If you’ve ever left Cutler & Co. with an overflowing heart and an ear-to-ear grin, chances are Tana Rattananikom’s food had something to do with it.

After six years cooking on Gertrude Street at both Marion and Cutler & Co., including a year as head chef at both, Rattananikom has taken the top gig at atmospheric Flinders Lane fine diner Cumulus Inc., a natural progression for a chef with a passion for produce and the nous to let the quality of ingredients do the talking on the plate.

We caught up with Rattananikom recently to hear how he experiences Melbourne when it’s tools down on Flinders Lane.

My local is Tom Toon in Abbotsford; I used to live a stone’s throw from this little Thai eatery on Victoria Street. It has all the bells and whistles you want in Thai food and is very well priced. My go-to dish is their jim jum (hot pot). The spicy papaya salad, sticky rice and sweet grilled pork neck are also favourites.

I know I’m in Melbourne when I walk along the bustling streets of Fitzroy with people spilling out of cafés, waiting for coffee or hovering for an outdoor spot in the sun at the Builders Arms. Spending seven years working in the area, you get to know some familiar faces that make your day. A big shout out to the gentleman who carries the extremely large carrot, rain, hail or shine!

In the mornings you’ll find me at work, drinking a double espresso and checking through the morning’s produce deliveries. At home, drinking two double espressos and scrambling some eggs while trying to entertain a six-month-old.

My defining food moment in Melbourne was the Lyonnaise salad at Gimlet in 2021. It was so much more than a simple salad. Layers of flavour and texture – hot and cold, salty, sweet and sour. I savoured every bite.

My favourite place to stock up on supplies is Haiku in Camberwell. I found this store when I was working at Cutler & Co. and looking for interesting Japanese ingredients to use on our autumn grill bar menu. It’s an exclusively Japanese retail store that has everything a chef (or non-chef) would be excited about: coffee, specialty soys, kombu, crazy seasonings, locally made miso, knives, cool t-shirts, snacks, you name it. They also have a café next door, which I highly rate.

The best new thing I’ve found is burrata with fennel jam at Nomad with wood-fired flatbread. Say no more.

When I want to push the boat out on a meal, I… if I’m cooking at home, I’m heading straight to the seafood section at Queen Victoria Market. Once I’ve selected my treat, it’s a slow walk back up, weaving through the fresh produce aisles to pick and choose what I’ll be having with it. And when I’m dining out, after I order I always ask the sommelier what beverages I should order with my meal. You will have a much better experience getting the wine team involved.

When I want to dazzle friends from out of town, I like to take them to France-Soir for the lamb brains, duck à l’orange and the hospitable madness, of course.

When I want to drink something Victorian, my first choice is always a Jetty Road Pale Ale. Just a very tasty Victorian beer and the one I’ll be drinking this summer.

There’s no better value in Melbourne than Jim’s Greek Tavern: another landmark Melbourne restaurant. If you want a quiet night this is not the place. It’s loud, fast-paced and most importantly, fun. Not to mention they do BYO. It’s simple, delicious and inexpensive Greek food.

If I could change one thing about eating and drinking here it would be… to be honest, there isn’t a lot I would change (other than the weather) as I think Melbourne is killing it with heaps of new restaurants and bars opening up all over town.

But the one thing I hope never changes in Melbourne is seeing Melburnians support small businesses, and watching those businesses grow and excel and turn into something out of this world. Two big ones for me are Hector’s Deli and Chae.

Follow Tana Rattananikom at @rattananikom and Cumulus Inc. at @cumulusinc.