The team at Glam were fortunate enough recently to sit down with world-renowned chef, Sean Connolly, of Sean’s Kitchen to discuss his love for Adelaide, all things food; including, his advice for young chefs, his food beliefs, what he loves to cook with, where he loves to dine in Adelaide, his incredible journey in the industry, what his final meal would be if he were to choose and where to find the best potatoes in the world (yes things got a bit interesting)!
Sean has been in the industry for 35 years, so to say he is a pro would be an understatement! The boy from West Yorkshire caught the cooking bug from his grandmother, he would go to her house after school and they would bake together. He got his first gig in a kitchen at the age of 12 and has been flat out ever since. A simple fun hobby ignited a passion in Connolly which he has turned into an extraordinary career we all get to enjoy too!
Now, here at Glam we sure do LOVE Sean’s Kitchen (mmm…that seafood platter), but after this interview, we were honestly debating what we like more, the restaurant or Mr. Connolly himself?! His love for what he does is paramount and his friendly nature gave us a glimpse to see why the man behind the best chips in the world has had such great success.
Here is our interview with the man himself!
Glam Adelaide: Those bread loafs look amazing!
Sean Connolly: They’re fresh too!
GA: Yum, this interview is going to make us hungry but we have to focus! So… what can you tell us about the new summer menu at Sean’s? Do you like to change it a lot?
SC: My menu doesn’t change very often, I only change 15% of the menu every season. I just feel like people come to the restaurant for the classic dishes. Like the ricotta gnocchi or a really good steak or seafood platter. I want to be known for those sorts of things. I’m kind of at an age now, north side of 50, where I just want to go to a place where it’s nice and simple and I understand the food. But generally what I do when I’m looking at the restaurants is go for the summer favourites, so we do lots of tomato, strawberries and asparagus and spring chicken and spring lamb etc. And then on the flip side of that during winter I go for pumpkin, nuts and mushrooms. That’s kind of how I roll.
There are some beautiful changes coming to the menu. We will be making our own fresh tomato juice for our Bloody Marys. So we will be cold pressing our own tomatoes. And again focusing on summer salads. I’m big on salads!
GA: What are your favourite ingredients to cook with?
SC: I really love seafood. I love the simplicity of raw food. Clean fish or salmon belly thinly sliced, olive oil, lemon, and chili. I like making ricotta gnocchi at home and just sort of poaching it to order and feeding to my friends. Instead of you know the mushroom gnocchi we just do tall mint and peas and maybe feta it’s quite beautiful – nice and simple. When I’m hankering for home and I just want a nice meal and I just say to the guys in the kitchen, throw the roast chicken on. A roast chicken and a nice glass of pinot.
GA: Is there somewhere you draw some inspiration from? Stuff you love eating?
SC: The inspiration just comes from being plain and simple and pure and not being too tricky. I don’t hide behind foam, smoke, and bubbles. I let the produce speak for itself. When it comes to that point of just simple food there’s not much you can do to it; treat it well, respect it, cook it well and then present it on the plate.
GA: What do you love about Adelaide? We’ve read it’s your favourite out of all of them!
SC: It is! Here’s the thing, I love all my “children” equally and they’ve all got different characters I would say. What I love when I talk about South Australia to others, I just talk about the wonderful young winemakers in the Adelaide Hills, the kind of cool, eclectic style of people in Adelaide. There is probably nowhere like it on the planet, I have to say a couple of places it reminds me of – the village in New York or maybe Auckland, where everyone has cool haircuts and you go where did they get them from? It is really cool to see Adelaideans that have left and come back and brought back ideas from all over the world obviously with their own Adelaide twist. See we’ve got Clever Little Taylor, you just see that vibe and it’s infectious and there are so many cool cats.
GA: What makes Adelaide different to other places you’ve been to/worked in?
SC: Cool culture. It is super cool. The people are lovely, I’ve been coming down here for 3 years and I feel like I go out in the city and I get to see all my friends and extended family.
