The Australian - Wish Magazine - - FOOD -

Re­becca Lit­tle­more was an in­te­rior de­signer when she and her then boyfriend Al Yazbek de­cided to open a restau­rant and bar called No­mad in Surry Hills. The pair had loved trav­el­ling around smaller wine re­gions in Aus­tralia like Mudgee in NSW and King Val­ley in Vic­to­ria, and wanted to recre­ate in Syd­ney the in­ti­mate ex­pe­ri­ence of vis­it­ing bou­tique cel­lar doors in the coun­try.

“It was a steep learn­ing curve, a very, very steep learn­ing curve,” says Re­becca – now Yazbek – of the process of open­ing the restau­rant, 4½ years on. “It was ac­tu­ally driv­ing to No­mad on open­ing night for fam­ily and friends that I had a bit of a heart at­tack in the car. Up un­til then it was a build­ing site and that is what I know, so I was in my ele­ment. But then I re­alised that there were peo­ple com­ing tonight to eat at our restau­rant and then it hit me. Then the hard work ac­tu­ally started.”

The pair have taken to it pretty well. Al had been run­ning restau­rants for a few years but it was a whole new world for Re­becca. No­mad has reg­u­larly scored great re­views since it opened; they have ven­tured on­line with a No­mad wine club and they are ac­tively hunt­ing for a Mel­bourne site to open a sim­i­lar restau­rant (but not a replica) down south. They also man­aged to squeeze in get­ting mar­ried and hav­ing one baby and are ex­pect­ing an­other in Au­gust. Re­becca cred­its hir­ing the right chefs, restau­rant man­agers and som­me­liers and also back­ing them­selves from day one.

“We also had a clear idea of what we wanted to do with the food,” she says. “My hus­band has a Le­banese back­ground, that real Mid­dle-Eastern flavour, and so he wanted to do a Le­banese restau­rant for aeons. I thought that wasn’t go­ing to work, and we had been trav­el­ling through Europe, through Spain, Morocco and Paris so I wanted that sort of melt­ing pot, the cui­sine didn’t need to be that de­fined.” This melt­ing pot of cui­sine trans­lates to dishes rang­ing from Jer­sey milk haloumi with roast crim­son grapes, honey and sherry to bar­be­cued WA mar­ron with Is­raeli cous­cous to spiced cau­li­flower with labne and cashews. No­mad also spe­cialises in bou­tique Aus­tralian wines, show­cas­ing the smaller re­gions that Re­becca and Al orig­i­nally fell in love with.

Re­becca also finds her­self in the unique po­si­tion to­day of be­ing a fe­male restau­ra­teur with a fe­male head chef, Jac­qui Chal­li­nar, in a fairly male-dom­i­nated in­dus­try. “I don’t think women grow up think­ing they are go­ing to be a chef or a som­me­lier or a restau­ra­teur,” she says of the rar­ity of her fe­male team. “But then again, I didn’t hire Jac­qui be­cause she was fe­male. She was up against three men at the time and she met the brief. She ex­celled. I had an ex­ter­nal re­cruit­ment con­sul­tant help as­sist in that hir­ing process and she told me Jac was my man.”


Re­becca Yazbek at No­mad

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