With a line-up that includes Margot Henderson (Rochelle Canteen), Olia Hercules, Sandia Chang (Bubbledogs) and Freddie Janssen, the International Women’s Day meal at Balls & Company will bring together some of the very best female chefs to cook dishes inspired by the women who’ve had an impact on their lives. Founder Bonny Porter gives us the lowdown
Words Hannah Hopkins
Do you think it can be tough for female chefs to get into the restaurant industry?
Being a chef is no longer a man’s world – there are plenty of talented and hardworking women in the industry. In saying that, like in many industries, there is a glass ceiling and there are instances when men get the job over women.
If you were to cook a dish inspired by the woman who’s had an impact on your life, who would that be and what would you cook?
My mum of course! She has an emerging allergy to Mammalian Meat which was caused from a tick bite. So, the dish would be free of mammal meat and its by-products to ensure that she could enjoy it!
Which other chefs are you most inspired by?
Kylie Kwong is an Australian Chef and Restauranteur of Billy Kwong in Sydney. If you’re in the area – go! She is not only one of the kindest chefs I know, but is extremely talented at pairing native Australian fauna & flora with Chinese regional dished.
Whose food or restaurant have you been blown away by this year?
Temper in Soho hands down.
What do you love most about the London food scene? What’s it like in comparison to the Australian food scene?
I love that London food scene is a bit selective in the fads that it is willing to follow. It’s almost old fashioned and doesn’t dive head first into a craze without reason.
The Australian food scene is very different – it gives everything a go – its the Aussie way! It tends to borrow of multiple ideas or concepts to create individual offerings.
What are your biggest restaurant bug-bears?
People haven’t caught on that labour is money. Being a chef is a tough gig and it pays poorly considering the long standing hours, pressure and heat. People complain that something costs an amount and rarely think about the labour involved in creating that dish.
You competed in Masterchef Australia. What was the experience like, what was most challenging and how has it helped you in the industry?
I competed in Masterchef Australia: The Professionals – the only professional series Australia has done to date. I loved filming as it was the sheer logistics of a single episode was fascinating! The actual experience was stressful, with the entire experience meticulously planned to make the contestants as emotional as possible. There is only a one ten minute phone call a week to the family and no knowledge of current events, little sleep with long hours waiting in a green room for the unknown.
I set up my own company when I was 25 years old – as a young woman, deaf and an expat, having Masterchef under my belt made it easier to take me seriously.
Your restaurant Balls & Co is meatball focused, how did that concept come about? Did you see meatballs emerging as the next big food trend over here?
The Australian industry is very different from that in the UK. As such it was easy for me to see a gap in the market. Meatballs had been well received in Sydney, Melbourne & New York and had yet to be realised here. I wanted to take the idea of meatballs and make it my own.
What inspired the delicious array of chosen balls for the menu?
Balls & Company is all about doing the simple stuff well. Our suppliers are mostly family run, UK based businesses with a commitment to provenance and traceability. Producers are really the unsung heroes of this industry. It is their premium products which means that creating different flavours really just comes down to how to showcase each ball in the best way. Every dish is made to order, as such freshness and simplicity is key.
You place huge emphasis on local and family run suppliers. Why is this so important to you? And how do you go about finding your sources and suppliers?
I firmly believe that producers are the unsung heroes of this industry. If we get a premium product that is reared with care, and continue to do it justice in the kitchen, then there is very little that can go wrong. Balls & Company is an independent business – we have our ups and downs and family run suppliers understand this. I find my suppliers through good old fashioned research and word of mouth.
What is your favourite cuisine to eat and cook?
Asian food. Each cuisine finds a balance or harmony in each dish slightly differently – Vietnamese add fresh herbs, Malaysian cuisine is grounded in harmonious spice base and Chinese cuisine uses ferments to find a balance. It fascinates me and I strive to add different ingredients in the quest for balance in my food too.
How do you unwind when you’re not working?
A glass of wine is always a good bet.
What are your plans for the future?
You’ll have to wait and see!
What advice would you give for aspiring chefs?
Passion is important. Drive is too. Being a chef is hard work but if you love what you do and can mentally keen yourself pushing forward it can be an incredibly rewarding profession.
The International Women’s Day Dinner will be held on the 8th March 2017 at Balls & Company, Greek Street Soho. ballsandcompany.london