Words by Ali Webb
I have lived in Yarraville for four years and during that time I have seen the village catapult to being a place where you could get away with wearing filthy tracksuit pants, to an uber-hip inner city suburb where smackie-dacks just don’t pass.
Why? Perhaps it’s all the yummy parentals cruising around the hood with their pimped up prams, or the Sun Theatre with its amazingly awesome choc tops, or even the retail therapy ranging from second hand stores to unique fashion? No. You know what’s brought the change from old school to cool? It’s Mark Briggs.
If you don’t know Mark by now, let’s get you up to speed. Yarraville’s latest acquisition is the former Head Chef of Vue de Monde, was named The Age’s Young Chef of the Year in 2013 and has trained with the best, working in renowned kitchens such as Fifteen London, La Tante Claire in London, and The Old Manor House in Romsley, UK. Now you can find him on your doorstep, at Dig A Pony.
I’m married to a chef and whenever I explain what my husband does for a living, people jump up and down clapping and squealing about how lucky I am. What a lot of people don’t understand is that chefs don’t really spend that much time at home cooking for their family, as they are normally cooking for you. So in a sense, you are a part of that extended family.
When I asked Mark about cooking at home he said he likes to put on a roast, but, with his signature smirk, “my wife complains that I make too much of a mess”.
Being a chef is not just about dishing up good food, and with Mark’s incredible experience to date, creativity and inspiration can start with a simple staff meal.
“I’m always thinking about food and idea’s come up all the time, whether I’m at the market, watching TV or cooking a staff meal”.
“My favourite staff meals to cook are childhood favourites or a traditional local dish. It’s really exciting when one of the chefs buys a load of ingredients that I’ve never heard of and cooks up something from their own childhood memories.
“I have also experienced a lot of awful staff meals. I mean, the staff meal is a place where chefs can test out flavours and ingredients. Some don’t always go to plan. One I will never forget was a sausage and bread stew. The chef who made it still gets a hard time about it six years later!”
(Don’t worry, I asked Mark – that chef doesn’t work at Dig a Pony!)
So what do the people of the inner west like to eat? Apparently we are a trendy bunch, who love our food.
“The healthy options are always popular along with the unusual, like tripe and liver. It’s great to cook for locals who have a good knowledge of food and appreciate fine ingredients. We are always trying to bring something a little different to Yarraville: new tastes, flavours and dishes – and so far it seems to be working!”
“I love spending my days off at local haunts Cobb Lane and the Cornershop in Yarraville where I can always find excellent dishes. For dinner, I can’t go past a steak at The Station Hotel in Footscray. We are so lucky to be surrounded by so many great options for dining!”
When Mark explained that his favourite people to cook for are his friends and family, I couldn’t help but ask the question as to who the most famous person was that he has ever rustled up a meal for.
“It would have to be Ferran Adria from elBulli in Spain. But if you are talking famous people known to everyone it would probably be David Beckham or Rod Stewart”.
Phew! From Maggie May to Yarraville, it seems like Dig A Pony might be the place to be this summer or autumn or winter or spring – the menu changes with the seasons. So get in quick and try something new.
Dig A Pony is open Tue-Sun from 5pm. Closed Mondays.
58 Ballarat Street, Yarraville
(Photos copyright Paul Large: flickr.com/people/pmlarge)