Chef Tom Kime reveals the details of his next move [gallery]
“It’s great to say to people, you know, if you’re thinking about food in this way, you’re doing something that is good for the environment without being a tree-hugging hippy. The organic and the sustainable movement has changed – it’s no longer a country thing.”
Arguably one of the industry’s most passionate personalities when it comes to sustainability, chef Tom Kime has devoted his career to researching, sourcing and serving up dishes comprising sustainable produce. Best known in Sydney for spearheading Annandale’s sustainable seafood caf, Fish & Co., Kime announced earlier this year that he would be departing the inner west caf in to launch a new project, Middle Eastern restaurant, Ceru.
Drawing its name from the colour of the Mediterranean’s waters – cerulean – Kime says that Ceru is all about creating modern interpretations of street food from the Levant (Lebanon, Syria, Turkey, Israel) with seasonal, ethically sourced and sustainable ingredients.
Following great success in his hometown on London, Kime together with veteran British restaurateur, Barry Hilton, have decided to bring the Ceru brand to the streets of Sydney and will be opening on the ground floor of the Larmont Hotel in Potts Point this December.
“I’d written a book about street food a number of years ago while travelling extensively through Lebanon, Syria, Turkey and Jordan,” says Kime. “It was an amazing experience, and something that still sticks with me. When I was writing the book I travelled to a lot of places and tried numerous variations of similar dishes. What I found with Middle Eastern food is that it is cooked by people that are quite traditional – they are quite set in their ways of cooking and don’t really care what happens three miles down the road. It’s kind of similar to Italy in that respect. It’s very regional.
“What we’ve done with Ceru is create a menu inspired by food from the Levant as a general area – not specific food from one particular region. I wanted to sort of look at it with a world view.”
Kime sees the opening of Ceru as an extension, or reinterpretation of what he achieved at Fish & Co. All of the produce at Ceru is going to be free range, most of it will be organic, the fish will be MSC certified, and the wine list will comprise predominately of drops crafted by Australian winemakers that champion minimal intervention winemaking.
“I think if you really believe in sustainability, you can’t kind of unbelieve in it,” says Kime. “I really want to stand by my food ethics of food traceability and food province – I would never start a restaurant and not have sustainable fish. So for me, Ceru is an extension of who I am as opposed to a parting from Fish & Co. Having said that, the brand is quite young at heart and doesn’t have a serious tone of praying about sustainability, it’s about food to enjoy. There will be information on our food ethics available, but it’s not going to be communicated by each waiter as to how worthy we are. If you do that, you get pilloried for being full of shit.”
In terms of the food offering, Ceru will have a strong focus on shares plates with nothing above the $20 mark. Examples of what to expect include slow roast lamb shoulder with shawarma spices and a pomegranate and pistachio dressing; herbed zucchini and feta cheese fritters spiced with cumin, cayenne pepper, dill and mint; crisp apple, pomegranate and mint salad with green chilli, lemon and pine nuts; and the sustainable fish of the day.
“There is so much scope for food from that region. There are lots of beautiful flavours and textures with ingredients like fresh mint, pomegranate, pistaschio nuts and all sort of spices. Essentially what we’re doing with the food is that we are kind of making it un-Arabic by doing it in a very modern, contemporary way.”
In addition to sustainable and traceable produce, Kime has deliberately crafted the menu to cater to diners with food intolerances. Kime says that apart from the flat bread and chips, the entire menu at Ceru will be gluten-free and offer numerous options for vegans, vegetarians and meat eaters alike.
“I often have people who are genuinely coeliac coming and apologetically sort of saying ‘sorry I’m coeliac, what can I eat?’ Almost everything at Ceru is gluten-free, and it wasn’t actually that hard to do. To do that [cater to dietaries] with a smile on your face as opposed to saying, ‘oh god, bloody vegetarians, why should I cook for them’ which you often hear in the industry, is what we do. You know, people have come out for dinner at your restaurant and they pay your wages, so shut up and cook for them.”