17 Sep 2019
Regular patrons of Cottesloe’s ever-popular restaurant Vans may have noticed Executive Chef Leigh Nash is no longer at the helm, but if you’re a fan of Nash’s spicy Asian food, you can still get your fix. Here’s how…
Leigh Nash has always loved chilli. The popular Perth chef favours Asian flavours and throughout his lengthy career, has experimented widely with various chillies, including sriracha and other hot sauces.
In 2016, while working as Executive Chef at Cottesloe institution Vans, Nash and wife Ailbhe established Dingo Sauce Co. – an artisan, North Fremantle-based business making a range of preservative and additive-free hot sauces from locally grown produce. Now however, after 16 years at the helm at Van’s, Nash has decided to make his chilli business his primary focus.
“I’d basically achieved everything that I’d set out to during my time running the Vans kitchen – it felt like it was time for me to move on, diversify and experiment with some of the ideas that I’d been playing around with in my mind for many years. I’ve always wanted to run my own business – cook exactly what I want, my way – and now I’m finally in a place where I’m fulfilling that dream,” he explains.
That dream includes further developing his range of sauces under his new multi-layered business, Dingo Dining.
“Dingo Dining is basically the umbrella for my new food venture – it’s a bit of a segue from the sauce business and builds on my love of chilli and all things Asian to bring together a unique suite of food experiences that celebrate quality local ingredients, fresh seasonal produce and farmer-direct relationships with boutique West Australian growers,” he says.
That suite of food experiences in four-pronged.
Firstly, there are the private five-course Asian dinners Nash has been hosting at the Sunshine Harvester Works in Fremantle. Held once a month, the intimate events cater to 20 to 30 people, allowing Nash to steps out of the kitchen and talk to his guests about the ingredients he’s using, the farms they’ve come from and the cooking processes he’s used.
“We create experiential dining that’s all about connection – connection to farmer and produce, as well as to the person making the food and the people you are sharing it with,” Nash explains. “We build our menus around ethical, sustainable, thought-provoking food and we’ve loved having farmers, bakers, and other chefs come and join us at our long table. It’s definitely the most fun I’ve had as a chef in a long time.”
Dingo Dining’s second arm is its street food pop ups, which run out of Sunshine Harvester every second Friday alongside Brendan Pang’s venture, Bumplings, and Ray’s Satays.
“Basically, the idea with Dingo’s street food pop ups is to make really tasty modern Asian cuisine that’s accessible to everyone. Again, the focus is on fresh local produce and farmer direct. It’s a more casual way for people to taste our food – there are no bookings, just rock up every second Friday and order a la carte,” Nash explains.
Among the menu items from the fortnightly street food pop up is twice-cooked beef rib with green papaya; and pickled choayote salad and crispy herring larb. Both are signature dishes and are modern takes on traditional Asian street food favourites.
“I love that they are flavours I’ve been working with for years, but I’ve put my own personal signature on them – especially with the larb, which I serve with my Dingo Sauce Co. chilli jam.”
Thirdly, Dingo Dining offers corporate and event catering with the business successfully delivering a large conference in recent weeks, and gearing up to cater its first wedding.
And finally, the Dingo Dining team is continuing to expand its sauce business to include chilli education and tasting experiences: “It’s like a cellar door experience for chilli and we’ve been having so much fun sharing our sauce range and love of chilli in this way,” says Nash.
The Sunshine Harvester Works is a collaborative space where small business owners have access to the public while growing and workshopping their ideas. For Nash, the space is ideal for Dingo Dining at this stage.
“At the moment we are loving the collaborative experience of working out of Sunshine Harvester – it’s a great feeling to be a part of an incubator that’s all about growing small business like ours. We’ve got access to great advice and support and it’s the perfect place for us to figure out what works best for us and to try to crystallise a clear vision for our Dingo exploits moving forward. Right now everything is working really well so it will be interesting to check in again after the summer season and see how things stand.”
Between now and Christmas, the private dinners at Sunshine Harvester will feature a number of exciting collaborations and Nash admits to having a few special surprises up his sleeves.
Alternatively, if you miss one of the limited spaces at the dinners, find the Dingo Dining Asian street food pop up at Sunshine Harvester Works every second Friday.
For catering enquires, or more information, contact email@example.com.