It’s the rare kitchen in which a nosy guest finds a carton of horchata and a copy of Gabriela Llamas’s Cocinar con Thermomix in the same arm’s reach as moon-cake molds, chestnut-flower honey, and grachai (wild ginger). But Tony Tan is no ordinary Asian-food-historian-cum-contemporary-food-expert. The Malaysian-born Aussie’s knowledge of Chinese, Nonya, Thai, and Indian cuisines is attraction enough. Factor in his love of the table in all its forms, especially the progressive restaurants of Spain (the boys at Mugaritz are on his speed dial), and you’re looking at quite a singular proposition. So when Tan opened The Unlimited Cuisine Company in a light-filled, sleekly appointed building adjoining his home on an especially grand street in the Melbourne suburb of Toorak, it was no surprise that guest chefs started pouring in. But I held out for a Tony’s Choice class, where he is the star of the show. There I was, a confirmed dough-phobic amateur, weathering the master’s gentle but firm chiding as I flipped and rolled, rolled and flipped an increasingly fragile ghee-saturated roti canai—the Indian-via-Malaysia flatbread that my handful of fellow students and I hoped would accompany our eggs with long green chiles, tomatoes, and curry leaves plucked fresh from a garden fragrant with Kaffir lime and kumquat. To say that I gained a deeper understanding of the web of influences connecting East and West is to put it mildly. (011-61-3-9827-7347; tonytan.com.au; $853 for five days, including all meals)
What I Learned
Less is more when it comes to scrambling eggs—aim for barely mixed yolks and whites.
That cha siu bau (pork buns) aren’t just delicious but are also highly prized by Asian-food historians—when they’re perfectly made.
Before You Go
Talk to Tony about your level of competence and the kind of food you like to eat.
Where to Stay
The Prince (011-61-3-9536-1111; theprince.com.au; from $343). Richly hip and a quick taxi ride from the school.