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A Pair of Ex-Masterchefs Have Teamed Up on a New Surry Hills Restaurant

Sarah Tiong and Rashedul “Rashie” Hasan clicked the moment they met at MasterChef auditions in 2016.

“We sort of just hit it off,” Tiong says. “We kind of had similar backgrounds and similar, I suppose, appreciation of food. And then, we just had this love of experimenting and trying out new things. It was friendship right from the first day.”

At the time, Tiong was a corporate lawyer, Hasan an IT program director, but qualifying for the 2017 season of the TV juggernaut (as well as the 2020 season for Tiong) set both off on to completely new career paths in the food industry. Even afterwards, they never lost touch.

So in 2022, when Hasan started nurturing the idea of a restaurant, Tiong was the first person he called. He wanted to create an experience inspired by his native Bangladesh with a modern, unexpected twist, and saw the perfect partner in Tiong

“One of the things that struck me always about her was her passion,” he says.

“It’s always been about big flavours, right? And I’m also like that. And she’s a fantastic human being.”

Fast forward a year, and the duo have just opened the doors at Ogni (meaning “fire” in Bengali), a flame-fuelled restaurant in the former Soul Dining space in Surry Hills that melds the flavours of Hasan’s homeland with the influences of Tiong’s Chinese-Malaysian heritage.

“As Rashie eloquently put it to me one day, it’s the modern Australian story with South and Southeast Asian heritage,” Tiong says.

“Everyone describes Australia as that melting pot, and it’s so evident in our food. We love just a little bit of everything. So it’s really interesting to see how all of these migrant stories have come together and created this really unique food landscap

The pair has found many unexpected threads and “pockets of familiarity” between South and Southeast Asian food, and contributed their own modern Australian interpretation with the help of Ogni head chef Arvin Januar, an Indonesian-born chef with a strong foundation in Mediterranean cuisine.

A signature dish of Nelson Bay calamari, for example, grilled over flames with a sticky, spiced mango glaze, draws inspiration from the mango fields that surrounded Hasan’s childhood home and the fishermen on Tiong’s maternal side, to create something entirely new.

“I know a lot of other restaurants are cooking over fire,” Hasan says.

“But the kind of flavours we are bringing from South and Southeast Asia, together with the fire element of it, and the warmth of the service – I believe we have a unique kind of experience for our diners.”

Speaking a few days out from first service, the pair is relaxed and clearly better friends than ever. “I could not have done it without Rashie, honestly,” Tiong says.

“I think it’s an incredibly rare moment to find someone that has as much passion for food as you do, and really has a similar vision to you. I think we’re a very, very good team. And I don’t think this is going to be the last of our restaurants.”

Source : Delicious