MY AUTHENTIC

Being born in a small town in New Zealand then growing up on a self-sufficient farm in Tasmania (Australia’s southernmost island) I spent my childhood in the wild hunting (rabbits with my bow and arrow) and gathering (wild herbs and berries from the surrounding hills).

A Swiss mother with Spanish roots ensured life maintained a golden Mediterranean context that felt entirely foreign growing up in 1990s Australia. This European influence gave me an appreciation of unfettered generosity, passion and a spirit filled with the good life. These traits were combined with my father, born and raised in wartime New Zealand with his 20s spent performing missionary work in the Pacific Islands and backpacking around Asia and South America when travel was exclusively for the wild adventurer.

From this base of cross-culture intersections, my own life followed a similar path of fusion. Moving to Melbourne, possibly the most multicultural city in the world, I set about exploring all of its diverse corners. But I couldn’t stay still and started filling my passport with stamps, a popular pastime for anyone that grows up on an island, no matter how big. I traveled the length of Sweden for a taste of Scandinavia’s natural cool, immersed myself in Hong Kong and Singapore soaking up the addictive buzz of neon-lit streets, stared up at palm trees in Samoa for a taste of island life,  stood back in awe at the seemingly controlled chaos in Tokyo, then immersed myself in Spain, the country that I would later call home, from Tarifa to San Sebastian, Galicia to Barcelona, and everything in between. Combined with stints in San Francisco, New York and LA, Moscow, Tel Aviv, London and visits to all of the European cities included on the Ryanair flight map, I was ready to accept a life of fusion.

Moving to Barcelona was the most drastic step in this journey as the people I crossed paths with exposed me to yet more cultural context and chaos. Italians taught me about la bella vita, Mexicans brought creativity and style, Israelis revealed a cultural depth, and a Dutch contingent proved that hedonism is not dead. And all the locals that let me call Barcelona/Catalonia/Spain home offered a constant reminder to squeeze maximum pleasure from every day.

I absorbed these interactions, internalising the familiar and new, while never forgetting my own authentic origins. But I was restless and there was a world waiting to be explored.

TIME TO EXPLORE

I’ve always found myself frustrated that there was little left to discover. The earth had been mapped, animals named, colours mixed and chords strummed. Maybe this is why I was drawn to the kitchen where I refused to accept flavour combinations had reached their limits.

We travel seeking out the new, but also on a search for elements we can recognise and compare with our own habits, tastes, experiences, beliefs and day-to-day life. But the objective isn’t simply to observe the new with distanced curiosity, it’s about absorbing the differences and filtering them through our own life experience.

Food is the prism by which life makes sense to me and it is perhaps one of the most fundamental elements that defines exploration. Food is at the same time intimately personal, and also sweepingly global. We all harvest and hunt and use heat in similar ways to extract maximum pleasure from ingredients, but the experience can be drastically different from one place to another. Our tastes are in a constant state of flux and exploring new places only intensifies this delicious explosion of flavours.

When I travel, this discovery happens on the street, where food is not driven by globalised trends or captive to Instagram, but instead by the clear and tangible demand to quickly feed people something delicious.

Today’s traveler has it too easy bouncing around in their carefully crafted tourist bubble; silently Ubering from the airport to their Airbnb, guided around the city by an echo-chamber of TripAdvisor recommendations, and treated with white gloves via tourist-specific experiences, menus and interactions designed for the tourist. They miss the reality of a place that might be confronting and uncomfortable but at the same time beautifully authentic and the real reason we cross borders.

Street food smashes this bubble and the reason I will always choose a taco truck over Michelin stars when I travel. Street food forces us to be real explorers and cast aside our perfectly crafted routines in favour of a culinary adventure with an unknown destination.

If you spend a lot of your life in the kitchen, you’ll also appreciate the added educational value in fueling your travels with street food. Because, as it literally happens on the street, chefs have adapted and innovated with the bare essentials to create efficient cooking processes and developed specialised skills only years of practice can teach and no amount of thermomixing can match.We are all travelers and food is one of the most powerful ways to reference and remember a place. While celebrating our globalised world we must respect what goes down on the street. Any attempt to replicate the authentic experiences we have on the road, is doomed to fail because food is a multi-sensory experience that defies even the most skilled attempts recreate. I know the greatest homage I can pay is to fuse these traditions with my own culinary adventures into food that is authentic to me and neither disrespecting of cultural norms of limited by geography.

CELEBRATING CON-FUSION

Fusion has become a dirty word in the modern world, a sign of the unstoppable forces of globalisation and cheap flights that allow anyone to experience the foreign, then to hastily combine it with another disparate element and expect the sum to be greater than the parts. This is Frankenstein fusion designed to generate fast reactions and even faster money. But when carefully carried out with a deep respect for the original, it’s possible to achieve something that is at the same time new and exciting, while also being authentic to one’s own life experience.

The journey of creating a dish varies by chef. For some, it starts at the desk staring at excel sheets filled with ingredients, others in the lab in a white coat, some dream them up over an empty cocktail glass.

My dishes start somewhere between getting my passport stamped, throwing myself into the wild deliciousness of the new, and unpacking a spice-laden suitcase, my mouth still tingling at memories no filter could ever enhance.

