Mike McEnearney grew up in Sydney’s north-west in the 1970s, when Vegemite sandwiches and weekend roasts were normal fare and spaghetti bolognaise was a touch exotic. Exploring Chinatown and other city food offerings in his late teens introduced him to a whole new world and, in 1990, his cooking career began with an apprenticeship at Rockpool. In the mid-90s he set out for the European ‘grand tour’, before settling in London for ten years. Working at the Michelin-starred Pied à Terre and running kitchens at the likes of Mezzo, Bluebird, Pharmacy and Scott's, honed his skills and opened up a world of new food experiences. From his London base, European travel was easy – and the understanding of seasonality this brought formed the cornerstone of Mike’s food philosophy.
Ten years later, with a young family in tow, Mike returned to Sydney and his career came full circle when he took up the role of Executive Chef at Rockpool for three years. In 2010, he spent a year baking at Iggy's in Bronte, to master the creation of that most basic of foods, bread. Then, in 2011, he launched Mike's Table, a year-long series of pop-up diners at ici et là antique and interiors showroom in Surry Hills.
In February 2012, he opened Kitchen by Mike in a huge industrial space in Rosebery that was originally the Rosella soup factory. The building’s history inspired Mike to get back to basics: “A factory always has its staff canteen,” Mike explains, “and the more I thought about it, the more the canteen model felt right. The paring back of the space gave us the opportunity to showcase some of the country’s finest food producers at reasonable prices.” While all chefs talk seasonality, Mike and his team lived it daily, shopping at the markets each morning before writing the menu for that day’s lunch. The baker fired up the wood-burning oven for the day’s batch of sourdough at 4am and the doors opened for breakfast at 7am. Diners filed past the open kitchen, enamel plates in hand, to select from the ever-changing menu of roasts, salads, wood-fired pizze, rolls, wraps, cakes and pastries, while Mike chatted over the servery about the provenance of ingredients and other ways to prepare them.
In August 2015 Kitchen by Mike in Rosebery closed and Mike in 2016 Mike opened No. 1 Bent St in Sydney's CBD, later rebadging it Kitchen by Mike. Slightly more formal than the old canteen-style Kitchen (that is with table service, reservations and a good wine list), it’s still approachable and produce-based.
Visit Kitchen by Mike for more information.