Morgan McGlone on why chicken is his number one

Photo: Morgan McGlone (Nikki To)

The Belles Hot Chicken founder returns to Melbourne Food & Wine Festival in 2019, taking over The House of Food and Wine on opening night for a feast of chicken dishes that covers the globe. And that’s just the start.

You’d think Morgan McGlone might be over chicken. He is, after all, the head of an empire of seven Belles Hot Chicken stores across Melbourne and Sydney. But here he is, cooking up an event for the 2019 Melbourne Food & Wine Festival where the only thing on the menu will be chicken.

“Everyone likes chicken right?” McGlone says. “You would have to go very far to find someone who doesn’t like chicken. It’s the most consumed protein in the world.”

But exactly how we like our chicken differs from country to country, from chicken cacciatore to jerk chicken and Hainanese chicken rice. All The Chickens supported by Hennessy at The House of Food and Wine will showcase this breadth, with a line-up of chefs that includes Palisa Anderson of Chat Thai and Boon Café, Momofuku Seiobo’s Paul Carmichael, Trisha Greentree (ex-Brae) and Thi Le of Anchovy. The all-start line up will create dishes that turn tradition on its head and push tastebuds into new territory.

Headlining the dinner is Matt Abergel, whose yakitori restaurant, Yardbird in Hong Kong, still attracts queues of people each night seven years after opening. Upholding Japanese tradition, the Canadian chef cooks over binchotan charcoal on a robata grill and uses virtually every part of the bird, from ventricle to Achilles, knee to tail. And Melbourne will be getting the real deal.

“Matt actually travels with his grills,” McGlone says. “He can’t do it any other way.”

McGlone at Hiakai Hangi, 2018 Melbourne Food & Wine Festival

McGlone selected the All The Chickens line-up based on his admiration for what they do. A frequent collaborator with Melbourne Food & Wine Festival, 2019 will be McGlone’s fifth year participating. As well as masterminding the All The Chickens dinner, he’ll create a low-waste bar at The House of Food and Wine and set up a Belles Hot Chicken food truck. This year’s House of Food and Wine takes over the Malthouse Theatre in Melbourne, transforming the courtyard and theatre into a gourmet ground-zero with a full program of events through the day and into the night.

For All The Chickens McGlone plans to break with tradition and serve Hawaiian huli-huli chicken, rather than his trademark Nashville-style spicy chicken.

“I want people to know that I’m actually more than fried chicken,” he says.

For those panicking about the lack of fried chicken on the menu, rest easy. Paul Carmichael is going to bring the good stuff while McGlone will be setting up a Belles food truck in the courtyard of the Malthouse each day of The House of Food and Wine, where he’ll serve favourites plus a one-off dish in collaboration with a special international guest.

Throughout the weekend, drinks will be provided by Kyoto Protocol, a low-waste bar by McGlone and his head of drinks at Belles, Christian Robertson. The bar is loosely inspired by the climate change agreement of the same name.

“We spoke about the movement of eating organically, ethically and sustainably, which is growing so rapidly, and how that wasn’t happening with drinks,” Robertson says.

At Kyoto Protocol, natural wines will be served and cocktails will be made with a minimal amount of processed ingredients. At the moment, the duo are experimenting with half-tonic half-soda G&Ts and a play on a Dark and Stormy that’s made with Hennessy, ginger beer, yuzu soda and lime. The pair also want to make the bar as sustainable as possible through low-waste or biodegradable vessels.

Across the rest of the Melbourne Food & Wine Festival program, McGlone is most excited about the Global Dining Series supported by Lavazza, especially the trio of Dan Hong, Victor Liong and Jowett Yu cooking at Flower Drum, Nicolai Nørregaard’s dinner at Lesa and Junghyun Park at Restaurant Shik. And, of course, he can’t wait to catch the Joe Beef team.

“The Joe Beef guys don’t go anywhere. They don’t even go to America.”

Catch Morgan McGlone at All The Chickens supported by Hennessy on Friday 8 March or during the day at The House of Food and Wine (9-11 March). For the rest of the 2019 program, head to mfwf.com.au/program. More events to be released on 30 January.

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