24 February 2023

Five minutes with Adrianne 'Adi' De Jesus Davo, Luna

| Lucy Ridge
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Chef Adi wears black chef's jacket and apron and smiles with arms crossed against a brick wall at Luna

Chef Adrianne’ Adi’ De Jesus Davo is the head chef at the newly opened Luna. Photo: Lucy Ridge.

In a nutshell, who is Adrianne Davos: I’m an artist, I’m a cook and I’m the head chef at Luna.

The dish that best sums up who I am and what I do: It’s called palabok: think paella but with vermicelli noodles. Seafood, tofu, egg, and using every part of the animal to make a sauce. We have a belief in the Philippines that if you kill something, you have to utilise all of it to respect the life.

On the menu at Luna, we have a prawn and crab roll. I went back to my roots with the palabok, but it’s basically a lobster roll.

I’m using green tiger prawns and spanner crab for the mix and I pulverised the shells and turned that into a sauce with the typical Asian trifecta: ginger, garlic and chilli. I thought it would be a creative way to showcase my heritage in a Western vessel.

Favourite cuisine: Filipino is my favourite cuisine, but if you look at the background of Filipino cuisine, it has many influences. It’s like an amalgamation of all these different cuisines. I describe it as ‘if Thai food and Mexican food had a baby’.

An ingredient I can’t live without: Chilli! I like things very hot, but I’ve learned to tone them down. I have a killer hot sauce in my house made from Trinidad scorpion and Carolina reaper chillies.

prawn roll with glass of wine at Luna

The prawn and crab roll at Luna mixes Filipino flavours with local seafood in a play on a classic lobster roll. Photo: Supplied.

My biggest culinary influence: My Grandma. After everything I’ve learnt, I just couldn’t beat her cooking as far as flavour is concerned. There’s so much going on when she cooks but she’s so calm. And then, once you take even just the broth, there’s a punch of sweet, salty, sour, hot, spicy. Her balance has always been the best.

A piece of food media that is inspiring me right now: It doesn’t work for me like that. I go out smelling and tasting for my inspiration. Let’s say I go to XO and try the pandan pannacotta, I would take bits and pieces from that and it would inspire me to make something different. It might not even be a dessert! That’s how I take inspiration, just eating out. Even at kebab shops, I’ll try something and be inspired.

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What I wish more people understood about my job: It isn’t all about tweezing micro herbs and edible flowers onto plates just to make things pretty! Everything has intention and it’s well thought out and well planned. It doesn’t just happen just because we feel like it.

It’s a passion-infused job. We’re not really in it for the money. We love to share what we do and hope people enjoy it. We hope that people understand we work ourselves to the bone to create these dishes.

Filipino style bowl of noodles and prawns

Lolo and Lola in Watson is Adi’s go-to comfort food. Photo: Lolo and Lola.

Where I dine out in Canberra for comfort food: Lolo and Lola in Watson and Onzième in Kingston. For really comforting food, I get a kebab!

Where I dine out in Canberra for special occasions: Miss Van’s, XO and Monster. Monster is really good. Their tomato degustation was really impressive.

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Someone I admire in the Canberra food scene: AK Ramakrishna, head chef at XO in Narrabundah. I worked with the man – he’s so clean and so precise. I’ve never seen a cleaner kitchen!

XO head chef Anand Kumar (AK) Ramakrishna

XO head chef AK at the Narrabundah restaurant. Photo: XO

My next travel destination is: Ecuador. My wife and I want to go there because they’re doing sustainable fisheries, so I want to see what they do and how they do it to be ethical.

The next big thing in the Canberra food scene: I think a lot more Island cuisines mixed with European cuisine. And hopefully, we see a lot more insects! I want to see edible insects like ants on a menu and silkworms.

Must-try dish on the menu at Luna: Striploin Bistek with house-made banana ketchup and anise jus. It’s a play on two Filipino dishes, bistek tagalog and pares. We actually cook with the banana peels. It’s an unexpected flavour, and with a slow and low reduction, it actually gives off a meatier taste.

Death row meal: Tacos de Lengua (Beef Tongue Tacos). What a way to end this beautiful life!

My top 3 recipe tips:

  1. Respect your produce.
  2. Season it well.
  3. Make good sauces.

Those are the three basic ones – you don’t have to overcomplicate it.

Luna is located in the Sydney building at 99 London Circuit, Canberra. They are open Thursday and Friday from 4 pm until late, and from midday until late on Saturday. From March 12, they will also open on Sunday from 12 until late.

Follow Luna on Instagram., and Chef Adi.

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