interview: jo corrigan, the commoner restaurant
Here at lip, there’s nothing we like more than a good success story, especially when it involves tasty food, a good business mind and an awesome woman!
Meet Jo Corrigan, chef and owner of The Commoner, one of Fitzroy’s best restaurants. I caught up with Jo to talk food, business and cooking tips from a professional!
How did you get started?
I started an apprenticeship as a chef with Butlers Restaurant in Sydney when I was 17. I went on to work at Bilsons, Fine Bouche, The Botanic Gardens and Ravesis before leaving Sydney at 26 to move to London. There I worked at 192 in Kensington Park Road followed by the Groucho Club. I then kept hearing about a small restaurant in Hammersmith that was supposed to be the best at sourcing and using the best of British produce – The Brackenbury – a place where chefs loved to go and eat. After interviewing there I started what would be the toughest and most rewarding three years I had ever spent in the kitchen!
When did you open The Commoner?
I opened The Commoner in 2007 after moving to Melbourne 5 years previously, because I missed British food! I loved the honest approach they had towards seasonality and thought it could be easily replicated here in Victoria due to similarities in produce and its high quality.
What’s the best thing about owning and running a restaurant?
I love being able to share an experience with people, not just food but the kind of warm environment you find at a friend’s house. I also love the community that has grown around The Commoner – it has become a place hospitality staff and chefs love to come and dine. I just love the food community in Melbourne and they do seem to gravitate to the restaurant. They often tell me they can get a high level of food & service in a very relaxed and welcoming environment, which is a fantastic compliment.
What do you love about food?
I love the seasonality of food which allows us to be creative – I like food to be a reflection of the environment. When there are lemon trees heaving with fruit, I like to think about the top four things I can do with lemons. I am always encouraging people to cook and shop at a seasonal time – it’s part of my job.
The inspiration for The Commoner’s menu has always been what ever is in peak season, cooked in the simplest fashion to highlight its goodness.
What would be your favourite meal on The Commoner’s menu?
I love the Charcuterie board that is all made in house by Brook Petrie, our head chef. It consists of things like Pheasant Terrine, Duck liver Parfait with Chateau Jolys Jelly, Bresaola, House hung Jamon, Rabbit Salami with fennel pollen and relishes. Our Black Pudding is the best I have tasted and, again, it is Brook’s own recipe.
And finally, what would be your best cooking tip for a novice?
The best cooking tip I would give would be go to the markets and look for your menu – forget the shopping list! The best produce will jump out at you, and you should create your menu around that.
I wouldn’t blame you for being a touch hungry after that read (my fridge is about to be raided)!
You can visit The Commoner in person at 122 Johnston Street, Fitzroy, Melbourne, or online here!