This article appears in Volume 29: The Taste Issue

In addition to Australia’s rural regions, the country’s contemporary food scene is being shaped not only by big-hitters such as Sydney and Melbourne, but also its lesser-known urban hubs. We’ve teamed up with food and drink insiders in the emerging food cities of Brisbane, Canberra and Perth to take your taste buds even farther off the beaten track.

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Growing up in a large Mauritian family, Brendan Pang developed a passion for cooking while watching his grandma make wontons from scratch. From then onwards he spent all of his time in the kitchen making noodles and pickling vegetables. Since appearing as a contestant on MasterChef Australia 2018, 26-year-old Brendan has tackled Perth’s culinary scene with determination (and no small measure of success).

Pang’s restaurant, Bumplings, is a dumpling kitchen located inside a repurposed Airstream at The Sunshine Harvester Works in Fremantle. As well as using fresh, local produce, Brendan maintains that delicious food is all the sweeter when shared with those around you. Beyond the bright lights of Australian television and the sparkling success of his first business venture, the chef shares his insider tips on the best places to wind down and dine well in the Western Australian capital.

What inspired you to become a chef?

I’ve always had an enormous appetite, so you could say my love for food began at a very early age, plus I’ve been cooking for as long as I can remember. During the school holidays, my grandma would spend days teaching me how to cook. When I went back home, I would insist on preparing my own breakfast and helping my mum bake. Both of these women inspired me to pursue a career in food. There have also been multiple moments when I realised I wanted to pair cooking with business. Food has always been central to my family, so when I helped my mum start her own cake business and my uncle open his café, I knew I wanted to do something similar.

What made you want to apply to MasterChef? Tell us about your experience on the show.

When the opportunity to apply for MasterChef arose, my best friend suggested I enter and I never looked back. It was a stressful experience to say the least, but I enjoyed every minute and learned so much from all the talented chefs I met. It helped me to develop my own cooking style, which I’d describe as honest, in that I cook food I love to eat while using fresh local produce wherever possible.

Why did you choose to base yourself in Perth?

Many people have asked if I would ever base myself elsewhere in Australia, but Perth will always be home to me. I am a very family-oriented person, so basing myself close to those I love works in my favour. It’s funny – each time I travel around the world and return to Perth, I appreciate it a lot more. The city is calm, beautiful and has incredible food and produce. I think if I ever left, it would have to be for a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, and for a very short while too.

What’s it like starting a new business in Perth?

Starting a business is terrifying; there are so many challenges. It’s one thing to be well-versed in food, but there is so much more to it, such as finding top-notch suppliers, exercising portion control, hiring staff, organising payroll – the list continues. Luckily, having spent the majority of my life in Perth, I’ve made some valuable connections which have helped me a lot in business – without them, Bumplings wouldn’t exist.

Aside from Bumplings, what makes Perth such a great culinary destination?

I may be a little biased, however I think Perth (and Western Australia generally) has some of the most incredible produce in the world. With the varied climate, ingredients can grow in the state all year round. It also has some of the freshest seafood available. In terms of dining, talented up-and-coming chefs drawing inspiration from diverse cultures make our city a great culinary destination.

 

Brendan’s Guide to Perth

STAY: QT Perth has really modern rooms and is right in the city centre. If you’re looking for something a bit swankier, COMO The Treasury should do the trick.
EAT: Long Chim, Bread in Common, Young George, George Street Quarters and Yagan Square Market Hall. For breakfast, you can’t miss the cinnamon buns from North Street Store, and for lunch Run Amuk’s incredible hotdogs. In the evening, try Good Fortune Roast Duck House or Authentic Bites Dumpling House for quick and tasty dumplings (arrive early to avoid the queue). Uncle Billy’s is a go-to for a late-night feast.
DO: Head to South Beach Sunset Market for amazing vibes and cheap eats; drive or walk through Kings Park; visit Elizabeth Quay; or walk anywhere along the coast. If it’s a bit cloudy, grab a coffee and walk around the South Perth foreshore. Every now and then, when I’m feeling a little run down, I’ll go to Bodhi J spa for a massage.
SHOP: Try the boutiques along Oxford Street in Leederville. Alternatively, the Claremont Quarter shopping centre is a good day out.
DRINK+DANCE: During the summer head to The Print Hall rooftop Bob’s Bar for a drink, or Henry Summer has a great garden area. Both Strange Company and Tiny’s serve delicious cocktails. Up for a dance? Try The Aviary – the trumpet-playing DJ is a must-see.

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