingredients overnight. Cook in a steam oven or sous vide at a controlled temperature of 75 degrees for four hours.
2 stalks whole lemongrass
1 red onion sliced
2 cloves
2 star anise
2 tbs vegetable oil
200ml coconut milk
In a hot wok, heat up some vegetable oil and add the onion, lemongrass, cloves and star anise. Sweat the onion, add in the remaining curry paste and cook until fragrant. The paste will brown slightly, that’s when to add the coconut milk and cook the curry on low heat. Add in the lamb shank and let it simmer for five minutes.
If the curry gets too thick, add some chicken stock or water to loosen it a little. Taste and season as needed before serving. Place lamb shank into a serving dish and pour the curry over it. Serve with naan, roti or rice.


Young Guns

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Tom with Federico Zanellato and Karl Firla at ELE By Federico And Karl

Tom with Federico Zanellato and Karl Firla at ELE By Federico And Karl



ELE By Federico And Karl


“How good is cooking?” Perhaps, no truer words have ever been spoken; and if you know Tom Foster, you know it’s just the kind of thing he would (did) say.

At just 29, Tom’s career has spanned restaurants including The Ledbury in London along with head chef roles at Bentley Restaurant & Bar and Cirrus Dining in Sydney. Currently Tom is head chef at ELE By Federico And Karl – and the 2023 Good Food Guide’s Young Chef of the Year.

For Tom, being a chef is as much about process and creativity as it is about camaraderie and mateship. His cooking style is precise, practised, and produce driven. His approach to management is open, honest, and attentive.

“I started cooking straight out of high school and basically fell in love with it ever since. I’ve worked in fine dining for 10 years; the atmosphere in the kitchen is amazing, it’s high pressure, high energy and super detailed; everything about it is great.”

Tom has always put produce first, fostering relationships with producers and suppliers to ensure he is working with the very best Australia has to offer and doing it justice by constantly evolving the menu.

Dry aged Gundagai Lamb saddles at ELE By Federico And Karl

Dry aged Gundagai Lamb saddles at ELE By Federico And Karl

“Having great relationships with producers and suppliers really does make the day to day amazing. Using super seasonal produce and being aware of what’s coming in and what’s going out – just staying on top of it and doing my own research so I can change a dish comfortably and quickly.”
“When creating a dish or full menu, we first look at the flavour of the dish. With proteins, I try to get a whole range of different options in to find the right flavour and then work with the in season produce to create a dish from there using high quality ingredients.”
“I am really into Australian Wagyu at the moment – it’s coming out really strong with a beautiful flavour and I like using long braising cuts like the brisket or short rib. With lamb, we’re now looking for marble score which is the new thing in lamb – generally I’m working with lamb that is living on pasture and is really well looked after and can get to that marble score level.”

Mayura Station brisket pastrami skewers with sourdough miso emulsion

Mayura Station brisket pastrami skewers with sourdough miso emulsion

A priority for Tom is to try and minimise waste as much as possible – being a tasting menu restaurant, he acknowledges that at times it may look wasteful when plating a small piece of meat – but behind the scenes, everything is being utilised.

“With our lamb dish we look for something super simple but super tasty. We are using whole lamb saddles from Gundagai Lamb that have been dry aged to intensify that beautiful lamb flavour.”

“We cook it on the bone then portion for service, the saddle itself we throw back into the stock while all the trim gets put back into the sauce as a refresh that intensifies the lamb flavour. So, we actually get more portions out of it, and we get a better yield – ultimately it makes it better for everyone.”

Gundagai Lamb saddle, in-season garlic scapes, green garlic puree, onions and lamb jus

Gundagai Lamb saddle, in-season garlic scapes, green garlic puree, onions and lamb jus

“For our pastrami skewers we have used Mayura Station Brisket which is a phenomenal piece of meat. We have brined it for four days, cooked it for 16 hours, then it is iced down, sliced very thinly and layered onto a skewer. We then have a sourdough miso emulsion that is made from leftover sourdough at the restaurant. We make lots of kojis and lots of ferments which is a great way to use up leftover produce and ensure we show respect to these products.”
Like hospitality venues across the country, Tom is working hard to overcome the challenge of a severe nationwide staff shortage, leading his team forward through attention and responsibility.
“Keeping and training staff at the moment is obviously a challenge but all in all it is just another level of progression that we need to go through to ensure we are at the top of our game and that we are better the next day.”

Tom finishing lamb saddle over juniper

Tom finishing lamb saddle over juniper

“We give our staff a lot of responsibility and personal attention to that responsibility. We really look after them and make sure they can see how the work they do affects the restaurant on a daily basis. It’s acknowledging all the good work that they do day to day and showing them how it maintains our kitchen at a high level and contributes to the restaurant flow.”
Reflecting on where he is and where he has come from, Tom’s advice to young chefs is simple.

“You need to put in the work. It really does pay off when you do the hard work. Stick to it, it’s a long grinding process but it has amazing rewards at the end.”



