It’s so hard to be perfect, but I think if you’re curious and you try to understand then you can make better choices, you can be more informed.Monica Luppi
Lulu’s – the food, the brand, the basics.
What is Lulu’s?
Lulu’s is my teeny tiny little food business, it’s my creative outlet, and the way I’m hoping to be able to feed people in many different ways. I wanted to do something, a sorta passion project (because it’s certainly not a main source of income), but it is where I get to work with all sorts of producers that I respect, and with products that I love and with people that I want to be in community with. So, that’s why I do it, because I need an excuse to hook up with all sorts of people who are doing amazing things, and then present it to the world I guess, or to the very few people who come and actually eat my food.
Is Lulu’s Mexican, Italian, or just anything goes?!
I was doing Mexican cuisine, well, American-Mexican, because I grew up in California. Mexican is such a deep culture and such a deep cuisine with thousands of years’ of history I could never say that I knew everything about.
But I’m actually Italian, so yeah, it just felt right to do something that was very simple and in my blood again.
I do feel Italian cuisine is who I am, and what Lulu’s is truly about. But I was always a bit afraid of doing it because you can’t really do Italian in a bar atmosphere, or like a more of a fast, casual kind of atmosphere, by definition it’s slow food that takes longer to make and you need to sit down around the table and kind of take your time eating it. So I just didn’t have the venue.
Anyway, I’m very very happy that Chrissy from The Sausage Factory kindly offered me a space and said do you want to do a pop up?
I was a bit like ah, should I do this? But it seemed like the right time and a perfect opportunity to bring Lulu’s back, the way it should be. I’ll be using fresh ingredients, offering a very simple menu and cooking the recipes that I know – I’m not really sure how I know them, so they must be either in my blood, in my DNA, or from my childhood because somehow, I just grew up knowing them. They’re authentic. They’re simply me, and you’ll be seeing much more of them.
What can people expect from your food?
A balance between quantity and quality. I think we’re seeking authenticity, and we’re seeking simplicity in life. We are slowly wanting to understand how food gets to our table, how farmers have grown something. So, going back to actually appreciating ingredients, and simplifying dishes is important to me.
You know, sustainable seafood is what’s near you and what the fisherman could catch that day, so, we will eat what has been caught that day.
For all of my food I use very few ingredients and highlight the produce – that never changes.
I would love to offer more offal and things like that, but people are not aware of it, and let’s be honest, they’re freaked out by it. But waste is really important in my cooking, so, for example I’m going to be making a butter with crustacean shells at my next event. And, you know, it’s like, really delicious, but people would usually just toss those away.
Will Lulu’s ever be a more permenant thing?!
No, well, I will never open a restaurant. I love the idea of cooking for a small group, and keeping it casual. I’m so happy to keep doing events and catering, but I don’t think that I’m the chef to be bound by bricks and mortar.
There will definitely be another dinner in February, and then I will probably think about sharing a schedule for the year if it all goes well and I’m happy with the set up, stick on my socials!
How did you get your first Lulu’s gig?
Well, we have a brewery down the street – Willy The Boatman. We saw them open, when we would go in there the guy was always really nice. At the time I was making tamales for people at home and I knew that no one was making them in Sydney. Now there’s a couple of people making them. So, I just kind of put it out there to Pat (the owner of the brewery) and said ‘Oh, can I come in and make tamales for you sometime?’ He’s like, ‘sure. When do you want to do it? Let’s lock in a date.’ And I was like, oh, like, oh my god. Yes. What? Okay, now I actually have to do this and It worked really well. And it just went from there, I guess.
What is Italian Cuisine to you?
For me, authentic Italian food is simple. It’s about two or three ingredients on a plate, and it’s about love and feeling good when you eat it. It’s simple deliciousness and not necessarily too delicate or too light, you know. It’s not always pretty to look at but when you put it in your mouth, you’re like, oh, yeah! To me that’s Italian food.
