Juicy Banana, a pop-up restaurant from chefs Sam Young and Grace Chen, is coming to Sydney soon

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Chefs Grace Chen and Sam Young were supposed to be together. The couple first met in the kitchen of Sydney’s Ms G’s where Young was sous chef and Chen chef de partie. It was his work ethic that Young noticed first; his boundless enthusiasm for dining out second. “Before dating, a typical day [off] was Mr. Wong for lunch, Bridge Room for dessert, Automata for snacks, and Cafe Paci for dinner,” Young says. “So she’s fine.

Since finishing their roles at top restaurants (Young at Lotus, Chen at Poly), the pair have been in demand for their combined private chef-for-hire service, where a “standard” dinner menu includes lobster noodles. with XO, and a hibachi-grilled sirloin.

Between cooking on superyachts and in mansions in the eastern suburbs, in May they are launching Juicy Banana at the Vibe Hotel in Sydney’s Rushcutters Bay, a pop-up restaurant with perhaps the most exclusive bargain hours in town. : Sunday lunches only (dinners are a maybe, depending on demand), with a guest chef each week.

There’s a cheerfulness and spontaneity to the pop-ups that Young loves, having previously collaborated with Ho Jiak and cocktail bar PS40. They’re not a source of money, and the logistics of ordering supplies once a week, for 100 diners, may seem more hassle than it’s worth. But there are good times, guaranteed.

“We’re all chefs and friends, and we’re all doing this because we’re passionate about it. Plus, it’s nice to do something we don’t do every day — just yummy shit,” Young says. , aka “Juicy”. (Chen is the “banana” of the company.)

At Juicy Banana, weekly mainstays are cocktails from PS40 bartender-owner Michael Chiem; and the floor manned by Alessandro Ponzoni, former restaurant manager at LuMi Dining. The guest chef list so far includes Toby Stansfield (Fabbrica), Alex Yu (Sokyo), Max Smith (Cho Cho San), and Scott Williams (Ragazzi). The menus will have an Asian bent, but really – “It’s an opportunity for the guys to cook whatever they want,” Young says. “Something completely out of their comfort zone.”

The first lunch on May 2, for example, with former Chin Chin Sydney executive chef Graeme Hunt will be an 11-course affair with caviar tuna tartare, lobster wontons and seafood fries. okonomiyaki. The following week’s menu with Stansfield will feature a remixed lemon chicken main course.

For Young, Juicy Banana isn’t just a vanity project. It’s about community. He is a big supporter of Haverick Meats and Red Claw Seafoods; and the hotel owners, along with Chiem and Ponzoni, will receive a share of the restaurant’s profits. The hotel restaurant also sat empty for several months, a victim of COVID-19. “It’s not about making a lot of money. It’s about helping people through the pop-up,” says Young.

And during the lockdown, customers ordered big on its lasagna and dumpling lines, distributed by Chargrill Charlie’s. (“My mom was really proud because the dumplings are her recipe,” Young says.) Juicy Banana is about injecting culinary largesse back into the city, giving back to people and the restaurant scene. “We should always be celebrating life. We should always be excited about the industry. The industry has been hit so hard during COVID, and it’s like bringing Sydney to life again with a drink in one hand and a snack in one’s mouth. other. “

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