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Adam Humphrey may be serving up some of the best food in Australia, but he can’t resist a bacon butty made with cheap white sandwich bread!
Yorkshire lad Adam Humphrey has been taking Sydney by storm with his cheeky twist on British fare at the acclaimed Restaurant Arras, across the road from the Sydney Theatre Company at The Rocks. Before coming to Australia Adam honed his skills at the much-loved Castle Hotel in Somerset, while his partner Lovaine Allen did the same at Michel Bras and The Fat Duck. Together they opened Arras, named after a hill near Adam’s hometown, with the aim of changing conceptions about English cuisine with playful, intricate dishes.
Where did you grow up?
“I grew up in East Yorkshire and Singapore.”
When did you realise you wanted to be a chef?
“At four years old helping my mum make stroganoff and slicing my little finger severely – I thought cooking was cool after that!”
Is there one dish you still struggle to get right?
“I am pretty stubborn, so I will try and try until I can get a dish right. Generally speaking, it is breakfast – It is such a personal thing to cook someone, and I get frustrated! Lovaine, my girlfriend, does the best breakfast, so in our house we have that one covered!”
What does it take to be a successful chef?
“You have to be intelligent - contrary to popular belief - driven and a little bit mad! Also, understand that you will have to work stupidly hard for no reward most of your life!”
Worst job you have ever had?
“I’ve never had a bad job! They all have shaped me to the chef I am today. I still think back fondly on all of them. Although when my mum made me dig huge flower beds out of turf after I had shaved my head, was pretty bad! More punishment, then job I think!”
What is your signature dish?
“I tend not to believe in signature dishes – it can make a chef stagnant, and complacent. However, we are well known for our “Rack on Black”, a classic Northern English dish of lamb rack with house-made black pudding.”
What is unique about your restaurant?
“We serve modern British food, that’s pretty unique in Sydney and Australia as a whole. In reality it shouldn’t be popular! But it is what Lovaine and I are passionate about, and believe in.”
What is the chef serving in heaven?
“A bacon butty, made with good dry-cured bacon on cheap white, sliced bread with lots of butter!”
What is the most bizarre dish you have ever tried?
“I ate donkey sausage from a butcher in southern France. It wasn’t bizarre, apart from the fact that I used to ride the donkeys at the seaside in the UK! Food necessarily shouldn’t be bizarre, perhaps just a little challenging!”
What is one question people are always asking you?
“Can you check to see if this is right?” – it’s the best question, and imperative in our restaurant.”
What is your biggest food indulgence?
“A scotch egg cut in half with Hellman’s mayonnaise in the middle – not particularly extravagant, but fantastic!”
How do you have your coffee?
“Plentiful! Usually well made (not by me – I am too busy!), strong, with skimmed milk (I am trying to lose weight!). Failing that a good strong mug of Yorkshire tea!”
What ingredient are you obsessed with right now?
“I am currently obsessed with my organic stone-ground flours. Baking bread is a huge obsession of mine and these flours make it so much more enjoyable when baking the breads at the restaurant.”
Which three people would you invite to a dinner party?
“My parents (two, I know), Paul Weller and Sir Paul Smith. I am assuming I can bring my missus too! It would be a riot, and a well dressed one at that!”
What is your best tip for home cooks?
“Plan well, buy the best quality ingredients you can, and when you are confident, don’t be afraid to take a risk, it’s invigorating!”