Who is Paul Wilson: I joined Monster Kitchen & Bar as executive chef last month.
Best recent dining experience: When I first arrived in Canberra in September a friend came to visit and we went to Raku. Wow! It was clean, fresh and tasty. I particularly loved the spicy tuna roll with the miso soup – a classic dish but it was done well.
Most embarrassing pantry item: I think this would be a lot of people’s embarrassing pantry find – Mi goreng noodles or some sort of packet ramen.
Must-buy ingredient: Lao Gan Ma chilli sauce. It’s definitely on the way to having a cult following like sriracha chilli sauce, although it’s more like a chilli jam. I put it on everything after a shift at work, and my favourite is the one with peanuts through it.
Next big thing: People are wanting to become involved and as educated as they can about their dining experiences so I think the next big thing will be guest-interactive gardens. How cool to be able to pick your own seasonal produce for the chefs to create something on the fly based on your pick, tastes and flavour profile preferences?
Favourite place for breakfast in the ACT: It’s all in the name – Morning Glory in NewActon. Definitely try the truffle mushroom dish with spinach, sweet potato and leek for breakfast. So nourishing. Don’t forget to add an extra egg (or two).
My Canberra food secret: Trust the people around you. This is not unique to Canberra but definitely relevant in such a tight-knit community. The recommendations I’ve received from friends have yet to disappoint.
Biggest culinary influence: Rasmus Kofoed who owns Geranium in Copenhagen, where I worked as sous chef. His mentality when it comes to food is something to behold. So much knowledge and respect for ingredients and culture.
Favourite cookbook: Is by Dan Hunter of Brae, Victoria. His book: Brae: Recipes and stories from the restaurant speaks to how his fine-dining approach to hyper-local cuisine made Brae not just into a restaurant but a dining destination.
Who I admire on the Canberra food and wine scene: Sean McConnell from Rebel Rebel. His is just great, tasty food which reminds me of my time in Europe at Geranium.
What’s on the menu this week: A dish I’m proud to be serving is hibachi-grilled cauliflower, macadamia satay, kaffir lime rice and crispy bits.
Where I’m going next: Aubergine in Griffith when I get a chance. And I’ll also be spending a fair bit of time at Monster! The restaurant has become a herbivore. We went fully vegetarian this week so we’ve been busy bringing indulgence and refinement to sustainable and conscious dining.
Death row meal: My old Thai chef Piak from when I worked at Laucala Island Resort in Fiji has mastered nasi goreng. I’d have it as spicy as he would make it, topped with three crispy fried eggs.
Impromptu dinner hack: Potato gnocchi with brown butter, cheese and black pepper – comforting and so tasty. The dish requires little prep, and you’re likely to have all the ingredients in your pantry (those week-old potatoes you forgot about are the best for making a great gnocchi dough). Make sure you take the brown butter to a deep, nutty flavour to really appreciate the final pan sauce.
Monster Kitchen & Bar is located in the Ovolo Nishi at 25 Edinburgh Avenue, Canberra. Monster has this week launched an all-vegetarian menu, which will be the focus for the next year.
It’s open for breakfast from Monday to Sunday, 7:00 am to 11:00 am; and dinner from Thursday to Saturday, 6:00 pm to 10:30 pm. The bar is open Monday to Sunday from 2:00 pm to 10:30 pm.