Getting "romantic" with Jamie Oliver, a hidden Thai canteen + the perfect Japanese cafe

P.S. Being almost famous is really weird

A Bite-Sized Summary:

  • Sincerely, Sofia: I’m pre-famous and it’s a bit weird, tbh

  • Go Here: Chooka’s Japanese cafe serves omusubi rice balls with soul

  • The Scoop: The Thai canteen hidden in a suburban gas station

  • Interview: "I’m getting romantic, but I don’t give a f---": Jamie Oliver

  • Hot List: 6 food tidbits to inspire, desire and acquire

  • Turn the Tables: (deservingly) brutal customer reviews by hospo staff

  • Revisit: access past newsletters here

I bet you recognise at least one of the two people in the above photo. Lately, when someone asks what I do, I relish saying I’m a food writer and keeping the MasterChef news to myself. I won’t be able to do that much longer. This person summed it up wonderfully in my Instagram comments:

Knowing you’re about to be famous is very weird. Still, my hope is that when everyone gets the questions out of the way (“Do you actually try the food hot?”), we can talk about why I started in the first place — to share under-the-radar restaurants, food stories and guides — with my incoming public profile a simple means to nurture curiosity around cuisines and boost small hospitality businesses. What a privilege, that my little “lesser-known newsletter” will soon be ironically named.

So without further ado, please enjoy this dispatch featuring a heart-on-sleeve interview with Jamie Oliver; a brand new Thai canteen hidden in a petrol station; a Japanese cafe that goes beyond being “aesthetic”, and more. Whether you’ve been with me from the start or this is your very first newsletter, thank you so much for joining me on this edible adventure.

Sincerely, Sofia x

P.S. If you’re interested in how I started, listen to this 25-min Broadsheet podcast.

GO HERE: Chooka’s Japanese cafe serves omusubi rice balls with soul in Brunswick

I could easily eat here every day. TikTok might have spread the word about this “aesthetic cafe”, but social media missed what makes it special — the story of the owners and symbolism of the food.

THE SCOOP: Fill your belly & car at this hidden Thai canteen in a petrol station

Hats off to former lawyer Thienrat Yindeeram, who took the plunge and opened a traditional Thai khao kang (curry over rice shop) in a Mitcham BP last month. In Thailand, these cafeteria-style eateries offer quick, affordable and homely dishes to people on the move. Now Melbourne’s east has one, too.

INTERVIEW: “I know I’m getting romantic, but I don’t give a f---”: Jamie Oliver

Let me tell you, spending two weeks with Jamie Oliver on MasterChef Australia was an absolute dream. The man wears his heart on his sleeve and is generous beyond belief. Here’s a personal chat we had that includes his favourite Melbourne restaurants, why he loves Australia and what food means to him.

HOT LIST: tidbits to inspire, desire & acquire

I’m obsessed with… Diaspora Co. salt tigers. Swap your salt pig for this vibrant, hand-painted ceramic salt tiger. Brought to you by Diaspora Co., whose mission is to grow a radically new and equitable spice trade. They pay farm partners 6x above commodity price on average, not just connecting with community, culture and heritage, but respecting it. Pre-order here.

I’m booking… the Scarf x Rumi fundraising dinner. As part of their 10-week seasonal program, social enterprise Scarf is hosting two Middle Eastern banquets at Rumi in Brunswick East, which provide paid front-of-house experience for their trainees, all of who are from refugee and migrant backgrounds or young people seeking protection. May 8 and 15, register here.

I’m cooking from… On Sundays by Dave Verheul. Whether you cook from Dave’s book or simply flick through the photography, there’s no doubt these recipes from the Embla chef are stunning in their simplicity. Divided by season, each chapter contains recipes for long lunches and weekend entertaining, whether winter feasts by the fire or lazy summer afternoons punctuated by poached rainbow trout and artichokes with raw venison.

I’m coveting… Simkhai 'Bridget' shell clutch. Coming in at a cool $725 for the silver option and more than $1000 for the gold, this bag made from metal and cast in the shape of a shell with a velvet interior may very well remain on my ‘coveted’ list forever. Available via here.

I’m craving… Tori’s melon cakes. This Asian-inspired, Japanese-leaning laneway bakery in Melbourne CBD always has exciting cakes, but there’s something about their marugoto melon cake that is extra enticing. Cantaloupes have their middles scooped out and are filled with layers of fruit, sponge and cream, balancing freshness with decadence.

I’m reading… Padma Lakshmi walks into a bar in The New Yorker. I adore food writer and editor Helen Rosner’s articles, and this one about former Top Chef judge, model and aspiring comedian (!), Padma Lakshmi, is no exception. I’ve always loved Padma for her forthrightness and the way she doesn’t take herself too seriously. It’s intriguing in the context of her obvious beauty. To quote the article, “Beauty is not an accomplishment, but wit is.” Read it here.

TURN THE TABLES: Customer Reviews

Are you in hospitality and want to let off some steam? Submit your customer review here. Anonymous reviews welcome.

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