Tucked away in McKillop Street, modern Asian restaurant, Red Spice Road’s chilli caramel-glazed pork belly with apple slaw, is so popular it could have its own Facebook page. It may be due to this dish alone that the restaurant recently won The Age Good Food Guide 2016 People’s Choice Award.
We talked to U.S.-born Head Chef, Noah Crowcroft, who has worked at the famous Jeffrey’s restaurant in Texas, before making his way to Melbourne to work with Shane Delia at Maha and now at Red Spice Road’s flagship restaurant.
Tell us a little about why you decided to become a chef?
When I got myself into trouble as a teenager, my father would send me to his best mate’s horse stud in rural Victoria to spend my summer holiday working the land. They had a massive vegie patch, plenty of chooks, as well as game to hunt. I filled my spare time dusting off old cookbooks and experimenting with the abundance of fresh produce at my fingertips. When I returned to Texas, I started working at restaurants in the dish pit and bussing tables, eventually working my way into the kitchen.
What makes Melbourne Australia’s food capital in your opinion?
I love the fact that you can eat almost any cuisine from around the world in Melbourne. It’s incredible! From a professional stand point, Melbourne seems to entice chefs from around the world to work here, myself included. There’s something about this city that draws in young chefs to learn, experience Melbourne’s fantastic food culture and make a career for themselves.
Your favourite city haunts for a meal or drinks with friends?
Like a lot of chefs, a late-night feed after service at Supper Inn has become almost ceremonious. When I worked at Maha, Shane Delia would often take the chefs out for an epic meal after a 15-hour shift. It was something to look forward to after a hard Saturday night service. I’ve kept that tradition going with my brigade. When I’m feeling homesick, I’m very fond of Fancy Hank’s BBQ. It smells like home as soon as I walk in and in my opinion it’s the best Texas BBQ in Melbourne!
What’s your favourite dish on the Red Spice Road menu and why?
Although the pork belly is our signature dish, one of my many favourites is our slow-cooked lamb shoulder with Burmese curry. It’s one of the few Southeast Asian curries that isn’t coconut-based, it’s a smoky tomato-based curry with lime pickles, which give it a very welcome intensity.
If you were going to make a dish that perfectly summarises Melbourne, what ingredients would it have?
Ingredients that summarise Melbourne–this is a tricky one! There is always so much happening with food in Melbourne, so ingredients that are locally sourced, tasty and sustainably sourced would be at the top of my list.