Arthur Street Kitchen
Words by Fiona M Symington
Hetty McKinnon is going stateside. Three-and-a-half years after establishing the highly successful Arthur Street Kitchen (ASK), she’s moving it to Brooklyn and taking her delicious recipes, creative food concept, and delivery bike with her.
Hetty first launched Arthur Street Kitchen from her home in Surry Hills, Sydney, in 2011. “A local kitchen for local people” is how she describes the lunchtime service that saw her creating fresh healthy salads and delivering them to locals on bike.
The kitchen was in Hetty’s home with her preparing weekly menus, taking inspiration from her mother’s Cantonese kitchen, extensive travels, and the different flavours and textures of seasonal vegetables.
Very much a one-woman show, she delivered her orders on Thursdays and Fridays with her menus being sent on Wednesdays by email. Come rain or shine, each order was delivered on bike, with Hetty frequently making multiple trips between her home and local businesses. From sourcing local food to delivering it in person, community was at the heart of her kitchen and local businesses, neighbours and families couldn’t get enough.
Within six months of starting, the kitchen was selling out — some days in ten minutes. “People were really connecting to the food and that’s because the person making the food was also delivering it.” Such was its popularity that she limited orders to sixty a week, resisting lucrative offers to deliver to Sydney’s central business district. She wanted to keep things small and local.
As for her food, Arthur Street Kitchen celebrates seasonality with a vegetable at the heart of each salad. Herself, a vegetarian, her food is not simply delicious but inventive. Classic ASK salads include a deconstructed borsch (beetroot, dill, crème fraîche and walnut salad), a transformed laksa soup made into a salad of hokkien noodles, green beans, Chinese broccoli and tofu, and a sweet sesame broccoli, edamame and quinoa salad. “The inspiring thing about salads is that you can really play around with flavours, influence, and textures,” is how Hetty describes her food.
Encouraged by her customers to share her recipes, she self-published the aptly named Community – her first cookbook in 2013. Just as she was going to second print, her book was picked up by Pan Macmillian Australia and published under its lifestyle imprint, Plum. It is now in its fourth edition.
Community: Salad Recipes from Arthur Street Kitchen is as much a homage to Surry Hills as a collection of her favourite recipes. The book is filled with photos of locals – the creatives, architects, designers, whom made Arthur Street Kitchen such a success. Luisa Brimble’s photography captures the essence of Hetty’s food – everyday home-cooked food, shared locally.
Since January this year, Arthur Street Kitchen has had a new home – Brooklyn, New York. With its vibrant, young and entrepreneurial food culture, it is the perfect destination for Arthur Street Kitchen. “Brooklyn is one of the only places that I would choose to live right now. It’s about small start-ups and there are some very interesting things happening here.”
At present, she’s spending time discovering Williamsburg, its local food scene, as well as exploring markets and even toying with the idea of a community canteen. All of which will be captured in her new book – Arthur Street Kitchen Brooklyn to be published by Plum in 2016.
It’s early days but what’s certain is that whatever Hetty does it will all be about community.
For this interview, Hetty has kindly shared with us her recipe for smoky baba ghanoush with roasted cauliflower, lentils and pomegranate salad.