WRITING NEW CHAPTERS
Gourmet Traveller|February 2022
From Austin to Zurich, Australian chefs help populate kitchens around the world. This international experience doesn’t just look good on résumés: it also spells good things for eaters, especially when returning expats bring back new flavours, ideas and ingredients to Australia. Three recent arrivals talk to MAX VEENHUYZEN about coming home and lessons learned on the road.
MAX VEENHUYZEN
ANNITA POTTER, VIAND

David Thompson’s former right-hand woman brings her intimate, personal expression of Thai dining to Sydney’s Woolloomooloo neighbourhood.

Restaurants throughout Australia, Asia and Europe. Hosting guided luxury boat tours along the Mekong. Consulting to Jaan Bai, a social enterprise in Battambang established by the Cambodian Children’s Trust: if keeping tabs on David Thompson’s (pre-Covid) movements was hard as an eater, spare a thought for Annita Potter. For close to a decade, Perth-born Potter was the Thai food authority’s executive chef and travelled the world working on Thompson’s myriad projects and eateries.

After helping steer Thompson’s Hong Kong fine-diner Aaharn to a Michelin star in 2019, Potter went solo at year’s end to pursue, in her words, “a little slice of normality”. And then Covid hit.

Unable to find any restaurant work in Sydney, Potter took things into her own hands and set up Viand: a two-nights-a-week pop-up at Darlinghurst’s Almond Bar slinging uncompromising Thai food. Her decision was about more than just dollars.

“I needed to cook,” says Potter. “I needed to feed people again. It’s the one thing that grounds me and centres me, and I had no ability to do it. [The pop-up] may not have been the best idea, but it kept me afloat.”

Despite these misgivings, the pop-up was a hit and paved the way for the opening of a permanent Viand in Woolloomooloo earlier this year: a spacious, 40-seat space that embodies Potter’s ideas of both Thai food and hospitality.

“It’s basically how I want to eat,” says Potter. “I don’t want to sit in a barn full of people. I want space. I want air around my table. I don’t want to rush and turn over tables because people don’t get the experience that they’re paying for.”

Like most hospitality workers, the last two years haven’t been easy for Potter, but as things revert to some semblance of normal, she hopes the industry doesn’t squander this opportunity to learn and grow.

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