From the quaint and eclectic suburb of Surry Hills in Sydney, Australia to the wide-winged city of New York, Hetty from Arthur Street Kitchen has settled into the world of food quite neatly. From delivering salads by bicycle to packing up her family and salad servers and moving to the US, she has created a salad empire for vegetarians and non, always becoming bigger and better, inspired by her life in New York, the scents she reminisces on and the travel Hetty and her family work for.
TELL US ABOUT YOURSELF AND THE BUSINESS:
I’m a salad-maker. And I write books about salads.
My business was born in 2011, from my home kitchen in Surry Hills, Sydney. Twice a week, I would cook hearty, flavour-packed, vegetarian salad boxes, pack them onto the back of my bike, and cycle them around my local neighbourhood, feeding lunch to the hungry locals. What started as a ‘hobby’, and as a way for me to do what I love most - feed people - soon turned into a local phenomenon. Through word of mouth, the delivery business grew. I would cook and deliver up to 80 salads a day, on my own. Some days, I would take 80 orders in 10 minutes. The locals responded emphatically to my food – healthy, plant-based meals that are hearty, inventive and satisfying. When customers started asking for recipes, this prompted me to write my first cookbook, Community: Salad Recipes from Arthur Street Kitchen, which was a collection of the salads I cooked for the people of Surry Hills.
DESCRIBE A TYPICAL WORK DAY:
For me, no two work days are the same. My days are very organic and free-flowing. Apart from having a salad business, developing recipes, writing books and articles, I am also a full-time mum, so my prime work hours are between 9-3pm during which I’m VERY efficient. I usually start the day by dropping the kids to school, then grabbing a strong black coffee. Then I usually head home to answer emails, followed by 3-4 hours in the kitchen cooking, testing and revising recipes, and usually photographing content for my blog, Instagram and my other publishing projects. I spend equal time in the kitchen and my computer. Of course, this is all set to change in the next month as I am moving into my kitchen studio, which I am sharing with a fellow cookbook author. We are building a test kitchen and will use the space for communal dining events, photo shoots and generally as a place to connect with others who love food, cooking and community. The space is called Neighborhood Studio.
HOW DOES SCENT EXIST IN YOUR WORK?
Scent is such a big part of cooking. When we create in the kitchen, we go on a transformative journey with our nose - I’m always awed by disparate flavours and aromas that coalesce and morph into something else, forming new scents. Smells are very evocative to me. I remember very distinct aromas from my mother’s cooking – ginger and smoky wok aromas - and it still inspires me to create in the kitchen. Sometimes I know I’ve created a recipe perfectly, simply by the way it smells.
IS THERE A PARTICULAR SCENT THAT REPRESENTS A SPECIFIC TIME AND PLACE FOR YOU?
I adore the smell of food cooking outdoors – there is something very honest and real about food aromas that meld with the smell of the city around it! The smell of roasting chestnuts always transports me to a piazza in Rome. I was 18 and on my first holiday as an adult, discovering my independence. Now, whenever I smell roasted chestnuts from the food carts in Manhattan, I still smile and remember those seminal days in Rome where I discovered the joy of traveling and discovery.
WHAT DO YOU LOVE MOST ABOUT LIVING IN NEW YORK?
I love so much of it, but mostly I love the diversity. Here, everybody is somebody and nobody at the same time. I love the anonymity of being one of millions of bodies moving in and out of subways, and jostling down imposing avenues. I love the way the city challenges you. It is the city that never sleeps, but also the city that doesn’t allow its inhabitants to sleep, because we are in a constant state of overstimulation. The city really inspires me to create and search for new ideas. It is a hard city, a little rough around the edges, but I find this imperfection really endearing.
HOW DOES TRAVEL FEATURE IN YOUR WORK AND PERSONAL LIFE?
So much of my life is inspired by travel. I feel like I’m moving through life, always looking for the next place, the next opportunity, the next idea. We work, to travel. We travel, to live. It’s really that simple. If I could, I would travel all year round. I think our family are nomads at heart. Our kids love travel. They love seeing new cultures, trying new foods. They embrace it with all their heart. Travel is also the biggest inspiration for me as a cook and recipe writer. Everywhere I venture, I am grabbing little snippets of local life and injecting that into my recipes. My latest book, Neighbourhood, is a book of salads inspired by places all over the world. This book really sums up how much traveling inspires my work.
WHO HAVE BEEN SOME OF THE BIGGEST INFLUENCES IN THE WORK YOU CREATE?
