SPIRIT OF ADVENTURE
Almost two decades after opening Billy Kwong, Kylie Kwong is more passionate than ever about the possibilities of cooking.
Countless restaurants list the provenance of ingredients on their menus. Kylie Kwong, at her Sydney eatery Billy Kwong, goes further. Her menus are peppered with the names of providores: Mark Eather (fish), Saskia Beer (meat) and Outback Pride Fresh (bush foods) among them. “As chefs we are only as good as the food we put on the plate,” she says. “These individuals are the caretakers of our oceans and our land.”
Inclusiveness and mindfulness are Kwong traits. The chef has been a longtime apostle for sustainable farming and seasonal eating. At Billy Kwong, now in its 17th year, she deftly synthesises Chinese flavours and indigenous components, including saltbush, warrigal greens and wallaby from Flinders Island.
On the afternoon we connect she is slow-braising wallaby shanks, and deliberating over whether to pair the lean meat with shiitake mushrooms, organic wakame or perhaps even kelp. She could also reach for myriad herbs growing in nearby community gardens. “I’ve been integrating native ingredients into Cantonese cooking for seven years and I feel I can go deeper,” Kwong says. “There are so many new ingredients and new techniques to discover. I feel like I’ve found my path.”
If that sounds like a spiritual declaration, it is. Kwong is a Buddhist who strives for meaningful interactions in all she does; she’s an ambassador for the Wayside Chapel, a charity for those marginalised by homelessness, and has aligned with Horticulture Innovation Australia to promote homegrown produce. Kwong can often be spied at Carriageworks Market on Saturdays, selling dumplings and dispensing advice.
Earlier this year, her restaurant introduced Kylie’s Table, in which the chef shares her culinary inspirations over dinner service. “When you know a little bit about the carrot you’re eating, where it came from and who harvested it, it becomes a broader experience,” she says. It’s dining out with a beam of enlightenment.