Frank Camorra’s Food from Home
MoVida Australia founder Chef Frank Camorra was back on the island to host ‘A Taste of Andalucia,’ a one-night-only dinner degustation of nostalgic plates inspired by his roots in Southern Spain.
Named after ‘La Movida Madrileña,’ the hedonistic countercultural movement that took off from Madrid in the ’80s, MoVida was born in 2002 in Melbourne’s dynamic CBD. Serving up a menu of tapas and raciones from its intimate laneway location, MoVida led the trend for sharing plate dining and earned a loyal following among Melbourne’s picky public.
Fast-forward to 2017 and Frank has collected more than a shelf-full of Chef’s Hats, penned a string of best-selling cookbooks and collaborated with Katamama to open his first international outpost, MoVida Bali. A tireless ambassador of Spanish culture and cuisine, Frank regularly leads criss-crossing culinary tours of the country and has even been awarded a Cruz de Oficial de la Orden del Mérito Civil by the Spanish government for his efforts.
Clad in whites and geared up for service, Frank pauses to talk about the dishes from his childhood and his culinary approach with MoVida.
What kind of food were you brought up on in Andalucia?
We would eat cold soups, salmorejo and ajo blanco [chilled tomato and chilled almond soups] constantly over summer. The everyday home cooking was always mom, but dad would do a paella outside on Sundays. He’d also do the festive dishes, like Pinchos morunos [Moorish lamb skewers] for family gatherings or birthdays.
Fondest food memory from your childhood?
Spanish people love cooking outside and I remember dad having these quails he had shot and taking me and mom, all three of us on his moped, up to the mountains in Córdoba and cooking these three little quails over the fire… I can still remember the flavours!
Any interesting Bali ingredients you’ve discovered here?
The spices and fruits that grow here – the mace, nutmeg and snake fruit are all fantastic. We’ve also been using native kenari nuts, which are a bit like hazelnuts, in the restaurant. The local fisheries that Jimmy is working with are great quality too; they sell head and jowl meat that’s full of flavour, and almost impossible to get in Australia.
MoVida is a multi-award-winning restaurant concept. What makes it so special?
We take classic Spanish food and twist it by incorporating new techniques, curiosity or ingredients that wouldn’t normally be associated with that dish. Our Cantabrian anchovy dish is a perfect example of this; using three classic ingredients you can find all over France, Greece and Spain. But we make it a bit more refined and interesting by using a smoked tomato sorbet.
Our Bali outpost is quite different in feel and look from its Australian counterparts. Why’s that?
A restaurant has got to speak about where it’s at. In France, the classic interpretation is the bistro, in Italy the trattoria, in Spain, the tapas bar with the comedor. MoVida Australia restaurants are all very urban, they’re up little alleyways in the CBD with small air-conditioned tapas bars. But here in Bali, people are on holiday, it’s a tropical setting so it wouldn’t feel right to me if our restaurant was that style. Although the food still represents what we in Australia do really well.
Must-try MoVida Bali dishes?
You need to try the Cantabrian anchovy to start; it’s our signature; even if you’ve got this misconception about anchovies being salty, hairy fish. They’re really artisan, plump and only semi-conserved so they’re not as salty as normal ones. Also, all the Spanish smallgoods Jimmy’s using here, we can’t get into Australia. The Iberico pork is like the wagyu of pork; the pigs are fed on acorns for their whole life so the pork is so juicy and fatty. It’s the same pork they make jamón ibérico from.
What misconceptions do foreigners have about Spanish food?
One of the classic ones is that Spanish food is really spicy. It’s probably the least spicy cuisine in Europe! We hardly ever use chillies, and only very occasionally use hot paprika.
The other one is that paella is the national dish – it’s not, cocido is. All over Spain people eat cocido, a hot-pot of pork, chicken, chorizo, chickpeas and vegetables, on Sundays. First you eat the soup, then the chickpeas and finally the meat. The next day, it’s made into leftovers, usually croquetas.
Sangria is really a tourist drink, locals really don’t order it! [laughs] Well, maybe on a Sunday with friends if it’s a hot day but they definitely wouldn’t go into a restaurant and order it. Food is generally paired with wine.
Eye-opening restaurant experiences around the world?
There’s a place called Aponiente in the Bay of Cádiz that’s recently been named ‘Best Restaurant in Spain’. It’s all seafood, even the desserts contain some element of seafood. They’re using ingredients like plankton and making it into sauces and powders. You get to try these incredible byproducts of seafood that don’t normally get used. What makes it even more amazing is the location; the restaurant’s built inside a nineteenth century tide mill.
We’ve got a new place we’re opening in Melbourne in about six weeks, a Bodega with a bottle shop and late-night bar where you’ll have access to all of the wines that we import. So you can buy all these exclusive wines at retail cost with a small corkage fee.
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