Right now at Eva, for some reason, we just can’t get food off our minds. So we caught up with the 2016 winners of My Kitchen Rules, Tasia and Gracia Seger, to talk about what food and cooking means to them, the best way to share a meal and their Melbourne restaurant Makan.
Before the interview, we spoke on the phone with Tasia and Gracia and they told us about their family dining table growing up. Apparently, it was always a point of tension in the family over which of the children would get the dining table because it was such a special item to them.
“It travelled with us from Jakarta to Darwin to Bangalore then back to Australia again here in Melbourne! It’s currently in Brisbane with our parents. We all still joke about where the table will be next and who gets to have it.” - Tasia and Gracia
Pictured above: the Seger family dining table.
Hi Tasia and Gracia! For those who don’t know, could you tell us a little about yourselves?
Hi Eva! We’re Tasia and Gracia, known as the 'spice sisters' from Melbourne during season seven of My Kitchen Rules. We took out the title of My Kitchen Rules champions in 2016.
We come from a family of five girls and travelled a lot growing up. We lived in Indonesia and India before settling in Melbourne in 2006. After winning the competition in 2016, we both worked a lot in the food industry, working with brands to create recipes and travelling around Australia for food demonstrations. Since then, we’ve opened our first restaurant Makan, in Melbourne CBD, where we are the head chefs. Makan showcases recipes of our heritage but with a modern twist. Plus, it’s the first Indonesian restaurant in Melbourne to offer a dining experience!
What does food and cooking mean to you?
Growing up, we were lucky enough to experience different cultures. Food has always been immersed in our way of life, and the centrepiece of all our family and friends gatherings including important events like birthdays, travels and other special occasions.
Our fondest memories of food have become fundamental in our development of recipes and the dishes that we love to eat. This has shaped our food philosophy: cooking to recreate memories. With recipes that have been passed along from two generations as the basis of our food knowledge, we try to recreate new dishes, new fusions of food and innovative dishes. We feel that through food we are able to recreate memories that we both hold so dearly.
Obviously, we have to mention MKR. How did it feel to compete with people in cooking? Were you able to keep your meaningful connection to food through that process?
MKR was one of the hardest things we’ve done. Throughout the competition we wanted to showcase dishes that we grew up eating and that were inspired by our travels and heritage. I think MKR made us realise that we wanted to be in the food industry career-wise. Through winning MKR we were able to open our first restaurant, Makan, in Melbourne in 2018. Since then, the both of us are cooking at Makan kitchen and are enjoying every moment being the head chefs and creating amazing Indonesian dishes.
In your opinion, what is the perfect way to enjoy a meal?
Growing up family dinners were always at the dining table. No matter how busy we were during our day, dinner was a time that we sat down and ate together as a family - no exception. Now we don’t live at our parents’ home, it’s definitely something that we reminisce about and miss the most.
“So many memories have been made around this dining table and so many feasts have served us.” - Tasia and Gracia
What are each of your favourite memories around food?
Our Oma(grandmother), makes the best Kroket, which consists of potato croquettes with mincemeat filling, crumbed and deep-fried. She would make this during big celebrations and as a family growing up we would all gather around and each have a task in making the Kroket. One would fill the mashed sweetened potato with the filling, one would cover it with flour, another would dip the Kroket in an egg wash mixture and someone else would breadcrumb it before my Oma would gently fry it until it is golden brown and crispy. It was such a fond memory because no one else makes it but her. We’ve tried many times to recreate it, but we’ve never reached her level of perfection!
For birthday celebrations in our family, our mother would always make us “birthday noodles” for lunch. It is said that eating noodles during your birthday brings longevity and prosperity. Mum did this for every birthday occasion in our family and it is something we always look forward to having. She makes really delicious stir fry noodles.
Pictured above: Tasia and Gracia's family. Source: tasiaandgracia.com
What’s your favourite meal?
Mie ayam (Indonesian egg noodle with chicken and mushroom). It is served with condiments of spicy sambal, beef meatball and crispy wonton. I am a noodle fan so this is my all time favourite meal.
Ayam goreng (Indonesian fried chicken) with sayur asem (similar to a sweet and sour soup). The fried chicken isn’t the typical fried chicken, chicken is cooked in spices of turmeric, coriander seeds, shallots, garlic and coconut milk until it is nice and tender, then it’s deep-fried . This is the dish my grandma always cooks for us when we go and visit her in Indonesia. It is served with sweet and sour soup and hot jasmine rice and spicy sambal, it’s the best comfort meal.
Lastly, what’s your favourite meal to cook for others?
One of our favourite meals to cook for our friends and family is Hainan chicken rice. The dish consists of fragrant rice that is cooked with the liquid chicken stock, ginger, garlic and spring onion, a poached chicken that is lathered with sesame oil and soy sauce mixture and it is served with condiments of chilli and garlic sauce and a shallot and ginger oil. It is such a simple dish to make but it has so much flavour - definitely a crowd favourite.
Huge thank you to Tasia and Gracia for chatting with us. You can find them at 360 Collins street in Melbourne’s CBD cooking up a storm in the kitchen and serving the freshest Indonesian cuisine.