From Australia to Russia: Culinary voyage of Tom Halpin
Sometimes you meet people by accident, but they inspire you much more than the ones on staged meetings. That was the case with my introduction to chef Tom Halpin. I was a student at Matthew Kenney Culinary School. He was a guest chef. All my class was a bit scared of him, but not me. I was very curious who was he and what he was going to do. He didn’t look like a regular vegan chef. He looked like a “bad boy”, but “bad boys” always know how to cook. In that moment I told to my self: “I need to get to meet him and probably he will teach me something”.
At one point I looked at him and he asked me and several other girls- students: “Wanna help?” And I answered “yes”, because I wanted to have as much practice as possible and in the future, I wish to be a part of something bigger and work with chefs of high level as Tom. I believe, that day, we all fell for Tom and his eyes.
During this class, I found out, that he used to work in Russia and he was planning to get back for future projects, which got me, even more, curious about his personality and especially about how he cooked.
Later this evening we were invited invited for a special dinner, where he was creating a totally vegan menu (considering the fact, that he is not vegan at all).
It was amazing …
The salted baked beetroot “linguine”. Burnt Cape gooseberries. Spices still remain in my mind, until these days. In Russia, I’ve had a beetroot in many different dishes but this one is absolutely taking my mind and made fell in love with his cuisine. “Bad Boy” with a sweet taste.
Tom Halpin became famous as a right hand of Rene Redzepi, a master chef behind cult NOMA restaurant. He quickly gained his own fame and suddenly moved to Russia as a guest chef at 15 Kitchen+Bar. So during my next trip to Moscow, I immediately called him asking for a culinary tour at 15 Kitchen+Bar. And he didn’t disappoint me serving the King crab with pees and seeds. The dish was fantastic. It is impossible to explain the splash of tastes that are so different yet they match perfectly with one another. I wanted, needed to know the recipe and he was kind enough to share it with me. Along with a couple of stories from his past.
“I started in the kitchen as a dishwasher working for mum, – says Tom Haplin. – Then I decided to start working full snow season in the mountains so I could snowboard and work in the kitchen was the easiest way to get there. After the first season down the snow, I realized I really liked cooking. So I started an apprenticeship”.
It may sound easy, but the first years in the culinary world aren’t a vacation for anybody. Including Tom Halpin.
“For four years I’ve worked in Sydney. Two of them at a restaurant called ” Becasse ” which at that time was one of the best in the city. Believe me, it was fu*** crazy tough. Then I landed a week stage at NOMA and this experience turned into a job. Four years later and finishing as sous chef I have been traveling the world, cooking in as many different and obscure places as I could find. Unexpectedly came to Moscow. And probably going to stay here for a while”.
The brave decision if you ask me! I saw many cases when talents moved from Russia abroad, but seeing an opposite situation is somewhat rare. But Tom is not afraid of anything! With disarming sincerity of a child and inquiring mind, he was exploring secrets of Russia, traveled to small cities, visited local markets and met people by trying to find inspiration for his dishes.
You definitely need to go and check out his Instagram @thomashalpin for daily updates from his culinary voyage.
Tom Halpin is funny and ironic, easy-going and witty, yet I feel like he is very sensitive. Behind the curtains of world-renowned chef, he is still a charming child. And this makes him and his cuisine simply irresistible.
PS: As a part of our conversation I asked Tom what he would take on an abandoned island. Have a look at the three things he chooses!
“- Matches. Because all Aussies especially Aussies on islands need to be able to grill.
– Sunscreen. Because I’m so *** white and burn easy.
– A lemon tree. Because of all the fresh fish, I will be catching, you need to have lemon with it”.
Tom Halpin : @thomashalpin