On The Floor With Melissa Palinkas
Left to Right: Melissa Palinkas, Executive Chef and Co-Owner at Young George / Collaborating at Buy West Eat Best
Melissa Palinkas is executive chef at Young George, WA, which has launched a Collaboration Dinner series.
What prompted you to launch the collaboration dinner series at Young George?
My inspiration for starting a collaboration series with other chefs was to work alongside like-minded chefs, to see how they worked and to see how that would translate into the food. It also set a challenge for me, I guess. Being a chef-owner, you don’t get to learn much other than what you research yourself, so to actually work with other chefs, chat about technique and ingredients is so much fun, and it’s educating when you pick up a few tips along the way.
How does the series work, and what are some of the events you’ve hosted so far?
So the series of events starts with a concept. My first one was a version of dim sum and we called it ‘Dim Sum Den’. I collaborated with chef Amy Hamilton of Liberte in Albany, WA. I wanted to do a quirky style dim sum event and saw Amy as a fitting choice given her food is Vietnamese French inspired, and really left of field, which is inspirational to me.
I also have a strong no waste policy in my business/kitchen and I do a series of trash dinners highlighting how we use our waste. I had guest chef Alia Glorie from Billie H collaborate with me on that one and my next dinner is with Guy Jefferies from Millbrook winery in Jarradale. We also are doing a no waste dinner as he has a no waste policy in his kitchen too.
Is it ever difficult to find people willing to take part in the series? What are you finding is their main incentive for getting involved?
So far so good, but a few times I found it difficult to get the chef I wanted to work with because they are too busy themselves! I think the main incentive for being involved is that they also want to experience working with another chef outside of their own kitchen.
How do you staff members benefit from collaborations like these?
My staff loves having the collaboration dinners. Especially the younger cooks, they want to really get amongst it to work with the people we choose to have as our guests.
When hosting collabs, are you ever concerned that personalities will clash or desired outcomes conflict? How do you mitigate this risk?
Yes definitely. Sometimes you’re thinking one thing and they are thinking another when it comes to a dish, but as an adult you come to a compromise.
Your wife Susan is also your business partner at Young George. Do you consider that to be another form of collaboration?
Of course, everything we do together within the business is a collaboration. Right now we are sitting in the office writing an EDM trying to work out what we’re going to put on it and what message we want to get out this month. Today Susan asked me to put together a new Champagne cocktail from the passionfruit caramel I had made for her. It turned out great – we made 2 and deciphered what it did and didn’t need and came up with a solid drink together.
What advice would you give to other industry members considering collaborating with a partner or close friend?
I would say make sure your relationship can withstand any ups and downs, and that there is a solid foundation to bounce back on if anything goes pear-shaped.
Who would you love to collaborate with in the future – either in business or as part of the dinner series?
I would love to do a collaboration dinner with David Chang. He has been a big inspiration in shaping me into the cook I am today. His story is really cool, his philosophies and thoughts around food have been inspirational to me.