As a 15 year old, Kerby Craig was fascinated by the world of restaurants – seeing a chef breakdancing in the middle of service (!) confirmed for him that this was the industry that he wanted to work in. By accident, he ended up at the original Tetsuya's as a teenage apprentice chef and, after stints in Sydney and overseas, later helped Koi earn a hat in The Good Food Guide. To mark this achievement, he actually got a chef's hat tattooed on his neck – an act that was memorably referred to in Terry Durack's review of Ume, the restaurant that Kerby opened after his time at Koi. ("That's a hat you can't take off him," Kerby's manager told Durack at an event. "That's a hat I would never take off you, Kerby!" replied the Herald food critic.)
Despite earning acclaim, Kerby's experience with the industry has endured some rough lows – including the business failure of Koi – and opening Ume was "very very stressful", he says. "I don't know how we got a loan!" We should all be glad that he took on the bank-balance risk and the emotional strain, because Ume is a remarkable restaurant that brings a one-of-a-kind twist to Japanese dining in Sydney.
Also in this podcast, Kerby chats about his own adventures dining from Kyoto to Fukuoka – and enjoying the next-level hospitality of Japanese establishments.
Kerby also covers what it's like to cook a tradition-bound Asian cuisine as a white guy with tattoos, and the restaurant he's most looking forward to (Clayton Wells' Automata, which opens next year).