Big Business

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In this section, we explore some of the country’s biggest foodservice operators – plating up thousands of meals every day from the seas to the skies and everywhere in between.



This summer Australian Lamb takes centre stage at the Melbourne Cricket Ground (MCG) with the launch of The Lamb Paddock at the Boxing Day Test. Brought to you by Australian Lamb, the dedicated lamb venue will be serving three custom developed lamb dishes through summer and beyond.

The MCG is the largest stadium in the southern hemisphere with a whopping 100,000 capacity. Established in 1853 the MCG has been home to Australian Football since 1859, was the birthplace of test cricket in 1877; and one day international cricket in 1971.
Game days such as the Boxing Day Test and the AFL Grand Final draw crowds upwards of 90,000. How do you feed 90,000 people – we went to find out.

Delaware North Culinary Director Marcus Werner at the Melbourne Cricket Ground

Delaware North Culinary Director Marcus Werner at the Melbourne Cricket Ground

In February 2022, Delaware North took over as hospitality partner at the MCG managing all hospitality services across event days, non-event days and all corporate suites and functions.
Delaware North Culinary Director Marcus Werner says a mix of locally recognised brands complement fan favourites and enhance the guest and member experience at the stadium.
“On game days at the MCG we can be feeding 85,000 people in one day. Corporate wise we have 130 super boxes or suites plus function facilities that cater for around 7,000 guests. Then there are all the venues and retail outlets along with some pop up venues too – so it’s big.”
“We took over operations at the MCG in February 2022 and were lucky to get some celebrity chefs coming along with us. We have the Committee Room restaurant which is now done by Guy Grossi and also the Long Room by Alejandro Savaria. We also brought in Royal Stack Burgers at a retail level which is quite well known here,” Werner said.

MCG chef Luke Bowden prepares lamb burgers for The Lamb Paddock

MCG chef Luke Bowden prepares lamb burgers for The Lamb Paddock

With operations on four continents and more than 40,000 staff; Delaware North serves half a billion guests a year and is ranked as one of the world’s largest privately held companies by Forbes magazine.
The MCG is one of 60 sports and entertainment stadiums managed by the group worldwide amongst the likes of Wembley Stadium in London, TD Garden in Boston, MetLife Stadium in New Jersey – and, closer to home, Melbourne Olympic Park and Marvel Stadium.

“Delaware North started in America with a single contract and 102 years later that contract still stands. The business is very family driven and prides itself on its long term contracts including locally 15 years at Marvel Stadium and 20 years at Melbourne Olympic Park. We consider ourselves a hospitality partner rather than just a catering company.”

Werner says that since joining the MCG, the focus has been on bringing in more local and fresh produce and making sure things are getting made onsite as much as possible.

The Lamb Burger - available at The Lamb Paddock pop up venue at the MCG

The Lamb Burger – available at The Lamb Paddock pop up venue at the MCG

“We introduced Great Aussie BBQ where we have a beautiful big steak sandwich on offer and we have a massive smoker onsite now so we are doing a lot of smoked products. At the Butcher’s Block we do a beef brisket and go through 250kg a game.”
“In general you could say that red meat in a bun is always a big seller. You’re never going to have trouble selling red meat whether it is smoked or slow cooked beef, a beautiful steak, or lamb, everybody loves lamb,” Werner said.

Lamb Souvlaki - smoked lamb shoulder on soft pita at The Lamb Paddock

Lamb Souvlaki – smoked lamb shoulder on soft pita at The Lamb Paddock

The Lamb Paddock is Werner’s opportunity to test that theory and the dedicated pop up venue will serve hungry punters three lamb options.
“We wanted to trial The Lamb Paddock as a pop-up but we are thinking that it is going to be much more than that. We really want to promote lamb and make it the hero with three fantastic dishes that showcase its quality and diversity.”
First up is a classic Aussie lamb burger with grilled lamb patty, MCG slaw, cheese, pickled beetroot and barbecue sauce on a potato bun.
Next, lamb souvlaki. Lamb shoulder is marinated for two days in garlic and fresh herbs then smoked and finished in the oven. Smokey, shredded lamb is piled on soft pita bread and topped with lettuce, Greek salad and garlic aioli.
Finally, the HSP (halal snack pack) where hot chips are topped with the same shredded lamb, garlic sauce, barbecue sauce, Sriracha and parsley.
Now that is what you call a hat trick.

“I’m very excited to have The Lamb Paddock here and to be working with Australian lamb – it is such a great product that makes some incredible dishes. We are really proud to use local lamb that is sustainable and also of fantastic quality. Lamb is a favourite of everyone and I think there is a great future for it here at the MCG,” Werner said.
The HSP - a halal snack pack of golden fries topped with lamb at The Lamb Paddock

The HSP – a halal snack pack of golden fries topped with lamb at The Lamb Paddock


Next Issue

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Next Issue


Issue 22 drops April 2023 – packed with all the best red meat tastes and tales from paddock to plate.

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