Food is also all about memory, and that can be as individual as the person cooking it. That is what I look for in all food and that’s what I put into my own. I am inviting someone to see into my heart a little bit.
We also have to remember, Italians are immigrants everywhere around the world, England, America … we were one of the first big waves of immigration post war here in Australia.
So sure, Italian food has an ethos, but I think if that can be carried over and blended with the other cultures that are here, and everybody puts themselves into it, it’s still Italian. Just like every other adaptation of a culture’s cuisine, there has to be respect. And I think as long as somebody says, I love Italy, and I love what they believe in, and I love this simple ingredient driven food, and they apply it to their experiences, I think it can only be delicious, you know, the same way I grew up eating Mexican food, and I did my version of knowing full well that I’m not authentic but that I am acknowledging and being inspired by other people.
The Real Lulu – Meet Monica
How did your journey begin?
Well, It’s probably been, gosh, I don’t know, two or three years since Lulu’s launched, but that’s so far from the beginning.
I was working in food during my 20’s and decided to step out to work in communications for a longtime, but I was always cooking. My 20’s were before chefs actually were thing, and it just didn’t enter my mind that food would be something that I could actually do. Certainly my family probably wouldn’t be that excited about it, and still are not.
But when I came to Australia and got my permanent residency, my mom had recently passed away and it made me realise that life is short. I was really tired of sitting in front of a desk, and I really wanted to cook for others, so, I found a way to do that.
Lulu’s is actually a tribute to my mom because it was my nickname from her, whenever she was cross with me, she’d be like Lulu! And so, because my food is dedicated to her, Lulu’s was born.
What ethos is essential to you in food?
Firstly, there’s so many choices in this world, and it’s such a complicated world, full of unintended consequences. And because the world is so complicated you can do a good act like, bring roses to your mom, but then you don’t know where those roses have been, who grew them, what the cost to the farmer was. So you know, it’s so hard to be perfect, but I think if you’re curious and you try to understand then you can make better choices, you can be more informed, and for me, my food and the ingredients I use to create it should have a background that I know and understand.
I try to deal with people who have the same wavelength as me, who I can trust, and I know they’re doing their best. So I’m favouring local small businesses, I’m not going to big distribution. That’s a non-negotiable. I want to know the name of the person I’m dealing with, and I want to have a chat with them to understand what’s on offer, what’s available and what’s the best thing at that time, obviously seasonal and local is important.
You know, also, the farmers are doing it really rough right now because of the drought and it’s the same with livestock. So I think having those conversations is vital because nature is fickle so you can’t sometimes have that one thing that you want, you need to be adaptable to have the thing that’s available at that time.
The kilometres of ingredients is a focus for me as-well, like I said, local is important. So, you know, I’m not going to highlight things that are flown in from somewhere, we have so much good produce here in New South Wales. Now, sometimes the market might not have that thing that’s essential to my event available from New South Wales and I might have to buy something that has been flown in. So, you know, it’s hard to say that’s a non-negotiable, but I am always looking to adapt.
Who and what excites you the most in hospitality?
The most inspiring part of my experience in the industry is The Women in Hospitality organisation, mainly because of the people I’ve met through it and being in a community of talented women
that I can learn from, and who actually realise and believe that they and I can grow. I think it’s a wonderful organisation.
The second thing is the renewed focus on bespoke experiences. I don’t think that maybe five years ago there would have been as much appetite for a small supper club experience, or taking lessons on how to recreate a specific cultural experience around food.
People are wanting to learn techniques and wanting to learn things about food now, and that’s something that is really exciting, it allows people like me who don’t necessarily have time the time, money or desire to open a restaurant the opportunity to share their passion in a more casual way, it’s incredible.
What do you wish you could change about Hospitality?!
I would make everybody more aware of food waste, people are slowly becoming more aware, but there’s still room to grow. If I could, I’d make a law like they have for supermarkets in France. With all the legislation around food that exists here in Australia, there should be something relating to waste that incentives people to waste less, and be more informed!