Elijah Chen: 30 Under 30

Published on 15 June 2022

Photo: Elijah Chen (photo: Clint Peloso).

The team at Matilda 159 know what a gem they have in Elijah Chen, a young chef with experience at Sydney's Quay and Melbourne’s Gaea who is always working at his craft and reading as much as he can about gastronomy in his spare time.

Hi, my name is Elijah Chen

Right now I’m working atMatilda 159 as a junior sous chef.

Before I started here, I worked at Gaea and before that I was at Quay.

All up, I’ve been cooking for six years. I moved to Melbourne a week before the first lockdown, so two years in Victoria. 

And I’m passionate about making tasty food. I really enjoy doing the fermenting stuff. Because I am Chinese, fermenting is in my blood. I spent six months at Gaea doing miso, shoyu, tamari, koji and garum. I love foraging, too. I really thank Mother Earth for bringing us so many incredible ingredients. 

Which means I like fermenting and foraging, but I have to say, overall, the way I like to cook is about maximizing the use of the ingredients. Like the Nordic and Japanese way: take an ingredient, add technique and in two weeks it tastes totally not the same.

But everything has to be tasty. I like to cook everything, but If I have to say one thing it would be cooking meat and veg with charcoal. This explains why I'm working at Matilda. 

At 30 Under 30 I’ll be cooking a smoked, slow-cooked ox tongue skewer with pomelo XO and cured egg yolk.

The person I’m most looking forward to working with for 30 Under 30 is, to be honest, everyone! Yes! Everyone! They're all talented chefs. They all have their own wonderful thoughts about food. Some of them are my close friends.

My favourite thing to eat in Victoria right now is wine bar food! Ha ha ha. No-stress dining experience, just a couple of glasses of wine, snacks, and easy, tasty food that makes me happy and full. I love to cook fancy food. But just to enjoy myself I will pick a wine bar.

Finally, the big change I'd like to see in our food and drink scene in the next 30 years is more and more talented chefs working in the industry, and foreigners coming to Australia not just because of the city, the weather, or the beach. I want them to come because of the food we cook in Australia and the high-quality ingredients. I also want to see more restaurants in Australia back in the World’s 50 Best like the old times. And for me, in the next 30 years, I aim to have a Chinese fusion restaurant, not to break the rules from the 5,000 years of Chinese history, but to honour the cuisine in a mind-blowing way on the plate. 

Catch Elijah Chen at the 30 Under 30 Gala dinner on Thursday 28 July and at the 30 Under 30 dinner at Matilda 159 on 2 Tuesday August. Follow his further adventures at @elijah_chen_


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