5 Minutes with Martin Benn, Sepia Restaurant Sydney

By Mariam Digges

5 Minutes with Martin Benn, Sepia Restaurant Sydney
Martin Benn’s Restaurant of the year winner, Sepia restaurant continues to reinvent itself each year with a bold, contemporary take on traditional Japanese dining elements.

Where do you draw inspiration from?
Inspiration is everywhere you go, you just have to let your imagination run and anything can be possible. For me, I sometimes might have a vision of what I want to create, but it can take months to come to fruition. The thing is, you can’t push for creativity; sometimes you have to wait.

How do you channel creativity when working on new dishes?
It’s really down to time. We spend around a day a week workshopping new ideas among the Sepia crew, testing them out to see what the final results are and then putting them into practice, often refining them over a few weeks.

Your dishes are often very vibrant and pop on the plate. Do you think this is an important feature?
This is very important  – we are hard-wired in a sense that our brains see colour, and our senses tell us if it looks delicious or not; if they look inviting, then very often than not, it will taste great. It is also a way of expressing yourself in a form I suppose.

What do you find to be the most exciting part of your job?
The most exciting part is the creation of a new dish – that very moment when you taste it or plate it up and you know that you have cracked it. For every success in the kitchen, there are also hundreds of failures. It’s also very satisfying to see when the guest first tastes the dish and the expression on their faces.

What do you attribute Sepia’s extraordinary success to?
Hard work from the entire team, teamwork, commitment, dedication, and evolution, which is probably the hardest of all. To consistently evolve your business and to get better every year is certainly the most challenging. We also like to have fun and we enjoy what we do, I think that is the key.

How important for you is it to add an element of surprise to the diner’s experience?
It’s very important to keep the guest interested throughout a meal. I often serve dishes that may explode or have an extreme textural element to keep the senses stimulated. It’s really great to be watching a table all sitting talking to each other and when the food is served, they suddenly all stop talking and taste the food and then the conversation in which they were having changes to what’s on the plate.

Which five ingredients could you not live without?
Kombu, katsuobushi, seafood generally, organic eggs, champagne.


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