17 September 2021

Five minutes with Caitlin Baker, Aubergine

| Lottie Twyford
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Caitlin Baker

Caitlin Baker is the restaurant manager at Aubergine, Griffith, co-founder of Fk Spiders and director of Womxn of Wine CBR. Photo: Lean Timms.

Who is Caitlin Baker? I’m the restaurant manager at Aubergine, Griffith. I’m also a director of Womxn of Wine CBR and co-founder of Fk Spiders.

Best recent dining experience: Pre-lockdown, I had lunch at Pilot in Ainslie, which was definitely the best meal I’ve had there since it opened. Such good vibes, just amazing flavours and all the pairings were really cool. A couple of standouts were the egg-drop soup, ‘Bonito Bonito’, which is chargrilled Bonito with mulled onion and burnt butter sauce, the massaman carrots and the dry-aged duck with radicchio and celeriac purée.

We also recently had an amazing takeaway from Ondine in Deakin, which was awesome, just super classic French. Everything was so well executed; it was really delicious.

Bonito Bonito from Pilot

Bonito Bonito from Pilot. Photo: Caitlin Baker.

Most embarrassing pantry item: Milk chocolate liquorice bullets. Okay, well it’s not embarrassing that I have them, but it is embarrassing that I eat (on average) four packets a week.

Must-buy ingredient: Tinned tomatoes, good anchovies, butter and the special chicken two-minute noodles by Indomie. The first few because they make whipping up pasta and other dishes so easy.

Next big thing: The low ABV, or low-alcohol movement. Everybody is moving away from drinking so much, and I think it’s a real skill to create drinks that don’t rely on alcohol to be delicious but are still interesting.

Favourite place for breakfast in the ACT: I have two, so it’s either Rebel Rebel in Ainslie – their shawarma is my favourite – or else Intra, which my brother Sean owns, for their coffee, which is the best in town.

Intra Cafe

Caitlin reckons Intra has the best coffee in town. Photo: Intra.

My Canberra food secret: Rubicon in Griffith. It might not be a secret to many, but it is a secret to my age group. Owen Kenyon’s wine list is incredible, and if you like steak frites, it’s definitely the best in town.

Biggest culinary influence: My older brother Patrick. He’s always been an amazing cook, and I can remember him making the most incredible croquembouche when he was about 15 or 16. He just really opened my eyes to all sorts of crazy food ideas.

I was a super fussy kid, and he really got me into food and out of my comfort zone.

READ ALSO Five minutes with Dash Rumble, Pilot restaurant and bar

Favourite cookbook: Instead of cookbooks, I have favourite wine books. Wine Girl by Victoria James is all about her experience being a female sommelier in New York on the fine dining scene. Another one is Natural Wine for the People by Alice Feiring, which I recommend to lots of people who are just starting to get into wine.

Who I admire on the Canberra food and wine scene: Sun Jang, the sous-chef at Aubergine. She’s such a weapon and she runs the kitchen like a boss. Dash Rumble from Pilot is also the reason I started working in hospitality. She trained me from being particularly hopeless to actually somewhat good at my job. My partner Lucas Woods is another one – he’s so talented and focused. Lach Cutting from Under Bakery is another one, and Nick Smith from Bar Rochford as well. After all my travels overseas, it’s still my favourite bar in the world!

What’s on the menu this week: With Aubergine shut for lockdown, we’ve been making a lot of chicken mince bowls with ramen noodles and greens at home.

Caitlin Baker with colleagues out the front of restaurant

Caitlin (third from left) with her colleagues at 27 Elliotts in Edinburgh. Photo: Caitlin Baker.

Where I’m going next: I want to go back to Edinburgh, I lived there for a year and so many of our friends have now opened new venues so I want to go back and check those out as well as revisit the places Lucas and I worked at.

Death row meal: Sourdough, from Fhior in Edinburgh, with heaps of good butter and vegemite.

My COVID-19 response: We used to do a menu where you got to choose what you had for each course, but we moved to a set one to reduce waste, which meant we could have fewer staff working in the kitchen. It’s also made service easier.

My really simple recipe tip: My partner told me not to say this, but I’m going to do it anyway: add butter to your baked beans and stir it through until it melts. Just try it.

Aubergine is located at 18 Barker Street, Griffith. It’s open for dinner from Wednesday to Saturday from 6:00 pm till late … when the ACT isn’t in lockdown.

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Caitlin mention RebelRebel in Ainslie. Where in Ainslie? I only know the one in Marcus Clarke Street.

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