2 minutes with Alia Glorie
Occupation: head chef
Restaurant: Billie H.
How did your career in the kitchen start?
My career started later than most. I had a few qualifications under my belt and found myself working front of house for a few years. I had always envied the guys and girls in the kitchen. They always seemed to have so much fun and I had always fancied myself a good cook. I had recently moved to Melbourne and was working in a little bicycle store/cafe. One day the cook walked out and so I stepped up. He had already shown me his recipes and so, with a bit of trial and error... mainly error... I was cooking. I stepped into my first ever real-life kitchen after that and became a sponge. I absolutely fell in love with it and never looked back.
For those of us who haven’t eaten at Billie H. yet, tell us about your food and cooking style?
I never know how to answer this question...I think the main word here is honest. For me, it's brutally unapologetically honest. I try and take an ingredient and manipulate it to let it sing. There are no tricks. No foams, gels, powders, tweezers or puffs of smoke, no edible balloons. Just good old fashioned cooking with good ingredients used in a clever way. I use lots of good olive oil and salt, play with sweet vs savoury and think about balance, not just for the dish but for the entire eating experience. There is nowhere for the food to hide so my chefs and I work pretty hard to ensure the execution is bang on.
We are incredibly local-focused which means changing with the seasons as the season changes in WA. We need to showcase the best of the ingredients when they are at their height. This can't be rushed. And we can't serve it for the sake of it. It's about using the best at its best, in the best way possible. I try and connect our kitchen to our seasons and our land.
You have said that your kitchen has a new-school attitude, what does that mean for your team?
It means we are creating a safe working environment for everyone. Which focuses on positive learning and fair treatment. This means my crew work around 50 hrs a week instead of the typical 60. It means the women and men in my kitchen don't have to put up with sexism, racism or discrimination. It means my crew get a half hour break each shift (which is something unheard of in a commercial kitchen). It means I aim to empower my crew to become the best chefs they can be by teaching them where they went wrong and how to correct it.
I always admit my failures to teach them humility and honesty. I want my chefs to know that it's OK to be tired, stressed, unhappy or challenged. We are not robots. We are people with lives and emotions. I can become a stronger leader by showing my cards and teaching them that it's OK to show theirs.
What are your favourite ingredients you are working with at the moment?
Grapes!! Ha Ha! Such a typical answer for a wine-centric-restaurant...I'm really loving the local red seedless at the moment. They're tart but sweet and juicy at the same time. Grapes are super versatile you can grill, roast, juice and ferment your heart out. We have a roasted grape dish on for summer, it's such an unusual way to show off their flavour. I love getting an ordinary ingredient and doing something unusual with it.
What is #uglypretty?
Ugly pretty spawned out of my boredom of cluttered plates with too many ingredients, textures and colours. I love simple plates where the work is hidden in the three-day demi-glace or on the perfectly rendered out duck breast. This intense desire to create something beautiful and functional without the fluff pushed the boundaries far enough for plates to be incredibly hideous by contemporary food standards... char grilled leek, slapped with anchovy sauce sitting in a pool of peppery oil. While the remains of the butter it was confit in are pooling black and oily under the delicate shavings of a young parmesan…it's a hot mess. It's gorgeous to me because it challenges you to re-think food design. It's simple, stated, elegant and beautiful. Hence, ugly pretty.
How will you be celebrating Christmas in your household this year?
My partner and I have big separated families so our celebrations start Christmas Eve and go right through to Boxing Day. There will no doubt be a lot of food, a lot of swims and a lot of laughter.
You can follow Alia on Instagram @aliaglorie