After spending a lot of her profession working alongside David Thompson, it’s protected to say Annita Potter is aware of a factor or two about Thai delicacies. From Nahm to Lengthy Chim, her profession has taken her to Paris, London, Singapore, and Thailand. However after a long time residing overseas, she determined to place down roots in Sydney and open Viand in Woolloomooloo.
Potter’s providing at Viand is just not the type of Thai delicacies most are aware of — and that’s precisely how she likes it. Potter seems again on her profession with Hospitality, masking classes realized from Thompson and the delicacies she’s serving up at Viand.
Annita Potter grew up in Perth with a Croatian and Italian household, which noticed her swiftly immerse herself on the planet of cooking. “Meals was an enormous factor in our household,” she says. “It was all the time speaking concerning the subsequent meal through the meal we had been consuming.”
Whereas her father needed her to change into an accountant, Potter determined to move down the culinary profession path. “I didn’t actually know what the trade would seem like in any respect, I used to be an individual going, ‘Yeah, I can prepare dinner’.”
Potter’s first apprenticeship was at Bay Restaurant in Perth, with the chef occurring to work abroad like most of her friends. However not like those that opted to go to London, she determined to problem herself by heading to Paris. It was right here the place she labored at The Kitchen, which served French and European delicacies, with Potter feeling like a really small fish in a really large pond.
However after her mom turned unwell, Potter returned to Perth and had plans to tackle a job in Italy in a while. However the restaurant abruptly closed and she or he discovered herself in Perth for longer than anticipated. “It’s once I actually determined I didn’t need to be there … I wanted one thing else,” she says.
The prolonged keep become a pivotal second for the itchy-footed chef. She discovered herself at a dinner hosted by her soon-to-be mentor and Thai delicacies knowledgeable David Thompson. “I bought him [Thompson] to signal a guide and all I used to be considering was, ‘Oh my god, I need to be such as you’,” she says.
Amidst the awe, Potter took Thompson’s e-mail handle and despatched him her resume. Months handed and she or he heard nothing, occurring to journey to London. Potter determined to strategy Thompson’s Michelin-starred restaurant Nahm in particular person and take a look at her luck. “The subsequent factor I do know I’m banging on the door in London saying, ‘I desire a job!’” she laughs.
Nahm’s head chef gave Potter a gruelling 12-hour trial shift solely to inform her there have been no positions accessible when it was over. “Nonetheless, he thought I might be an ideal match within the kitchen,” she says. “[He said] if I might give him a number of days to speak with David, he might maybe create a place.” Quickly after, Potter obtained the decision to say she was employed — and that’s the place her journey with Thompson started.”
“It was a type of sink-or-swim kitchens and doubtless one of many hardest I’ve labored in,” says Potter on Nahm’s kitchen surroundings. “Each single factor was finished completely and if it wasn’t, it was finished once more.” Potter says Thompson’s dedication to preserving Thai delicacies is one thing to be admired. “He doesn’t compromise and nor ought to he,” she says. “He has realized a lot — he’s mainly the oracle of Thai meals.”
Thompson’s dishes are primarily based on foundational Thai recipes translated into English, with the chef solely barely modifying the originals to make use of accessible, modern-day elements. “He believes in standing up for the integrity of the delicacies fairly than permitting issues to alter or soften,” says Potter. “It has taught me to maintain that very same stage of labor ethic and authenticity.”
Potter labored with Thompson at Nahm for a couple of yr till it closed. Earlier than the restaurant shut down, Thompson approached every workers member and requested about their best subsequent office. “Everybody was like, ‘I need go and work with Gordon Ramsay’, or ‘I need go and work with Heston Blumenthal’,” she remembers.
“He [Thompson] would name them up, and mainly all the needs had been granted.” Whereas she admits it was an enormous alternative career-wise, Potter travelled abroad to work with Thompson. “I stated to him, ‘I got here to work with you, so you discover me a job’,” she says. Thompson instructed Potter there was a place for her in Bangkok — and it’s the place she went.
