The W+ Food: Chef John Rivera’s Lume / Melbourne
As a Filipino designer and a food lover, it’s no surprise that I am a big fan of the Philippine’s cuisine. For about five years now, Filipino restaurants and pop-ups have been making a mark as the Gourmand’s destination globally. James Beard awardee Tom Cunanan of Washington DC’s Bad Saint and Asia’s 50 Best Winner, Chef Jordy Navarro of Manila’s Toyo Eatery, prove that food inspired by or derived from the Philippines is finally getting its due not just to diners but chefs and critics all around the world.
An amazing meal I’ve had just this past weekend at Restaurant Lume in Melbourne, hosted by Design Writer Sandra Tan and Executive Chef John Rivera, both fellow Filipinos, show very much how far our gastronomic vernacular has become part of the mainstream offering. Launched in 2015, Lume set the stage for highly-praised and super creative Australian dishes within a converted single-story Victorian Structure housed in a former Burlesque Hall. Chef Rivera took over the reins as Executive Chef in January of this year, having the baton passed on from founders and mentors Chef Shaun Quade and John-Paul Fiechtner. If our Friday night menu is indicative of anything, it is that Chef John Rivera is willing to take Lume to new directions- a dialogue of flavors between two cultures; one being his Filipino heritage and the other formed using the same organic ingredients from land and sea around Australia that have pretty much shaped much of Lume’s deliciously wild menu while Chef Quade was at its helm.
Chef Rivera’s 12-course meal for us came written in both English and Tagalog (Filipino’s main dialect), but at the end of the meal so that the adventure was an unfolding array of flavours. My favorites included a tangy dish composed of Marron With Smoked Padron Peppers and Tiger’s Milk, or as I know it in the Tagalog menu, the “Bicol Express”. The “Tinapay at Kanin" or The Bread Made of 3 Kinds of Rice was really a textural wonder to try- a melt in the mouth bread which tasted very similar to our local sweet delicacy in the Philippines called, “Puto”. Lastly the meats-focused main courses, the “Bistek Australyano” or the Seven’s Creek Wagyu fermented in Black Bean and Sunrise Lime and the “Lechon” or as the menu stated it, “Western Plains pork cooked over charcoal”- showed just how serious Chef Rivera was at earnestly translating the flavours we both grew up with, but without making it any a less to fit local ingredients and palates, especially since Lume’s repeat customers for the last four years are still returning again and again. If anything Chef Rivera’s dishes elevate and celebrate local ingredients and cultural diversity, both of which Melbournians are very much proud of within their city.
Just a few more notes about my hosts. Sandra Tan is also a prominent proponent of Filipino Cuisine, as she is part of a non-profit group dubbed The Entree Pinays, aimed at helping “to raise awareness and acelebration of Filipino food and culture via creative collaboration, community, experiences and stories”, with a focus on educating and enlightening Australians as a whole regarding Filipino cuisine. And most recently, Chef John Rivera was made winner of the S.Pellegrino Young Chef 2018. Now at 25 years old, Chef Rivera recently explained to Hospitality Magazine in Australia that this award helped him develop “confidence” in his own cooking styles making the kind of cuisine he ultimately wanted to create. He said, “The competition reaffirmed for me that cooking differently and being unorthodox is a great thing.”
This blog post was made possible with the Camera, Photo, and SquareSpace apps, all on the iPhone XS MAX and the iPad Pro 2018.
VISIT Restaurant Lume . 226 Coventry Street, South Melbourne, VIC 3205, Australia. T: +61-3-9690-0185 . W: http://www.restaurantlume.com