How I Melbourne: Thi Le

Published on 9 June 2021

Photo: Anchovy chef and co-owner Thi Le

Thi Le is one of Melbourne's freshest culinary talents.

Anchovy’s chef and co-owner fell into a career in cooking halfway through travelling while studying design (she wanted to design bars and restaurants for a living). Since completing her apprenticeship, she has traded Sydney for Melbourne, worked in kitchens that appreciate the simplicity of produce, has just celebrated her award-winning restaurant’s fifth birthday, and is about to open a banh mi store, Com Ca. In her work, Le places a lot of focus on celebrating her Vietnamese culture and heritage, while fostering a creative space for herself and her staff.

In the mornings you’ll find me at the markets, whether it be Preston, Footscray or Queen Vic.

My local is Tom Toon in Abbotsford. I just love all the offal dishes, especially their tab waan (the pork liver salad) or the pork and blood jelly soup with chives and black pepper.

My defining food moment in Melbourne was the lamb shoulder at Cumulus Inc. I didn't realise how Greek Melbourne was when I first arrived, and then after this, everywhere I looked I saw lamb souvas and lamb shoulder. I had no idea how much Melbourne loves lamb.

I know I’m in Melbourne when I drive under the colourful lights on the M2 CityLink.

The best new thing I’ve found is tempeh from Primasoy, made by an Indonesian family right here in Melbourne.

When I want to push the boat out on a meal, I like to cook at home and buy a lot of goodies from our markets and farmer’s markets. I love to show my family and friends what we have here – Victoria is so unique.

When I want to dazzle friends from out of town, I like to go to Flower Drum, I think it’s unique in its offering and service. There is nothing like it in Australia. My go to is the crab soup dumpling; it’s so decadent and lush. Plus, where else can you get drunken squab with a killer wine list?

My go-to spot in regional Victoria is Annie Smithers’ Du Fermier, in Trentham. It’s 90 minutes out of Melbourne and is a great way to spend a lazy lunch without a care in the world. Once you’re at Annie's, you’ll be greeted with open arms, of smiles and generosity. The food is what you’ve been missing all week; uncomplicated, nourishing and delicious. It makes it very hard to leave.

There’s no better value in Melbourne than the $3 boreks at Queen Vic Markets or the dollar oysters at South Melbourne Markets.

My favourite place to stock up on supplies is Preston Market. Chau Tan Hung, the Asian vegie supplier there, is great, and always has fresh and unique vegetables. The market also stocks an impressive range of Middle Eastern products and spices, and there’s always plenty of local fish to choose from. 

If I could change one thing about eating and drinking here it would be having have more things open on Monday and Tuesdays.

But the one thing I hope never changes in Melbourne is the number of independent restaurants and bars. I think it adds so much character and diversity to our hospitality offering.

Anchovy, 338 Bridge Rd, Richmond,

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