For me, Ms.G’s is one of those restaurants (and Dan Hong one of those chefs) that has been instrumental - and continues to be - in redefining what Sydney dining’s all about. When doors opened in the fading light of 2010, it created waves with its bold “don’t call it fusion” flavours, stoner-friendly menu and expletive-laden hip-hop soundtrack blaring across all four levels of its Potts Point terrace.
It showed that you could eat interesting, tasty food for a not-unreasonable amount of money and have a fucking good time while you were at it - and this made a big impression on a certain 24-year-old paper pusher in Canberra.
Fast forward a number of years and I would have the good fortune to work directly with the Ms.G’s team - developing their social strategy and brand personality, creating a whole raft of fun content and launching their Instagram account (Let’s Get Baked and king fish are still two of my favourite stories). See? Dreams do come true.
During this time, one of my favourite moments came quite unexpectedly. I’d just finished up my first shoot in the kitchen - which entailed trying to stay out of the way while documenting the rolling of cheeseburger spring rolls, baking of choux pastry, filleting of mackerel and marinating of lamb ribs - when a lady walked out of the kitchen into the dining room carrying a large bowl of pork mince, a dozen or so packets of gow gee wrappers and a bowl of water.
“This could be interesting,” I thought to myself, and started getting my camera back out of its bag.
I watched on for a moment as she set up in one of the booths - methodically and devoid of fuss - then introduced myself. Her name was Aunty Sue - the kitchen/prep hand for Ms.G’s, and just as importantly, the folder of hundreds of their ‘Chiang Mai’ gyoza every day before service.
As she started to form those little parcels, we got chatting about various things. Where she was from, where I was from, if I had a girlfriend, if I’d been to university. You know - the things any good Asian aunty asks you about. As we spoke, it was evident how much Aunty Sue loved working at Ms.G’s. She had immense respect for her “much younger, much more hard-working” peers in the kitchen, and said how good the team had been to her over the years.
After a while, I asked Aunty Sue if she’d mind me taking some photographs of her in action. She seemed hesitant, so I assured her that I’d be focusing on the gyoza - and she obliged. For the next six or seven minutes, the dining room was silent but for the sounds of my camera shutter and the occasional squelch of pork mince.
Then, out of the blue, Aunty Sue asked if I could take a photo of her to send to her family, and to use as her new profile picture in the Merivale staff directory.
“Of course”, I exclaimed. “It’d be an honour!”
And indeed it was an honour - only moments before we were complete strangers; now, she not only knew the chronology of my childhood, but was also asking me to take her picture. While I examined the light and tried to figure out where to stand, Aunty Sue sat up straight and carefully tucked her hair behind her ears, making sure not to get flour or gyoza filling on herself.
“I’ll email them to you this afternoon”, I told Aunty Sue afterwards as I packed up my gear, and she gave me an excited wave goodbye.
So what’s the point of this story? There isn’t one, really. But it does remind me why I love hospitality so much. Obviously, I’m partial to good food and drink (the 8kg I put on during my first four months in this role will attest to that) - but at the risk of sounding horribly cliche, it’s the connections you make and the good people you meet along the way that make it special.
Good people like Aunty Sue. Humble, loyal - and unsurprisingly - a perennial favourite amongst the Ms.G’s team. She might not be a chef; she might not be in the limelight; but she makes a bloody good gyoza - and for me, she’s the secret behind them.