If Mary’s in Newtown is known for anything, it would be their take no prisoners attitude to hospitality. Standing apart from the rest of the city, this week saw the iconic bar-meets-restaurant shake things up even more than normal with the first instalment in their ongoing series, Jump In The Fire. Aptly taking its name from a Metallica song, Mary’s with its dive bar vibe and always loud playlist will be hosting some of Australia’s finest chefs - throwing them into the fire pit that is Mary’s.
First off the rank is South African chef Duncan Welgemoed of Adelaide’s Africola, who was a particularly smart move, as he’s a man who believes that music and creativity go hand in hand. It’s inherent to his craft that food is all about creativity - and so music has in turn influenced that.
Regarding his involvement with Mary’s for one night only, Welgemoed told us “Jake and Kenny and the crew have always been our brothers and sisters. We share the same love for great food, fine wine, metal with no fucks given.” This is a man who’s equally passionate about his love for music as he is of cuisine. Of Mary’s itself, he’s equally keen. “It’s actually been a dream of mine to cook there. I love being around chaos and intensity, it’s a lot more fun than other fine dining’s kitchens.”
For him, heavy music is nothing new - becoming a big part of his life as far back as his teens. So does he think listening to such music has in any way inspired his work, and allowed him to rebel over his career? “Music has always been my escape and inspired me to challenge the status quo. It’s the soundtrack to our fringe community, it’s the heartbeat that keeps us going in this industry.” And if he could be the personal chef to any band in the world? “At the moment either Ghost or Birdcloud.”
With the rock ‘n roll lifestyle now associated with chef around the world, Welgemoed is vehement about who it’s not. But ultimately, he reckons the man who sums it up is Marco Pierre White. “His no fucks given attitude is something to aspire to. Someone that understands how to be equally reckless and Machiavellian within society is as rock and roll as it gets”.
Welgemoed certainly brought his take on this attitude to his one night stand at Mary’s. With a menu featuring fried chicken and butter chicken sauce, fries with chimichurri, and even buns dipped in gravy – there’s no holding back.
But we’re curious, what does the visiting chef who’s been described as the enfant terrible of the Australian food scene think about the rest of Sydney? “I haven’t really had a bad meal in Sydney because I don’t waste my time eating anywhere shit.” So how does the scene here compare to say, Adelaide, the city Welgemoed calls home? “It’s different. The scene in Adelaide is harder because our customer base is more discerning”.
Of course, you can’t come to Newtown without being aware of its unique quirks. Home to a lot of vegan eateries, perhaps on Welgemoed next return we could be seeing meat off the menu at Mary’s. “I’m lucky enough to hang out with the greatest vegan chef in the world, Shannon Martinez of the famed Smith & Daughters. It’s the future of food.”
When Martinez took over the Unicorn – also owned by the guys behind Mary’s, she did a vegan rendition of the Sizzler menu. It’s this kind of out of the box culinary thinking that will characterise the Jump In The Fire series.
Jump In The Fire continues monthly on the last Monday of each month. Next up is Campbell Burton and Josh Murphy, both from Melbourne. Make sure you don’t miss out!
6 Mary Street