Hi, My Name Is: Mo Zhou

Published on 15 October 2019

Photo: Gaea chef Mo Zhou

Mo Zhou was born in central China, but cut his teeth as a cook in some of Australia’s finest restaurants, all in Melbourne. Now, after a string of adventurous pop-ups, he has opened a restaurant of his own, Gaea, on Gertrude Street in Fitzroy, catering for a very fortunate dozen or so guests each night.

Hi, my name is Mo Zhou.

You might remember me from such establishments as Attica, Vue de Monde and The Press Club.

I’ve been cooking for 10 years, working here in Melbourne the whole time.

My plan for my new gig at Gaea is to create a space where people can come to enjoy a tasting menu with all the beautiful produce from our land and sea. We do a dish of broad-bean ricotta for instance which we season with whey and wild peppercorn oil, top with cured wallaby (we cure it a bit like prosciutto) and grilled peas, and dress with an oil we make from charred cucumber skins.

There’s also a café, called Calere, in the front of the space. That’s run by my girlfriend, Alicia Feng. Alicia was assistant to the head trainer at St Ali, so she knows a lot about coffee.

I’m passionate about using local seasonal produce to create a menu that can tell a story about nature and my culture. I was born in Henan in central China, and moved to Australia when I was 18. Bao are a really important food in Henan, and so at Gaea we do a steamed buttery bun that’s a bit like a cross between a bao and a brioche. We make it using local organic grains that we mill fresh every day and pair it with a pine-needle butter and pine salt.

Which means I’ll be cooking things like the bao, of course, as well as a pancake filled with wild herbs. We also do a dish of gently poached baby abalone with a variety of beach herbs that are all cooked a different way and then combined back together. Lots of umami in that one.

I’d like you to come in and see us so you can experience a tasting menu with seasonal local produce, some Chinese references and lots of Australian native ingredients.

And if there’s one thing you can’t leave without trying, it's the Chinese pancake. It’s a food I grew up with. Traditionally in Henan it’s filled with spring onion, but at Gaea we change the filling every month. At the pop-up version of the restaurant we did it with dandelion leaves, and now we’re using saltbush. I think it could be really good with cime di rapa, too.

Drop in and visit Mo at Gaea and Alicia at Calere, 1/166 Gertrude St, Fitzroy, restaurantgaea.com.au.

Want more? Follow Mo‘s adventures on Instagram at @mzmzhou.

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