You might know Sydney-based chef Mitch Orr as the ‘pasta guy’. Remember his cult favourite pigs head macaroni at ACME, or lockdown-era Instagram tutorials for CicciaBella’s carbonara and aglio e olio? Or perhaps you know him as the ‘jatz man’, renowned for his irreverent spin on the classic Aussie cracker.
At present? He’s into veggies. Specifically, cooking them over the woodfire at Kiln – the bar and restaurant he helms perched 18-stories above ground at the Ace Hotel in Surry Hills. Kiln’s 100+ seat dining room designed by Melbourne-based firm Fiona Lynch Office reflects Orr’s relaxed yet refined menu, featuring stracciatella with grilled peach and shiso, wagyu tartare, grilled coral trout with pistachio sauce and oyster mushroom with fermented onion glaze. “Trying to be hyper seasonal and working with farmers like Newcastle Greens, Duckfoot Farms & Epicurean Harvest is very rewarding,” says Orr.
Below, Orr talks with T Australia about the other Australian venues he’s excited about, his early role models and shares his recipe for Kiln’s Roasted Eggplant and Macadamia.
On becoming a chef…
I knew I wanted to be a chef from a relatively young age. Cooking shows were becoming a thing with Hewy and Jamie Oliver being on free-to-air TV. In high school I took food technology and hospitality studies, which led to doing work placement, which led to a kitchen hand job, which led to an apprenticeship. And here we are.
On his journey to Kiln…
The partnership with Ace has been in the works for a couple of years. Luckily (for me) I hadn’t been working full time for the last few years, just keeping busy with private gigs and things like that. The downtime has been really good for me, but it’s great to be back feeding people in such an amazing space.
On maintaining drive…
I don’t know how to do anything else? I don’t think about it in that way… It’s my creative outlet, and I’m lucky enough to be paid for it. Like any job, there’s good and bad days, and stress. Things like seeing people enjoying what we create it, shaping and building a team, hopefully having a hand in forming the next generation of chefs that shape the Sydney food scene is what makes the hard days worth it.
On unwinding after service…
I’m old and tired. After service I go home, cuddle my cats, eat, maybe watch some TV and roll into bed. My unwinding really happens on days off and in the mornings when I can cycle, go to yoga or Pilates and jump in the ocean to reset and refresh.
On what excites him about the industry…
We’ve been really lucky to find some talented young staff, both front- and back-of-house. Working with them, helping to shape them into leaders and watching them take the next steps in their careers, is the most exciting thing.
On the other venues on his radar …
Ah, damn, Sydney is really blessed. There’s far too many to list so I’m definitely leaving people out. I’m really looking forward to seeing what Ibrahim Khasif does when Beau opens, Jake Kellie at Arke in Adelaide is doing some really cool stuff, Dan Puskas and Tony Skiff at Sixpenny continue to be peers who really inspire me. Clayton Wells’ first venture post-Automata opens soon at the new Art Gallery. I could go on and on.
Kiln’s Recipe for Roasted Eggplant with Macadamia and Curry Leaf
Serves 2 as a side
180g roasted eggplant
40g macadamia cream (see below)
10g toasted macadamia
2g fried curry leaves
10g palm sugar dressing (see below)
10g extra virgin olive oil
5g Murray River pink salt
1kg raw macadamias
500ml macadamia milk
Lightly season the macadamias with flake salt and toast in the oven at 150-degrees until golden brown
While still warm, blitz in the Thermomix at 60-degrees until smooth
Transfer to a container and let cool down
Once cooled, whip the macadamia butter with the macadam milk to create a smooth and light cream
Add salt if needed
Palm sugar dressing
200g palm sugar
200g rice wine vinegar
100g white soy
15g kombu powder
Shave the palm sugar
Place palm sugar and rice wine vinegar in a pot and place over a low heat to dissolve the palm sugar
Remove from the heat and whisk in remaining ingredients
Transfer to a squeezy bottle for service
Dress the plate with the macadamia cream
Top with roasted eggplant
Season the eggplant with salt
Dress with palm sugar dressing and extra virgin olive oil
Top with toasted macadamia and fried curry leaves