GA: Where do you go and eat when you’re here that isn’t here
SC: I really like Pink Moon Saloon – I love that. I like, the really traditional Italian places; I love Chianti and Osteria Oggi as well, that’s super trendy.
GA: Do you have any advice to future chefs?
SC: Don’t be deterred by the hard world. Follow your passion because it all pays off in the end. If you really love something it doesn’t become work anymore.
GA: So how many restaurants do you have now?
SC: So I have 6
GA: How do you keep a handle on that?
SC: Really good managers, and really good F & B structures. I have 3 that I’ve partnered with Sky City. I have 2 that I co-own with on the east coast of Sydney and the other one is in downtown Dubai with another hospitality group.
GA: Do you do all the menus at all of them?
SC: Nothing goes past me.
GA: That’s a lot for you to do?
S: Not really…everything has that silver thread running through it. Like, the chips are the chips all over the world.
GA: Are they loved all over the world like they are here?!
SC: I think it was 2008/2009 it won best chips in the world in Wallpaper magazine in Paris. But it is so hard to find the right spuds and its so up and down people get confused what a real chip is anymore and they think that they all taste like the chips that come out of the freezer. Where I come from we cook all our chips in animal fat and they all soggy when they come in brown paper but they taste meaty and sweet but as we moved onto the 21st century were looking for a crisp chip that tastes meaty and sweet and it’s a real challenge every day. We analyse our chips on a daily basis we don’t always get it right. It’s all about how long they’re kept in the ground and whether the carbs turn to sugar in the ground. If the carbs turn to sugar in the ground it all turns to custard and they just start to go brown and sweet and horrible. We want them to come direct from the farmer without going into the fridge. If they go into the fridge for one night or two, again the starch turns to sugar, and so they start to burn and go brown. We’re really passionate about paddock to plate and where the chips come from.
But the best potatoes on the planet are NZ, it makes me want to cry they’re so good it’s like the ultimate chip on the planet. Worth the visit.
GA: What do you think comes really good from Adelaide? What’s SA’s claim to fame in food world?
SC: I would say the limestone coast beef. The Spencer Gulf prawns. Coffin bay oysters. Any wine the comes out of SA is good; it’s the most amazing place on the planet to grow wine.
GA: When did you know you wanted to be a chef?
SC: Like any young kid when your parents work. They were very busy earning a living, raising a young family in Yorkshire, so, I ended up going to my grandmas after school a lot and I enjoyed cooking with her. She was quite inspirational, lots of fun and it was just a joy to be around. It was quite simple and we cooked together a lot. My mother was very supportive of me cooking, I used to cook a lot in her kitchens and do the buffet for all her events with her. My father was an academic; he could tell I was never going to follow in his footsteps. So he got me a job in a 5-star hotel on a prawn cocktail section. I think I was 12 and a half it was on a Friday and Saturday night and I was working for free for work experience. I was in charge of slicing cucumbers, quartering lemons, adding tomato sauce to the mayonnaise. I knew then I wanted to be a cook. There was one point, I was watching this guy – you should look him up – his name is Alan Whicker, from Whicker’s World. He had a safari suit on and he had homemade glasses and a big handlebar mustache, and he was like the number one travel TV presenter in the world. He was on the QE2 and he was downstairs in the stores and he was talking about the fact that QE2 had the third of the world’s wild caviar on the ship. And I said to my granddad, Ted, at the time “I’m going to be a chef on a big ship.” And I got a job on the QE2 at the age of 19 and then by the time I was 20 I was the caviar boy on the QE2 and I would go down from the main kitchen down to the 7th floor and collect the wild caviar.
GA: Did you sample that caviar?
SC: Hell Yes!! I made a career out of it.
GA: If you were to pick what your last meal be, would it be caviar?
SC: You know what it’s really interesting, the home side of me says my mum’s corn beef pie is the one to taste on the way out. Every year I go back and it’s the one thing I love. As a wanker chef, I’d probably want to die in a kilo of caviar just stick my head in it. That’s the way I would like to go!
See what we mean about which we like better now?!
North Terrace Adelaide, SA, 5000
Monday – Sunday 11am-10pm