The chef relocated to Thailand with Thompson to arrange base and went on to launch the primary Lengthy Chim restaurant in Singapore. It was a time of bouncing between nations for Potter who describes the expertise as “mainly every part I needed to do”.
The 2 cooks finally returned to Australia to open Lengthy Chim in Sydney. Potter says it was a memorable however demanding expertise. “I felt loads of strain myself being absolutely conscious it was David coming dwelling [to Australia],” she says.
Lengthy Chim opened in Martin Place, with one other native venue launching in Melbourne. Potter was left to run the Sydney kitchen whereas Thompson was in Melbourne. “He [Thompson] was out and in, however it was my kitchen and every part was my accountability,” she says. “I fell into the pocket of getting used to that highlight and embracing it … I don’t know if I essentially favored or disliked that place — it was simply my job.”
After six months, Potter set off once more to Bangkok and London earlier than returning to Sydney in 2019 to open Viand. Launching her personal venue was all the time on the playing cards for the chef, even when she was working with Thompson. “It was whether or not or not I stick with David and proceed leaping world wide,” she says. “However issues had been getting to some extent the place if I used to be going to do one thing, I wanted to begin interested by it quickly.”
Viand was a pop-up within the Mint in 2020 till early 2021 earlier than it moved into extra everlasting digs in Woolloomooloo the next yr in March. Viand’s menu options five- and eight-course degustation menu choices, which Potter says was a aware alternative. “It’s what eating was once, the place diners could be like, ‘Simply take care of me and take care of me nicely’, fairly than the forgotten diner who simply will get thrown a menu.”
Potter’s strategy to Thai delicacies is closely influenced by her time with Thompson, and the result’s fairly completely different to what most Sydney diners are acquainted with. “I’m attempting to push boundaries with issues persons are not used to consuming,” says Potter. “However with Sydney having Thai meals for thus a few years, it’s like me saying, ‘It’s not likely Thai meals you’re consuming’.”
Potter says she needed to be very cautious with how far she went with unfamiliar flavours and dishes. “The Sydney [market] is so shut knit, they know what they like and have excessive expectations.”
Among the dishes you’ll discover on Potter’s menu embrace a crimson curry of minced quail with younger ginger snake beans, and nutmeg plus Gregory Island tiger prawns with banana blossom, golden shallots, and chilli jam. However one thing you received’t come throughout? Inexperienced curry.
“I’m not doing inexperienced curry or any of these sorts of issues as a result of the native place down the nook you’ve been going to for years would be the benchmark,” says Potter. “Whether or not it’s good or dangerous, it doesn’t matter. However the inexperienced curry I give you can be utterly completely different, and since you’re not used to it, it’ll robotically be improper.”
One dish on Viand’s menu pays homage to Potter’s time with Thompson, along with her model primarily based on the egg nets he served at Nahm. “I don’t name them egg nets to barely disassociate myself from him and his cooking, however basically it’s an ode to my time working with David,” says Potter. “It was one of many first dishes I had within the kitchen at Nahm that nearly remodeled how I noticed Thai meals.”
Potter says there’s fairly a number of dishes which have sprinklings of Thompson’s approach and elegance, however the egg nets stand out. “It’s probably the most memorable, in each good and dangerous methods,” she laughs.
Viand has been open for simply over a yr, and Potter and her staff really feel very grateful for the help and robust following of return prospects. “It’s these regulars who come again in and hold you kicking,” she says. “They help you develop and progress as a result of they’re like, ‘We’ve finished this a few occasions, what’s subsequent?’”
As for the aim for the remainder of 2023? There aren’t any grand plans in the meanwhile, however the purpose is to proceed common service together with the restaurant’s sell-out BYO nights and hands-on cooking masterclasses led by Potter herself.
If you happen to ever end up visiting Viand, you’ll you’ll want to see the chef in motion in Viand’s open kitchen. For Potter, there’s no different place she’d fairly be. “Everybody retains telling me it’s uncommon I’m within the kitchen because the identify chef, however they’re coming in to eat my meals,” she laughs. “So maybe it’s me with a concern of lacking out, however I need to prepare dinner for everyone.”