Q+A with Joel Valvasori

Q+A with Joel Valvasori

Last Updated: 08 May 2015
Sophie Raynor

How many meatballs do you make when you’re expecting a crowd of 20,000? Lalla Rookh head chef Joel talks us through his Taste of Perth plans.

You're back at Taste of Perth for a second time. How did you get involved?

We got asked to do it again – I guess the organisers were happy with how we went about our business. We've got two stalls this year: one for the regular restaurant, and we're also doing a wine and salumi stall.

Yum! Ah, what's salumi?

Salumi is the general Italian word for cured meats. It's a wine tasting stall, but the salumi is also on the menu, so we're showcasing what's on offer at the restaurant.

What else is on the menu?

Last year we did my Nonna's meatballs. Unfortunately we sold out in the middle of Saturday night and were unable to replenish for Sunday. We're doing them again this year, but doing a lot more – we're doing about 2,500 serves. Hopefully that gets us through, but we'll see.

We're also making ricotta gnocchi with sugo di carne – a free-range pork and beef ragu. We're making the gnocchi down there for everyone to see, so that will be pretty cool.

And fried custard – it's kind of got a cult following among the foodies of Perth. It's set custard, crumbed and deep-fried. It comes out hot – not like deep-fried ice cream at Chinese restaurants. And it's got cinnamon sugar on the outside.

We're also doing lamb shanks. We do a whole lamb leg here, but you have to pre-order it. This is a chance for people to try that, just in shank form.

Image via Lalla Rookh (Facebook)

What prep do you have to do for that?

Last year they were busier than they'd anticipated – it was the first event, and it was hard to say how many people would turn up. They estimated for 10,000 or 12,000, but they got over 15,000. This year, weather permitting, they're hoping for 20,000. So, there's a lot of prep involved for that many people! We all learnt a lot of lessons from last year – we know how to make it easier for ourselves this year, and more fun.

So, what are you doing differently this time around?

We thought really hard about the dishes we're doing – this year, they're more suited to that style of eating, while still getting our message across really strongly. And just volume – we're prepping a far greater amount to begin with.

Image via Lalla Rookh (Facebook)

What was last year's event like?

It was a hell of a lot of hard work! It was quite tiring, but for some strange reason we all get really excited about doing it again. It's a fun occasion – a really fun environment.

Did you get a chance to look around at the other restaurants?

I didn't last year – we were too flat out. We didn't get to stop. That's one thing we're making different for ourselves this year – making sure we actually have the time to enjoy the atmosphere of the event. Not to go round, just to talk to customers and work with the atmosphere of the event.

It's a good opportunity for people to have a chat with us and find out more about what we do. That's why we decided to do the gnocchi-making down there – so people can see what it is we're doing, and the work that goes in. So they can get more of an understanding and appreciation for what we're doing.

Taste of Perth runs from May 15 to 17. For all information, head here.

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