It appears that more and more Aussies working in the food industry are looking to make the big move to New York. Our restaurateurs, entrepreneurs and aspirational baristas are partaking in an E3-Visa, Green Card-grabbing frenzy, looking for sponsors left right and center to wield their smashed avo, flat white influence across the exciting American city.
We spoke to Chris McPherson and Chris Rendell, owners of restaurant and bar Flinders Lane NYC, about why Australians are making the big move to NYC and why New Yorkers are loving Australian food&bev offerings sick in the Big Apple.
Why do you think more than ever that Australians are having such an influence on the States at the moment, particularly in New York.
Chris McPherson: I think access to the States via the E3 Visa really opened up the market for Australians to take a chance, be creative and show passion for their product. New York is a tough market and you have to roll with the punches; but it rewards those who are willing to roll up their sleeves, dive in, learn and repeat.
[However], many people from all over the world are doing great things, especially in New York. The thing is, Australians are getting a lot of credit for recent trends here due to our attention to detail and the way we go about things. Manners go along way in business over here.
Chris Rendell: I think our influence has definitely been building over the twelve years since I arrived in NYC. The States today are just so accessible for Aussies, so it makes a lot of sense. When I was ready to travel after school, the first port of call was London. Back then, Aussies had the same [pull] as they do in the US right now. These days I think the US, and in particular New York, has become the more attractive expat option to set up shop.
What do you think this means for Australia’s food and beverage industry? Do you think we’ve grown up in the last decade as far as our food and beverage offerings go?
CM: It’s great to see more and more creativity coming out of Australia and people having the confidence to bring that to the international market, whether it is New York, London, or Paris. And Australians are taking their skills in this field all over the globe.
The stereotype of what Australia has to offer in food and beverage is being transformed. So many of our patrons think of Australia as a fantasy land because it’s so far away – they have little to base their opinion on in terms of what we have to offer in the world of food and beverage. Now we’re seeing a revolution of smaller producers entering the market with varieties and wine styles not ‘typically’ linked to Australia from abroad. We see awesome Australian spirits emerging, boutique Australian meat suppliers, and Aussie food celebrities appearing more and more on US television.
All this unlocks the door to help demystify what Australia has to offer back home. Now we have some great spaces here in New York operated by Australians, so that people can see first-hand what we have to offer.
CR: Couldn’t agree more with Macca. [But in Australia] we have always had a very mature approach to food, service and beverage. It is the US that is finally catching up with us!
What made you make the move to New York to set up an Australian cuisine-inspired restaurant there?
CM: The classic cliché… I came here for three months to check it out, got my foot in the door with some work and went from there. New York is tough, especially that first year. You spend so much time, effort and money to get yourself established and you leave so many friends and family behind that you think, “I have to give this a real go.”
In New York, opportunity is everywhere, in anything and everything. We saw more and more Australians coming to New York and saw a gap in the mid-range dining market where you can get good food and drink with great service (which is saturated back home). We saw many come to New York and head home to open a New York/US inspired space.
We wanted to bring a slice of our home to New York. We wanted to combine the food culture of Melbourne with the energy and hustle of New York. We love graffiti, art, food, wine, and thought Flinders Lane is part of Melbourne that sums that all up in one.
CR: I moved to NYC from London to open PUBLIC restaurant in Nolita back in 2003. It was there that I met Chris and we saw the need to bring Melbourne to NYC. It wasn’t just to cure our homesickness… we genuinely felt there was a void of true modern Australian restaurants in NYC. Out of that, Flinders Lane was born.
What description best sums up Australian cuisine; in particular, Melbourne’s food scene?
CM: The million-dollar question! If we had a dollar for every time customers ask this we wouldn’t be in hospitality anymore! Honestly though, for me it’s more of a style of food. Not heavy, overworked or fussy. It’s a myriad of cultures coming together under the one roof and each representing a tiny slice of the kaleidoscope of food.
Our proximity to Asia and access to ingredients has a Southeast Asian influence. The Italian and Greek immigrants of Melbourne also shaped the dining scene and we have the British staples our mums would make growing up. We have amazing Indian, Lebanese and Vietnamese food… the list goes on.
Really, it’s a celebration of the multiculturalism that is Australia today. Chefs today are third and fourth generation and looking back at their roots for inspiration and pushing the envelope. ‘Fusion’ is the wrong word; ‘inspiration’ might be better. I always go back to the style [of making it] bright, clean, fresh and appealing.
CR: In a few words I’d call it light, fresh, and flavor-focused.
In regards to Melbourne, Aussie cuisine is super progressive, exciting, and a real trailblazer!