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MoVida X Propeller: An Evening with Frank Camorra

When the Australian face of Spanish Tapas, Frank Camorra hops on a plane and heads West you make sure that you run (not walk) to get yourself a seat at the table. 

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Friends with one of our favourite local chefs, Kurt Sampson – Camorra was invited by the team at Propeller to bring a taste of his Melbourne institution MoVida to our Port City for one night only, MoVida X Propeller: An Evening with Frank Camorra

Ably assisted by Sampson and inspired by the abundance of fresh seasonal seafood caught daily in Fremantle, Camorra took over the Propeller kitchen to serve up a Spanish style feast.

We sat down with Frank and Kurt as they were prepping for the evening to find out just what inspires them, what they love about each other’s cooking and what guests could expect from the MoVida X Propeller experience.

Spoiler alert, it was all kinds of delicious and we recommend putting the next dinner right at the very top of your foodie to-do list.

How did you two first meet?

Frank: Just around the traps really, Melbourne you know? It’s a small industry, even in Melbourne – everyone knows each other. We are in a similar age group and we spent the early part of our career working for similar chefs in the CBD.

Kurt: We crossed paths a few times, but we would check each other out and keep an eye on what the other was doing ‘food-wise’ in the early days, and I guess even more so now.

What do you like about each other’s cooking?

F: For me it’s those flavours of the Middle-East that Kurt refines just a little bit. I don’t know if you were working for Malouf? (gestures to Kurt) when he was at O’Connells?

K: Yeah, I was there.

F: I was an apprentice when I went in there and it was probably the most amazing meal I’ve had. I was in the early stages of my cooking career and I was really questioning whether I wanted to be a chef or not – my background was a degree in architecture. So, I was like ‘do I really want to do this?’ And I remember eating at O’Connell’s and thinking ‘yeah, this is absolutely what I want to do.’

For me it’s the refined nature of Kurt’s food as well as being schooled in the art of Italian cuisine by Guy Grossi that has inspired me with my own Spanish cooking. Seeing someone do food that’s quite traditional in the way that Guy did, or the way you’ve done Kurt, but then refine it even further makes it special, and in my eyes more Australian.

K: I remember the last time I ate at your place in Melbourne at Aqui, when I left, I couldn’t believe the cross-over was so similar. I didn’t realise that Spain was so close, I mean I knew the Moorish were a big influence, but I didn’t realise there was such a similarity between the flavours and styles.

F: I mean even some of the dishes we’re cooking tonight, take the capsicum salad for example – there’s a real synergy of authentic flavours there and I know you do something very similar.

Where I’m from is the South of Spain and we’ve got about 800 years of Moorish, so the food has those real Northern African flavours. Lots of aromatic spices, sweetness in dishes – even the savoury ones, plus those key ingredients like saffron and rice that was brought to the West through Africa and Spain – so we do work with very similar ingredients.

What is the inspiration behind the Movida X Propeller kitchen collaboration?

F: The focus is on seafood and the abundance of fresh local produce you guys in WA have access to. We’ve got some beautiful Red Emperor, which we do get over in the East, but it comes a long way and it’s hard to get so we don’t use it all the time, but it is one fish that I do really love working with, especially if I’m cooking it whole and on the bone. The cuttlefish season is just starting, so we’ll be using a fair bit of that in one of the main dishes – Cuttlefish for me is a classic ingredient, especially when we cook it as part of a black rice paella.

How do you work together in the kitchen?

F: We really just do our best to make it as easy as possible for each other. Being in a new kitchen with a different team can be tricky, but we’ve got a plan and we can guarantee it’s going to be delicious.

K: I assured him it would be easy; he’s probably thinking it’s all a bit manic. This time around it’s all about Frank and letting his food shine, so I am really just here to assist where I can.

Any other local ingredients that you love to work with when you get over to the West?

F: Anything from Marron to Veal is beautiful in WA – we can of course get it over to Melbourne, but there is the distance to factor in so it’s great to be able to enjoy those ingredients at the source too.

Favourite ingredients at the moment?

F: We’ve been playing around with a bit of plankton because we do a fair bit of importing from Spain, and we have a supplier who has been dehydrating plankton which is amazing -fairly expensive but amazing. Basically, plankton is what oysters eat so it’s almost like eating a vegetarian oyster – we do a risotto and add the plankton right at the last minute and it just tastes like the ocean.

K: For some reason I am really loving working with Tahini at the moment and I have just discovered a pie that is coming out of Saudi Arabia that has Tahini in it.

Its filled with leeks and we’re doing it with beef, Tahini and a bit of vinegar – not a whole heap of ingredients but the pastry is interesting too because we top it with an egg.

All I know is we are buying tonnes of Tahini at the moment so if I had to pick a favourite then that would have to be it. It was figs up until last week but now the season is over, I’ve changed it up.

Any places in Perth you love visiting – aside from Propeller of course?

F: I went to Lulu La Delizia the other night, which was brilliant, the best pasta I’ve eaten outside of Italy. I also went to Los Bravos for tapas too which I loved. Plus, I ate a great burger from flipside, and of course Propeller always gets a tick from me.

Word: Hayley Sarre

Imagery: Detail