''I began chopping vegetables in a Chinese restaurant in my home town of Collie. My mum arranged for me to go there and work for free – I was actually paid in fried rice – so that I wouldn’t hang around playing my drums all day long. ''
Scott Hallsworth, Chef and Founder of Freakscene
He is the ex-head chef at Nobu in London and Melbourne and he has published multiple books.
His latest hit is Freakscene, a super-hip eatery in SoHo, London, with Japanese cartoons emblazoned on its walls.
“It’s wabi sabi style,” says the energetic chef as he sits down next to me on a bar chair overlooking the open kitchen. Wabi-sabi is a traditional Japanese philosophy of perfection in imperfection.
As I take my first bite of Freakscene's flavour packed fishcake, it’s clear the food is also wabi-sabi: fine dining executed by a rock star chef.
Born and bred in small town Collie in Western Australia, Scott Hallsworth tells us about being paid in fried rice, Japanese junk food, and the beauty of not being too serious.
How does one come up with new innovative food in a market where everything has been ‘tried’ before?
I don’t really think everything has actually been tried, but certainly ideas get rehashed often. I haven’t really set out to be particularly innovative, I’m simply keen to cook Asian dishes or cook with Asian flavours, from my perspective which often results in what you might describe as Australasian.
What is Japanese junk food?
Well, Junk Food Japan was a menu category in one of my previous restaurants which was then used as the title to my last book. It’s more or less a playful approach to the menu; we’d do dishes like a sashimi ‘pizza’ and honey-hi her pork ribs, and whilst the execution has to be perfect, I wanted our guests to see a less serious side of the restaurant. It was about approachability and about being less of a super serious chef.
Where did your food journey begin in WA?
I began chopping vegetables in a Chinese restaurant in my home town of Collie. My mum arranged for me to go there and work for free – I was actually paid in fried rice – so that I wouldn’t hang around playing my drums all day long. From there I moved to nearby Bunbury where I commenced my apprenticeship under an ex-La Gavroche (editor’s note: the groundbreaking Michelin restaurant of London) sous chef. The team were all European except for us apprentices. It was hard going but I soon found a real desire to learn all I could. It became addictive pretty quickly.
If you went back to Perth and you could only go out for one meal, where would you go?
There are too many good places nowadays to choose only one. But, if I want to eat and drink really well and look out over Perth, I’d drive up to Frasers in Kings Park - you can’t go wrong.
Any advice you’d like to give to WA chefs who are keen to make it in Europe?
If you’re going to head to Europe, and you should, get yourself geared up to work hard, listen even harder and just be prepared to do things differently - for better or for worse, your best bet is to see a different perspective. Don’t forget to go back home someday...