Paul Carmichael, executive chef, Momofuku Seiōbo
I’m truly passionate about preserving tradition ...
Food has always a huge part of Paul Carmichael’s life. Originally from the island of Barbados, cooking and eating were joyous times for Paul that brought his entire family together. After studying at the Culinary Institute of America, Paul moved to New York City, where he worked in a number of renowned kitchens including wd~50, Asiate and Aquavit. He was at the helm of David Chang’s Momofuku Má Pêche kitchen as executive chef for four years, earning a number of accolades along the way, and in 2015 moved to Australia to head up the kitchen at Sydney’s Momofuku Seiōbo. Experimenting with Australian ingredients, Paul and his team devise a constantly changing tasting menu that celebrates the flavours of our surrounds. We caught up with Paul ahead of his special dinner with Josue Lopez at GOMA on July 13 for Good Food Month.
Growing up in Barbados, was food a big part of your childhood?
Food was a massive part of my childhood. A large part of my extended family is heavily involved in food, whether home cooks, pro cooks or farmers. My parents are awesome home cooks and my big brother is a pro. During my time as a kid, cooking and eating always meant loved ones and family. I miss weekends on my island in the old days, whether it was black pudding and souse on Saturdays with my cousins or Sunday lunch with my nuclear family. Weekends were always a memorable treat.
You’ve worked in some incredible restaurants around the world, including Aquavit, Asiate, and of course as sous chef at Momofuku Má Pêche in New York City. What was your most memorable experience over that time?
They were all amazing experiences in my life. I wouldn’t be here today without them, without the mentors I’ve collected along the way, without the great teammates and teachers I’ve had throughout those experiences. Each place gave me a different valuable tool. For example, I’ll never forget my time at wd~50, there Wylie Dufresne helped me to gain confidence in my own ability to create and trust my instincts. Without that I would have never become chef of Má Pêche, I think.
You moved to Sydney in 2015 to become the executive chef of Momofuku Seiōbo at The Star. As Momofuku’s first restaurant outside of New York, how does the dining experience differ at Seiōbo?
It’s extremely intimate, both for the customer and the staff. It feels as though someone is coming into your home each time a guest enters and sits.
Moving to Australia, did you find you had to adjust your approach to menu development?
Absolutely, everything here is different. It’s awesome though, because I have had the chance to learn (and am still learning) so many things.
Where do you draw inspiration for your dishes?
A lot of my inspiration comes from my childhood, my family (especially the women in my family) and the area I grew up in. I’m truly passionate about preserving traditions, so that also inspires me.
Do you have a favourite ingredient to work with at the moment?
That’s a tough one, because I love to experiment and there is so much to play with here in Australia.
You will be teaming up with GOMA’s Josue Lopez for an exciting dinner for Good Food Month – can you give us a hint of what diners might be treated to?
Well actually, we will be doing a dinner based on our mother’s recipes. Mama’s recipes! So each course will be our mother’s recipes cooked through the eyes and hearts of their professional kids. It’s going to be super exciting to honour these amazing women on this stage.
Are you sticking around to experience anything else at Good Food Month?
I wish! But I will have to head back and support my team at Seiōbo. Maybe next year.
What is stimulating you in the food industry at the moment?
It’s stimulating to see the constant growth and progression of the industry, and the development and nurturing of food movements that actually matter on a global scale.
What occupation would you love to do, if you were not a chef?
I would love to be a pro athlete but given my athleticism or lack thereof, more realistically I would be working with animals somehow.
Paul Carmichael will be in Brisbane for Good Food Month for the Momofuku Seiōbo dinner at GOMA on July 13 with Josue Lopez.