Shane Lurie, chef at Sydney’s Zebra Green, and creator of the famous Zebra Green sauces, is more than just a chef.
After catching the travel bug at an early age, South African-born Shane has eaten his way around the world and has many stories to tell.
From camping in the pouring rain to see UB40 play, with nothing but a few drams of whisky for warmth, to living in Prague. From eating foie grass terrine in Marco Pierre White’s restaurant, to eating cane rats in Durban, we all have a little something to learn from Shane.
I had the pleasure of eating at Shane’s restaurant and then sitting down with the chef himself to pick at his wonderful, interesting mind…
So, tell us a little bit about yourself. How did you end up in Australia?
I was born in South Africa. My grandmother, an amazing cook had to move there pre-war from London. They made it their home and I loved growing up in Jo’burg. Many of my friends from those days are here in Sydney now too with their kids. Sydney is my home now and our kids are Aussies.
Where have you travelled?
Well I was lucky early on to have the travel bug so all over Europe, I lived in Prague for a ￼while and met my wife there. Parts of Africa and Asia, every stop brought new flavours and ideas, inspiration.
What’s your favourite country in the world to eat and why?
Tel Aviv, Israel. I lived there for a while too after then I served in the army in South Africa. It is ￼always open. I love to eat late at night and communally; it’s fun and a melting pot of cuisines. Bring me anything from a street market in Shuk Ha Carmel and I’m yours.
What’s your food philosophy?
Full of flavour, simple and designed to share. As a dad I cook now in more of a communal way, loving to share. I try to get the best produce and not mess with it but combine it with spices and ingredients I’ve discovered along the way having worked with many great chefs.
If you could go back in time and have one meal anywhere in the world where and what would it be?
I once ate foie grass terrine in Marco Pierre White’s restaurant in London, when he was in the kitchen. It was awesome. I can still remember the sensation and texture.
Who is your inspiration?
Michelle Roux for the classic timeless style. I cooked for him once and I don’t think I took a breath until I went to the table and he said “ah yes good, really good”. Also now I like to hear from my new guys in the kitchen. Tastes are changing in Sydney and we have a multicultural kitchen. Our chefs make any staff dinner they want. It is always inspiring.
Out of all the countries you’ve been to, which one would be the ultimate ‘foodie destination’?
Of course Sydney. Well.. this might be a surprise, but Ireland also is – check out Dunfanaghy. The produce foraged fresh daily, accessible organic farms, fish caught and delivered to the table in hours, and lots of French influence. It is a haven of possibilities.
Tell us about your best travel memory
I once went with mates to Gaborone, Botswana to see UB40, it rained and rained and we camped in an empty field for three days, no facilities, well a little whisky kept us warm. We took a bus there, eight hours or so. Our café logo is, food – booze – coffee – mates, this trip ticked them all.
￼Weirdest thing you’ve ever eaten?
Cane rat in Durban… but well my 10-year-old daughter has started to cook, so it might be a toastie with uncooked rice (for crunch) and jelly.
Out of all the places you have travelled to, are their any cuisines that you think are underestimated in the culinary world?
More travel for everyone means our pallets are better versed in new cuisines, I love this. We have lots to explore in Africa. Sustainability and ways of eating can bring us lots of new ways of treating food. The Portuguese influences in Mozambique have filtered into the rest of ￼Africa, much more than Peri Peri.
What do you think everyone should always have on hand in their cupboard?
Aside from a full stock of our sauces and my new seasoning, a good quality oil and vinegar, some anchovies and a stock cube. Anything can be eaten with the right flavour combo.
So, after tasting your moreish Zebra Green sauces, I can tell sauce is something you are very passionate about. What makes a good sauce and why?
Thanks. It is cooked by a chef with onions and garlic in a pot, simple. Too many sauces taste the same or worse like chemicals of some kind. Each of our products have a purpose and a goal, make it taste better is our promise and it really does. Restaurant quality at home is not a wish anymore but if our customers expect it, we deliver it. Our wholesalers use it to get consistency too; loyalty and regulars want what they ate last time, exactly. Our sauces help make that happen.