I taught myself how to cook not from a technical handbook, but by living the experience. Watching an old man in Amman, Jordan squeeze an acidic hit of lemon into his creamy hummus, inhaling the intoxicating aromas of butter and curry that sizzled as they were slathered over charred roti in Singapore, stood back in awe as Al Pastor tacos were filled at breakneck speed with juicy pork, pineapple and a zingy salsa verde, and bowed my head in solemn silence in the Shin Juku-Juku train station as the bandana wearing sushi chef sliced away at creamy fillet of tuna with a gentle precision that seemed comical given the Samurai-like knife he wielded.

These were the memories that stayed with me long after the jet-lag had passed and I was back in my own kitchen. I relied on them to guide me as I cooked with a nervous ambition to maintain the magic of the people and places I encountered during my adventures, while staying true to my own version of taste.

I began to mix cardamom into my coffee, hang muslin cloths full of yogurt over my sink until only labneh cheese remained, ripened a constant supply of guacamole-ready avocados, sliced sweet zingy green chillies over pasta, and spent whole days grinding spices for yellow curry pastes, red hot harissa, and a bright green chimichurri deserving of only an Argentinian cut of meat.

With no formal cooking training, I had the naive luxury of being able to hack together flavour combinations that no curriculum would have allowed. I spent nights in the kitchen starting with an authentic dish then experimenting with a palette full of flavours And as my cooking style developed, I found myself always struggling to answer one basic question, ‘So, what kind of food do you cook?’ and I always fumbled a response.

Every day it becomes clearer exactly what I’m putting on the table. My food is rough, creative and naturally messy. I aim to celebrate simple food cooked with passion and flavoured with creativity from around the world. It’s food that is comforting, nourishing & familiar but at the same time exciting and new. I cook with punch & flair, combining fresh flavours with exotic tastes and the good life.

Having lived a life of fusion, I’m not aiming to recreate the authentic dishes I’ve tasted around the world, and don’t count on me for the technical prowess of a trained chef. My role in the kitchen is to instead take those memories and flavours and apply them to amazing local produce cooked with simple techniques, artistic flair and playful presentation.

MIXING FOOD + ART + PLAY

My life has been inspired by food + art + play. These three elements are what excites and inspires me, and where I’ve met some of my favourite people. And each element cannot exist without the other, whether it’s in or out of the kitchen.

As I cooked, I found myself not just fusing flavours, but also fusing the inspiration I found in art, music and all the creativity that takes place walking the streets, scaling mountains and swimming in the sea. In effect, the menu became a homage not just to good food, but also to art and play.

I’ve always been inspired by artists that are multi-dimensional and flawed in some (im)perfect way. Artists that are able to bend the definition of what it means to be a writer, a musician, a painter, an athlete or a chef.

Heroes like Hunter S. Thompson, the gonzo journalist that truly lived his stories and made the writer the protagonist. He lived his life “Faster, Faster, until the thrill of speed overcomes the fear of death,” and is a hero for ranking authenticity and pleasure above all else.

Or artist Salvador Dali who took painting to the edge of surrealism and didn’t see any limit to his talents. By assuming the the role of photographer, writer, designer, cook, sculptor and screenwriter he proved that creativity is not limited by technical skills, only by imagination.

Then there is the late Anthony Bourdain, the rockstar chef that lived and cooked like the original explorers. He was on a constant mission to show the world how food and the good life are inextricably linked and that it’s only by traveling, cooking and living with an open mind that we can truly create a better world.

These heroes inspired me to aggressively seek out a life filled with equally radical measures of food, art and play and find new and exciting ways to combine in everything I did.

INTRODUCING CLUBHAUS

One of those heroes Anthony Bourdain once admitted that chefs are “…in the pleasure business.” and I take this role seriously. I am a chef on a mission both in and out of the kitchen combining food + art + play. Because what’s on the plate is only part of the game and I’m in a permanent state of hunting ‘the new’ to inspire and reinvent what it means to ‘eat’.

I believe in REAL food cooked by PASSIONATE people and only DELICIOUS goes on the plate. It’s BASIC YET BOLD food for HEDONS with a taste for THE GOOD LIFE. We trust in PLEASURE because GLUTTONY is never a sin and every day & night deserves to be MEMORABLE.

In 2019 with three other creatives, I will open Clubhaus in Barcelona where we will celebrate FOOD + ART + PLAY. Clubhaus will be a multi-concept space featuring two restaurants, three bars, a private karaoke room, games hall and members-only Galaxy nightclub.

Clubhaus is the culmination of a life seeking out adventure, and over 12 months of work creating from the ground up this monster project. At every stage, we have sought creative ways to combine Food, Art and Play because these are the elements that inspire us personally, and what Clubhaus will be built on. Whether it is by inviting graffiti artists into the kitchen, dedicating the coffee corner to cult magazines, making karaoke cool again, designing a neon billiard table that converts into a dining table, mini-golf part of the bathroom experience, and converting a bunker into Barcelona’s coolest nightclub where DJs and mixologists combine forces.

So stay HUNGRY, stay THIRSTY, stay CREATIVE and stay WILD, because Clubhaus will soon welcome you to satisfy all of those desires.

“Life should not be a journey to the grave with the intention of arriving safely in a pretty and well preserved body, but rather to skid in broadside in a cloud of smoke, thoroughly used up, totally worn out, and loudly proclaiming “Wow! What a Ride!”

Hunter S. Thompson