Sylvester Sessions #100
Founder of The Midnight Baker
Auckland, New Zealand
Yeshe wears Splash midi dress
You’ve recently launched a new menu at Midnight Baker, tell us about collaborating with your new chef and the direction you want to push the cafe.
We’ve been wanting to move towards a more seasonal menu for some time now and with Freya de Beer Smith joining our team as the new chef, this seemed like the perfect time to transition. Freya immediately understood our ethos around sustainability. She is passionate about the connection we have with our food, knowing where and how our food is grown. She brought on board local urban organic growers at OMG to supply us with fresh produce which has been great; they’re literally just up the road from our cafe.
Freya also has an amazing talent and passion for ferments and pickles, capturing a season or a mood in the developed flavours of slow natural fermentation processes. She’s crafted a beautiful new menu which is a celebration of winter, inspired by the delicious, hearty, and earthy produce the cooler months have to offer.
Who are your food heroes? Is there anyone in particular you look up to?
Locally I’m inspired by what Plabita from Forest (@forestpopups) is doing, highlighting plants and underrated parts of produce, especially in a fine dining context.
I’ve just started following @thisislagom on Instagram. They have informative, through provoking posts about food, how it’s prepared, grown, and accessed; about inclusivity and collaboration, sharing knowledge and stories.
Samin Nosrat of ‘Salt Fat Acid Heat’ is delightful and imparts the fundamentals of cooking in such an accessible way. Her Netflix 4 part series is amazing.
And I’ve also been enjoying getting cookbooks out from the library and found Anna Jones & Diana Henry recently too.
What are you reading / watching / listening to that is inspiring you at the moment?
I’m listening to some great podcasts at the moment.
The High Low - A fountain of recommendations for current articles, books, tv, and interviews. They also do great commentary on the weeks pop culture and news stories.
On the Rag - I find this to be like sitting in the lounge of your flat with three smart, informed women discussing things concerning women, structured around what’s been happening in the news in New Zealand that month.
Taringa - This is a bilingual podcast in Te Reo & English that teaches you about Maori language, culture, iwi, and myths. We listen to this while we make bread; it’s a really good time.
Brene Brown’s Netflix special is amazing.
Advice for 20 year old you?
Trust your intuition and yourself.
No one has all the answers even if it seems like they do.
Save a little money. You’ll thank yourself when you’re in your 30’s trying to buy a house.
You have great style! What are you drawn to in terms of feel and function?
I want to feel comfortable and free to move in clothing as my work is pretty physical in nature. But what I wear to work is often what I wear to dinner so pieces that have subtle character to them, that are considered in construction and fit are what I gravitate towards. I love the feel of natural fibres and my wardrobe is mostly linen, soft wools and cotton.
Do you have any secret escape portals in the internet for procrastinating?
@Tofupupper on instagram.
https://www.modernistaustralia.com for amazing modernist houses for sale (but in Australia)
Kirsten Wiig’s ‘Penelope’ skits on SNL are hilariously ridiculous. I feel like we all know someone like that.
Interview & photography by Greta van der Star.
Check out The Midnight Baker here and here.