14 March 2024

Five minutes with Wayne Alger, Edgar's Inn

| Claire Sams
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A man in a dark coat and glasses

Wayne Alger is once again making a home at Edgar’s Inn – and cooking up a storm. Photo: Darcy Oliver.

Who are you?

Wayne Alger. I’m the executive chef, which means I oversee the food in the Edgar’s building.

How did you get your current position?

I worked here at Edgar’s before I went to work at Pialligo Estate and XO, and I’ve been back since November. Coming back felt like coming home. It was very exciting to come back and see familiar faces and regulars that were there when I was here two or three years ago.

What is your food philosophy?

We really lean into quality produce. We’re actively searching for quality produce and not tampering with it too much.

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How did you get involved in the hospitality industry?

I joined the army straight out of his school when I was 17. When I got out of the army, I really just fell into hospitality.

The moment when you have an opportunity to have an impact is what’s kept me in hospitality, but what got me there in the first place was connections. I knew people who worked in restaurants, and I started washing dishes. If one of the guys had a sick day or they were short-staffed, I’d jump on the line, and it just grew from there. Working in dynamic environments where things are always moving, there’s always something to learn.

What are the top three menu items that really show what your venue can do?

At The Inn, we do a raw snapper with coconut and lemongrass – that’s probably our top dish. We also have a Wagyu 9+ bavette, which is an absolutely unbelievable piece of meat. Sticking to our pub roots, we serve it with fries and watercress. As for desserts, our passionfruit eclair with meringue and raspberries is popular at the moment.

What is your favourite or must-use ingredient when cooking?

My cupboard is stacked full of ginger, galangal and lemongrass. I recently did a stint at XO [before their closure in late 2023], and I was inspired by those sorts of ingredients.

Dish of thick noodles topped with an egg on white table at XO.

Wayne was inspired to delve into Southeast Asian food from his time at the Asian fusion restaurant XO, which operated for eight years in Narrabundah. Photo: Lucy Ridge.

What was the most memorable meal you’ve ever eaten?

The meal that really stands out and has had the biggest influence on my cooking is a white truffle linguini in Bologna. I was there in about 2014, but I can still see that bowl of pasta and the waiter.

It was the best olive oil I’d ever had and probably the best pasta and truffle I’ve ever eaten. It was just those three things cooked properly, and it was actually mind-blowing.

What is your favourite cuisine or food to eat?

Southeast Asian food. Working with the guys at XO and seeing their passion for Southeast Asian food really got me into it and made me aware of what it should be. But cooking-wise, I mainly stick to the curries – a lot of chicken curries and hearty vegetable curries with pumpkin, cauliflower and other hearty vegetables.

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Where was your best recent dining experiences?

One that I talk about a lot is the breakfast at Anatolia in Erindale. It’s a Turkish restaurant, and the big breakfast they do is a proper Turkish breakfast. It’s a massive spread, and if you get out there with friends on Saturday and Sunday, it’s the way I like to eat – a lot of sharing and a lot of laughter.

White Chaco always has good food and the service is super homely.

coconut, lemongrass and pickled radish snapper

Wayne says The Inn’s coconut, lemongrass and pickled radish snapper is one of their best-selling dishes at the moment. The Inn/Facebook.

Who are your biggest culinary influences?

I don’t think I could nail down people, but producers are probably what drives me the most. I eat a lot, and I’m at the markets almost every Saturday morning – if I see something I like, I get it. A lot of my decision-making around food is really driven by producers.

An easy one to finish – what’s your go-to coffee order?

A double espresso every time.

Edgar’s venues include Edgar’s Inn, The Inn, Wakefield’s Bar and Wine Room and Mama Dough Pizza. They’re located at 1 Edgar Street, Ainslie. Check out their menus and opening hours online.

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We had Mama Dough’s pizza’s last weekend. Two regular bases and one gluten free base.
They were the WORST pizzas that we had ever had. None of us could finish them. I absolutely hate to waste food – but I ended up throwing my pizza out. I could not get my teeth through the GF base. The other two regular pizza bases were both burnt. It has just about put us off pizzas for life. Please check the pizza makers and see what they are doing wrong. I can’t believe that pizzas are supposed to taste like!! Rating: 0/5.

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