Leigh Power’s food philosophy is the “big four; hot, sour, sweet and salty” and it certainly shows on his menu at Sweetwater.
For Leigh Power, motivation for his career began in the kitchen, especially with his mother. “Having good food from a young age and the idea of everyone coming together at the dinner table” really cemented for Power that this was the career for him.
Working as a chef across Australia, Power has recently added the spice and spirit of Asia to Western Australia’s East Fremantle with his latest venture, Sweetwater, where he helms the team as Executive Chef. Building on his passion for the hawker-style street food that saw him head up the kitchen at Melbourne’s acclaimed Gingerboy for seven years, Power has devised a mouth-watering menu focused on substance over style.
Power’s food philosophy is all about “big flavours and textures” with an affinity towards the balance of the “big four; hot, sour, sweet and salty”. Having trained in classical European food for years, Power has always wanted to cook Asian cuisine and for him, “travel was the thing that made me make the move into Asian kitchens.” Power’s exploration of Thailand, Indonesia and Vietnam has given him a greater understanding of the blending and cross culinary abilities of these flavours – something that translates into the food at Sweetwater.
One of his favourite dishes on the current menu is the fragrant yellow curry of shark bay prawns and mussels, followed by the crispy duck with blood plum caramel and Asian mushrooms. According to Power though, the definite crowd favourite from day one has been the sesame glazed cauliflower, with roasted cashew cream and garlic chips.
In an industry with little time to spare, Power keeps inspired by dining out, travelling and trialling dishes. Off to South East Asia in March, Power hopes to bring back of the fresh taste of Vietnam – the mint, chilli, lemongrass, lime leaf and coriander – and to incorporate more of those authentic flavours combinations into the Sweetwater menu. He also emphasises the importance of a chef’s relationship with suppliers and their role in keeping him inspired, “I stay in close contact with my suppliers so I’m constantly updated as to what is good in the market. Bad produce is one of the most worst things that can happen in a kitchen.”
As someone who describes the role of a chef as “forever evolving”, Power believes that the passion to always better one’s self is a big part of being a chef. Power is true to this in his activeness for constant learning, “the great thing about being a chef is it teaches you that you are never too old to stop learning.”
This also reigns true for his experience with Sweetwater, “as a business, we are constantly evolving” and in an industry that is fast-paced and challenging, the only way to survive is to ensure your ability to adapt and notice change never fail. Power says that so far the team has stayed true to their original concept for Sweetwater, but are expanding their vision to develop the business into something that will be loved for many years to come.
The question of ‘Why put a casual restaurant in a new $90 million luxury precinct?’ was something that didn’t cross Power’s mind. Approached by one of the owners, Russell Quinn, the concept was one that struck a chord, “the mix of great shared food and drinks with a smart casual feel in a beautiful setting was something I couldn’t turn down”, and in Perth’s evolving food scene, he made the right choice.
In a city where customers are the driving force for new and better dining experiences, Power says the food scene is still at a young age, but is growing and changing rapidly. “I’m always finding hidden gems, and the produce over here in Western Australia is second to none” says Power. Fuyu in Nedlands, and Long Chim, are among some of his favourite eateries in Perth and with expectations of small laneway bars to begin popping up over the next few years, it’s certainly a place to keep your eye on.
(08) 9387 0888
116/1 Silas Street, East Fremantle WA
Wed-Sat 12pm-12am, Sun 12pm-10pm