BABs is best explained by Ellie Hayes O’Brien: “Essentially, BABs is just a bunch of bad-ass bitches getting together and doing what they do best”.
BABs is made up of Hayes O’Brien (chef), Bec Shave (restaurant and beverage manager), and Eva Balog marketing and design), and sees the trio host monthly restaurant pop-ups at female-led venues. “BABs is a space for those working, living, and enjoying Sydney’s ‘eat food and drink booze’ culture,” says Hayes O’Brien. “It’s also a space for community and for the sharing of collective skills.”
BABs all started from a conversation between Hayes O’Brien and Shave at their workplace Rising Sun Workshop. “The concept of pop-ups was becoming more common,” says Hayes O’Brien. “[We thought] it would allow us to gain experience, feed our desire to work with incredible people in the industry, and share tasty food and wine with guests.”
The BABs team work with likeminded industry folk for each event, which has included Mariana Escalera Beverido (The Alex), Laura Rheinlander (Bar Vincent), Heather Moon (Ele), and Victoria Rose (Jane) so far. “One of our biggest goals is to collaborate with as many other women as possible and provide a creative space for them to showcase their skills and explore new ideas,” says Hayes O’Brien. “We always endeavour to demonstrate the kind of safe, supportive, and uplifting work environment we’d like to see more of in the industry as a whole.”
Since launching BABs, the trio have run events across Sydney’s Inner West including a Mexican-style dinner at Valentinas; an Italian feast at One Another; a French bistro showcase at Either Or; a Malaysian diner-style pop-up at Kurumac; a sausage sizzle at Young Henrys; and a 12-course long lunch at Mud Studios.
But a recent event saw the group head interstate for the first time to Melbourne. The BABs team joined forces with Cams Kiosk to host a Spanish- and Portuguese-inspired Sunday lunch at the Abbotsford Convent. “Planning an event in another city definitely came with its own set of unique challenges, but it was such a rewarding learning experience for us in the end,” says Hayes O’Brien. “We were so grateful to have the opportunity to work with a team of Melbourne hospo bad asses to bring this event to life for a new audience.”
Getting pop-ups off the ground usually starts with picking a venue and then thinking about a chef to collaborate with. The rest tends to come together from there. “We love showcasing the skills and experience of our chefs, so if a chef we want to work with is particularly [good] at making pasta, we’ll often build a concept around highlighting that skill,” says Hayes O’Brien.
Once a theme is chosen, the team selects the kitchen and front-of-house teams for the event. Each pop-up also has a wine list curated by Shave, which aligns with the menu and its overall direction. “Each list has delicious wines made using minimal-intervention [methods],” says Shave. “We are able to design the lists with wines made by women as sole winemakers or as partnerships.”
The hard work is certainly paying off, with all events receiving a positive reception from guests. “We have been absolutely overwhelmed by the response so far,” says Hayes O’Brien. “We have received a truly heart-warming outpouring of love and positive feedback from our customers, as well as a huge amount of support from the hospitality community.”
The immediate future for BABs will involve more interstate pop-ups as well as collaborations with industry peers. “We want to keep broadening our horizons and setting new challenges for ourselves,” says Hayes O’Brien. “We love working with new people and we’re very much looking forward to expanding the concept and introducing what we do to some new audiences.”
Bringing people together over a shared appreciation for food, wine, and hospitality is at the core of what BABs is all about. “We always love meeting people who want to jump on the BABs train.”