Chow Town – Gourmet Food With A Side Of Rock And Roll

If you’re Big Day Out bound, then by now you’ve probably assiduously studied next year’s lineup and have it committed to memory. Yet one act that may have escaped your perusal is ‘indie’ culinary duo Ben Milgate and Elvis Abrahanowicz, the co-curators of the recently announced Chow Town.

However, the inclusion of Chow Town isn’t your typical addition to the BDO bill. Rather than an American rock band or European electro outfit, Chow Town is a collective of top notch Australian chefs, hell bent on providing tasty licks and killer chops of the non-musical variety.

With a soon-to-be-announced ‘city by city’ list of chefs put together by Milgate and Abrahanowicz, Chow Town promises to bring a quality of food never before experienced at an Australian one-day music festival.

Sydneysiders may already be familiar with Abrahanowicz and Milgate restaurants Bodega and Porteno, two establishments with a reputation for great food and loud tunes. Now, as Milgate explains, the cooking combo are coming out of the kitchen to give Big Day Out a meal that matches the music.

Music Feeds: What is Chow Town and how did you become involved with it?

Ben Milgate: Pretty much Chow Town is going to be a section of the Big Day Out where Elvis (Abrahanowicz) and I are going to curate…we’re going to have five or six restaurants to have a stall in Chow Town, and pretty much it’s just going to be good food. Instead of the old Dagwood Dog and stuff like that … all that stuff is going to be there but it’s going to be like really good quality food, not too expensive either and just all handheld and easy to smash.

Me and Elvis have known all the guys from the Big Day Out for a few years from coming into the restaurants, so we were the first ones they asked to do it and we jumped at it coz’ we used to go to the Big Day Out a lot and love music, and it’s a huge part of our restaurants.

MF: Most people don’t go to music festivals for the food. What’s the motivation to bring gourmet food to Big Day Out?

BM: I think people that are in our age bracket that go to the Big Day Out, they’re not going there just to smash heaps of pingers and walk around and start fights… There’s a different demographic that goes there now. There are people that have been going to Big Day Out since it started, and there’s a lot of people out there that are really into their food and love food and love music. I think it’s a good combo.

There’s definitely going to be those people there that probably will just walk straight past Chow Town because they’re off chops and too busy chewing their face off to want to eat a Pulled Pork sandwich (laughter).

But…it’s going to be a good hang-out for people that just want to get away from the crowds and sit there and eat some good food. Hopefully, like minded people will congregate together.

It’s definitely changing: Big Day Out is teamed up with Lollapalooza now and they put a really big emphasis on having great food at the festival, and I think it’s great that they’re doing it.

MF: Some of the meals sound pretty elaborate. Do you have a signature dish you’re looking forward to introducing to the Big Day Out?

BM: We’ll be doing Pulled Pork sandwiches for sure and sort of a slow-cooked smoked brisket sandwich as well.

It’s got to be good and tasty and fast. You don’t want people standing around, waiting for five, ten minutes or more for a fucking sandwich, it’s got to be fast, tasty and filling, and handheld.

MF: Chow Town will be serving thousands of people at the Big Day Out. Just how many truckloads of meat and produce are we talking?

BM: I can’t even begin to think about how much pork we’re actually going to have to order. It’s going to be a mission; it’s going to be a big build-up for us just to get ready for it.

We’re (Ben and Elvis} just doing the Sydney one, which is cool. We’ll have a stall there, but the rest of them we’ll be just going around and making sure everything is good and enjoying ourselves as well…and eating everyone’s soup, and a Dagwood Dog probably as well (laughter).

MF: For you, is there a connection between music and food?

BM: Definitely, at our places Bodega and Porteno it’s always been about loud music. Pretty much it’s Elvis and my iPods, and whatever music is on there is what we listen to.

We only play albums, so depending on how the night is flowing will depend on what sort of album we put on. If we’re getting pumped in the ass, we’re likely to get something nice and fast to keep us going and to keep that pace going.

Then if it’s sort of quieting down you play something a little bit more chilled, so pretty much me and Elvis DJ every night as well as cook. We’ve got the iPod right there in the kitchen constantly cranking tunes all night. Pretty much it’s always been a major focus for us.

When we first opened people were like, ‘The music’s too loud’, we were like, ‘Yeah, well that’s the way it’s going to be.’

‘Can you turn it down?’


There’s plenty of quiet restaurants out there. If you want to go to a quiet restaurant go to one, but this is all we’ve got to offer.

Some people love it, some people hate it; those people that hate it probably don’t come back, but we’ve got plenty of people that love it (chuckles).

MF: What are some of your favourite albums to play when you’re cooking up a storm?

BM: Always Black Keys, especially when it’s really busy and you want something really rocking like Magic Potion or Rubber Factory. You know, I love their new stuff, but I love their old stuff.

MF: Which acts are you excited to see at the Big Day Out?

BM: Definitely Chili Peppers and Vampire Weekend. Obviously at the Sydney one we’re going to be quite busy, but they’ll definitely be the ones we get to. Yeah Yeah Yeahs as well.

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