What Sam Sifton wants to eat in Melbourne

Published on February 27 2019.

Sam Sifton, food editor of The New York Times, is returning to Melbourne next month – and not just for the pork gyros and Lune croissants. The cookbook author and former restaurant critic joins this year’s Festival to put some of the biggest names in food and wine in the hot seat at Theatre of Ideas supported by The New York Times. Catch him in conversation with Kate Reid discussing obsession and creativity, hear how he thinks Australia’s food scene stacks up on the world stage or join a panel of Joe Beef chefs plus Sifton as they talk about the team’s new book, Surviving the Apocalypse.

But for now, read where and what Sam Sifton wants to eat on this trip.

You’re returning to Melbourne next month for the Melbourne Food & Wine Festival. Obviously you liked it well enough to return! What do you enjoy about the city?

I like the beauty of it and the size, the chance to wander its sidewalks and see the history of the nation played out in the architecture that rises above them. Plus, the food's good.

Which Melbourne restaurants or bars are on your itinerary this visit?

I retain the secretiveness of my life as restaurant critic for The Times, but I'm open to suggestions! Let me know the places I really shouldn't miss and why: foodeditor@nytimes.com.

In 2017, you discovered the pork gyros at Kalimera Souvlaki Art and introduced many people in the city to this neighbourhood restaurant. What area of Melbourne or cuisine are you planning to explore on this visit?

Well, Ben Shewry introduced them to me. Astonishingly I didn't even know there were pork gyros. I grew up on lamb. Ben and I spent just a little time in Richmond afterward, and I want to go back there and eat a lot of pho.

On a side note, how’s your pork gyros game going at home? Do you think you’ve reached Kalimera levels of delicious yet?

I don't know as it's possible to get to Kalimera levels at home, particularly in the matter of fries. But my pork gyro game is strong now, very strong.

What Australian ingredient are you dying to try (or taste again!)?

I liked the saltbush I got to taste last time, and I'm still haunted by the Davidson's plums I got to eat. How about brush cherries. I'd like to eat some of those.

You’ve given Kate Reid’s croissants at Lune high praise. Now, you’ll get to speak to her at the Theatre of Ideas about the power of obsession. Do you think obsession and creativity go hand in hand?

I absolutely do think they go hand in hand, particularly in the matter of a repetitive art like making perfect croissants and doing so every day. But we'll see what Kate has to say. I know she makes perfect croissants and I can't imagine she got to them by being a – what do you call it? A larrikin? 

The Joe Beef team are also travelling to Australia; for some of them it will be their first visit. Where would you take them in Melbourne?

Let's go to Attica and roust Ben out of the kitchen and put him in a car and go to Richmond!

What’s one thing Melbourne has that you wish New York did? And vice versa?

I wish New York had better flat whites. I wish Melbourne had my family in it. Next time I come, they're coming along. 

Tickets for the Theatre of Ideas supported by The New York Times are on sale now. The Theatre of Ideas is part of The House of Food and Wine, 12.00pm-6.00pm,  Saturday 9 March-Monday 11 March, The Malthouse Theatre, Southbank.