The Press Club: Modern Greek Cookery, George Calombaris

Passion oozes from the pages of this truly wonderful book. Beautiful to look at, it has been brilliantly designed by Tania Gomes to give it the feel of old and new, which, in combination with fabulous photography by Dean Cambray, makes it a very stylish publication. Interestingly, Cambray trained as a chef and it shows not just in the plate shots but he catches the speed and the tone of the restaurant and kitchen with a knowing eye. For all the beauty of the publication, it is the eerie and inspiring text straight from the lips of the obsessed George Calombaris that is the pulsing beating heart of this book. Just enough ego, just enough love, just enough honesty right through to describing the make-up of his kitchen as “artists, grafters and donkeys. Why? Because I have been all of them. They are treated with respect. Some days I have to be all of them again.”

The first man to acknowledge the calming influence women have had on kitchens, there is no doubt that Calombaris would be hiring on talent and passion rather than sex or suitability. Calombaris’s inspiration draws on his Greek Cypriot heritage, but it is very much his cuisine, Calombaris’s food. New twists on old ideas, just new twists like for instance mountain tea smoked chicken shanks, tomato tea jelly, ouzo hollandaise or roasted mezedes of rabbit, krokos mousse, ouzo and tuna mayonnaise, ouzo-braised leeks.

Small wonder that every chef in Australia with a passion for fresh innovative food with cultural roots is making a pilgrimage to Melbourne’s The Press Club Restaurant and Bar and leaving inspired to go away and be better. What chefs most like about the food of Calombaris is that his execution is technique driven and that he flamboyantly takes old traditional elements and revitalizes them, but they also love the fact that there is a certain amount of audaciousness in his food that can take a diner completely by surprise.

This is a book that will equally inspire the professional and the amateur. It is generous, interesting and inspiring and we cannot wait to eat The Press Club and Bar when we are next in Melbourne. New Holland, RRP $45.