StyleNest chat to Australian Masterchef Finalist and founder and chef patron of Balls & Company, Bonny Porter and chat honestly about cooking, living in London and finding inspiration.
What first inspired you to open a meatball restaurant?
I saw there was a gap in the market here in London. Meatball concepts had already opened in other cities, yet their style was more brash and pun heavy. I wanted to give my own spin on it.
For those who haven’t been, can you tell our readers what variations they can expect to find on the menu?
We have five balls – pork, chicken, shortrib, carrot & quinoa. The customers choose their balls and then from a selection of 4 sauces. We change our Company (sides) every fortnight to reflect what is in season and allowing our chefs the opportunity to experiment and show their skills. As such, our menu constantly evolves!
How much do you think your background has influenced you?
Majorly! The restaurants back in Australia are smashing the food world at the moment. Being such a vast landscape there is bountiful produce at any given time. Australia doesn’t have its own cuisine per say – more a laid back style which takes from different countries and influences. This has meant that I have always been curious with flavours and combinations. I think this is reflective in my food – its casual, flavoursome and allows the ingredients do the talking.
How was the transition moving from Sydney to London?
I’ve wanted to live in London since I was 9 years old so it was always on the cards for me. Living in London for 2 years is almost a rite of passage for some Australians as such so many have done it before which makes it easier. The hardest part is getting use to the 4pm sunsets in winter!
What’s your favourite thing about cooking?
It’s very therapeutic.
What are your favourite restaurants across London?
So many! I love Jose Tapas bar in Bermondsey, Barrafina, The Begging Bowl in Peckham.
You were a finalist of Australian Masterchef. Congratulations. Looking back, how much has the competition helped/shaped you as a chef?
The actual filming process was quite psychological with every little detail organised to get maximum emotion on camera. It taught me that I’m stronger than I thought I was, which has helped me push forward when the going gets tough. Running an independent business as a young woman and expat can be tough – but I know I can handle what is thrown my way..
When developing a new dish, where do you gather your inspiration from?
I very much look to use what is in season for our menu as well as the weather. If it’s cold and rainy, hearty and warming dishes are going to be what the customers want. But mostly, I just go with my what I think will work nicely individually and with the rest of the menu.
How do you go about sourcing ingredients?
We have amazing suppliers here at Balls & Company and work closely with them to get the best products available. As I come from Australia, sourcing these suppliers was through a lot of research and really talking to them and understanding their product. Producers are the unsung heroes of our industry – they have so much passion for their products and this absolutely is reflected in what arrives at our kitchen door.
Do you have a number of staple ingredients that you couldn’t live without?
Murry River Rock Salt and Ravida Extra Virgin Olive Oil.
Do you travel to find inspiration for your flavour combinations and cooking? If so has there been one country or city that has really inspired you?
As the Executive chef and Owner of Balls & Company I unfortunately don’t have time to travel! But I am influenced by the food from Australia – If you haven’t been you must go!
What’s your favourite food? Do you have any guilty pleasures?
My favourite food is any sort of greens! I love them! Give me a bowl of steamed broccoli tossed in Murry River Rock Salt, Ravida Extra Virgin Olive Oil and Lemon Juice – I’m a happy girl.
In a few sentences, can you tell our readers what an average day is like?
I wake up at 6am to head down the street to Balls & Company, after answering emails for the business, I’m in the kitchen, accepting deliveries and chasing up any issues. At 12noon, service begins where you’ll find me on the pass. Around 3pm I’ll be back in the office, meeting with my General Manager, staff and businesses before jumping back on the pass at 6pm. By 11pm, the chefs are cleaning down and I’m back in the office reporting the day and sorting my To Do list for tomorrow. I generally stay and work till until about 1am – earlier if I’m lucky!
As a chef you spend hours in the kitchen, do you still get pleasure cooking at home or would you prefer to go out to dinner?
I’m never home anymore! But when I do manage to get a few days off in a row – and this is every rare- I do enjoy having something bubbling on the stove. Mostly, I eat out and see what’s happening around the London food scene.
Can you let our readers know any exciting projects you may be working on?
Balls & Company is thrilled to be hosting a special dinner on the 8th March for International Women’s Day! We’re collaborating an amazing array of female chefs who really make London’s restaurant scene exciting!
What chefs do you most admire?
At the moment I am fascinated by Kylie Kwong. She is a Sydney based chef who fuses Chinese cookery with native Australian flora. She’s always smiling despite being ridiculously busy!
Balls and Company’s International Women’s Day dinner will take place on 8th March 2017. The first sitting will begin at 6.00pm with a second at 8.30pm