INTERVIEW WITH STEPHANNIE LIU
HEAD CHEF AT APOLLO BAR
What in your personal life has influenced you to choose your career?
Growing up in a household where food played an integral part has greatly influenced why cooking has turned out as a career for me. My parents are Chinese-Fijian immigrants who moved to Australia in the 80s, where they had my siblings and me. I fondly remember fantastic feasts, a wonderful mix of cultures from classic Aussie BBQ sausages to intensely dark, fragrant Indian-Fijian curries and bouncy stir-fried Chinese egg noodles that my mum and dad would collaboratively prepare for the family on a regular basis. Sitting around the table, talking, eating, and laughing. All our emotions, whether happy, sad and everything between, came together at this table. I’ve always seen food as a comfort constant in life. And from a young age, around 10 years old, I knew I wanted to cook as a career and offer this comfort to others.
Shina Jacket, 4.250,00 DKK
How did you get into what you do creatively?
My aunty’s best friend worked for Neil Perry, the executive chef of Rockpool, a renowned fine dining restaurant in my hometown of Sydney. She knew I was deeply invested in becoming a chef and encouraged me to volunteer after school. By the age of 19, I was offered the head chef job of a popular café in Sydney called Cornersmith that valued seasonality and sustainability, notions that were not as common a decade ago. That was my first foray into figuring out my own style of food, which has become more and more clear as I’ve gotten older.
How do you manage to stay both personal and original in your creative endeavours?
Food is incredibly personal for me. It’s not just a job or career, it’s a connection to my identity as a woman, my family, my heritage and the local community within everyday life, so I hope some of that is evident in the food we serve at Apollo. Originality doesn’t play too much in my mind because I don’t think the way I put ingredients together is necessarily groundbreaking. Instead, my ideas are a reflection of simplicity, comfort and a respect for ingredients and the seasons. I am constantly being inspired by my peers in the industry, Karishma Sanghi from Hart Bageri, Chiara Barla of Apotek 57, Rita Chen from Kafeteria. These are a few of the countless individuals I’m in awe of and make me want to keep creating and working in this field.
Have you ever doubted your talent? If so, how did you work through your doubt?
Of course, and I often still do. I’ve always felt a bit insecure about my skills as a chef because I’m not a “qualified” chef, even though I’ve worked in the hospitality industry for over a decade. I have to keep reminding myself that if my work had no value, then I wouldn’t receive such positive support, and I wouldn’t have the job I do now. It’s an ongoing process, and I just have to keep believing in what I do and hope that it brings some joy to people!
If your creative work were edible, what would it taste like?
My creative work is edible! One of my favorite desserts to make is a geranium grapefruit curd tart. Similar to myself, it’s slightly sharp in a bold, sincere way, but also sweet and sometimes fragile.