My mum is, hands down, the biggest influence on me and the way I cook. The dedicated way in which she cooks for her family, and her commitment in putting home-made, delicious food on the family table every day, is a constant reminder that the best cooks in the world are found in home kitchens, not restaurants. I idolise home cooks above all others, and the way I cook, the way I write, the way I create, is really rooted in celebrating the beautiful food that is created by everyday cooks within their homes and communities.
WHO ARE THREE INSTAGRAM ACCOUNTS YOU FOLLOW FOR INSPIRATION?
@juliaostro – Julia’s account is probably my favourite on all of Instagram. She is so real, honest, approachable. On top of that, she is a brilliant cook and a really nice person. I’m obsessed.
@fuchsiadunlop – I love seeing so many of the Chinese dishes I grew up eating on her feed. I am constantly inspired to delve deeper into my Chinese roots when seeing her posts.
@shantanustarick – serious photo envy. Love, love, love
TELL US A FEW OF YOUR FAVOURITE NEW YORK HAUNTS:
Gersi, 316 Court Street, Brooklyn (Carroll Gardens)
This is one of our local joints. We live in Carroll Gardens, a neighbourhood with a strong Italian heritage so there is no shortage of Italian restaurants around. Gersi is one of the newest and best – I dream of their Spaghetti al Limone and kale panzanella
Court Street Grocers – 485 Court Street, Brooklyn 11231
Around the corner from my house, this is where I find my daily dose of potent black coffee plus THE best sandwich in New York City – the VegItalian Hero filled with sweet potato, olives, rocket, swiss cheese, mozzarella, red onion and hoagie sauce!
Rucola, 190 Dean Street, Cnr of Bond, Brooklyn
Another neighbourhood fave – fantastic all day dining, and brilliant pasta at night, situated on a gorgeous, leafy corner of Boerum Hill.
Shake Shack (all around)
Because I’m obsessed with their ‘shroom burger!
Joe’s Shanghai – 9 Pell Street, New York
We have been coming here for years, even when we were only in NYC as visitors. My family love the soup dumplings, but I love the scallion pancakes and fried rice noodles. Bustling, communal dining at its New York best.
Kiki’s – 130 Division Street, New York
Greek food is not that common in NYC, but this little joint hiding behind the façade of an old Chinatown printing factory is a gem! Their pan-seared, phyllo wrapped saganaki with honey blows my mind.
June – 231 Court Street, Brooklyn
It’s a lovely local bar with cosy booths, specializing in natural wines, with excellent food too.
Elsa – 136 Atlantic Avenue, Brooklyn
Originally a bar in the East Village, Elsa is now up the road in Cobble Hill and the locals are thrilled. Killer drinks list in a cool, pain-stakingly reimagined space.
Prospect Park 95 Prospect Park West Brooklyn, 11215
Brooklyn’s version of Central Park is wilder, woodsy and more rambling. We are so lucky to have such vast greenspace in the middle of one of the busiest cities in the world.
Museum of Modern Art (MoMa) 11 West 53 Street, New York, NY 10019
Still my favourite museum in the city. The classics room is my happy space. I can get lost in here for hours, even after countless visits. My kids love it too.
Chinatown Lower Manhattan, Flushing in Queens and Sunset Park in Brooklyn
Three Chinatowns in the city, and all so different. I love the foodcourts in Flushing, full of cheap, handmade dumplings, and the busy shopfronts in Sunset Park. However Manhattan’s Chinatown is still my fave. I feel that this is my spiritual home. I love the potent aromas, the slight grit, and the many faces of our multicultural world.
Bronx and Brooklyn
More beautiful, peaceful greenspace in the city. Cherry Blossom time, during April, is just magic.
I love it here! It’s retro, and very old school. I love walking along the boardwalk and watching all the colourful characters. I always feel like I’m on the set of Beaches (movie).
Union Square Greenmarket, 14th Street
There is nothing I love more than shopping for seasonal produce. It is such a luxury to have this fresh, locally grown farm produce at our fingertips in such a big city. I love the greenmarkets here so much. Full of colour, life and abundance.
Mociun, 224 Wythe Ave, Brooklyn
The wall of ceramics is the best. I never walk out empty handed.
No6 Store, 8 Centre Market Place, New York
The best, most comfortable clogs. The most interesting fabrics. The loveliest staff.
7115 by Szeki 223 Grand Street, Brooklyn NY, 11211
Cool, understated, minimal designs created by local, Lower East Side based designer Szeki Chan. Her pieces are so adaptable and completely timeless.
Brought to you by Luxe City Guides in collaboration with Lumira