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April 16, 2020
Habits

The Stag Public House chef who is literally cooking for his life

Supported by his employer but exempt from the government's JobKeeper safety net, Rashad Cassim is happy to be back at work and cooking some of his favourite meals as a way to stay in Adelaide.

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  • Words and pictures: Josh Fanning

SPECIAL REPORT: COVID-19 ADELAIDE

When COVID-19 hit Adelaide, the Big Easy Group – owners of The Stag Public House, NOLA, Yiasou George and Anchovy Bandit – was already ahead of the curve.

Speaking to the directors of the Big Easy Group, we learnt about the raft of innovations, pivots and mitigation efforts the fledgling company was putting in place in an effort to stop the global pandemic from erasing their hard work, and their real fear they would lose their employees.

Remarks

All proceeds taken from Rashad’s Curry Night go to Rashad and his famiy. Why not make Friday night – Curry Night and support this young chef while you eat delicious curry?

Curry for one from $12
Order here
Pick up from The Stag Public House on Friday between 5pm – 8pm. Free delivery with all Big Easy Drinks orders on Friday.

But with new things starting up, the group had to make tough calls on what to close down.

The Stag Public House kitchen was shuttered indefinitely. Yiasou George didn’t last much longer.

This put 26-year-old chef Rashad Cassim – here in Adelaide on a working visa from Sri Lanka – out of a job and outside any subsequent safety net.

“It broke my heart,” says Oliver Brown, one of the directors at Big Easy Group.

“He’s one of our best employees, such dedication and loyalty to us. I think my fellow directors in the business and I, we’d rather go without some of our pay than see Rashad be left with nothing.”

Currently, skilled migrants and all migrant workers are outside the scope of the Federal Government’s JobKeeper package. And while CityMag is seeing many of our favourite hospitality businesses come back online with the aid of this baseline funding for jobs, it is indeed heartbreaking to learn of people like Rashad who are being left behind.

Against the backdrop of a lot of wringing and lobbying by the media for the government to “give money to migrant workers too,” Josh Talbot and Oliver Brown have given Rashad back his kitchen and backed him with full confidence.

“We’ve wanted to do that classic ‘curry night’ at The Stag Public House for a long time,” says director of Big Easy Group, Josh Talbot. “I guess coronavirus has focused our attention on the sort of talent we have in Rashad and just giving him a platform and backing him in this difficult time.”

The chicken curry – Sri Lankan style. Above, delicious fried egg roll with legit Sri Lankan dipping sauce

 

“Fridays work for us at the moment,” says Oliver, about the consumer trends he’s noted in the COVID-19 reality.

“This Friday we’re launching Rashad’s Curry Night as a way to back our chef – all proceeds from these curries go to Rashad and his family – to share his story and his awesome bloody curry!”

“Sri Lankan curry is the best,” says Rashad, as he empties fragrant, toasted spices such as cinnamon, star anise and cumin into a blender and presses ‘pulse’ on the machine.

“I’m very happy here. I’m actually really happy here – I love the people I work with. That’s the best part of it,” says Rashad.

Chef Jumi Park has worked in Australia for four years and is also in limbo

Rashad has been at The Stag since July last year and says it feels like home. Re-opening the kitchen has been both exciting and daunting for the young chef, as the success of his eponymous curry night will determine to a large degree whether he’ll be able to stay in Adelaide. He’s got help from friend and fellow migrant visa holder Jumi Park – who was stood down from her job at Hispanic Mechanic.

“I’m sure people will love Sri Lankan curry – it’s quite spicy, we use toasted curry powder, and I think there’s a lot of love in there too, especially the way I make it,” Rashad says with a smile.

Rashad learnt to make his home country’s signature cuisine while studying at culinary school and he says it’s the toasted spices as well as their tropical climate and use of coconut milk and cream in their curry that makes it different.

“I suggest you go with the traditional rice and curry plate, which has everything included,” says Rashad when we ask him what someone new to Sri Lankan curry should do.

Get it all, on a plate, and put it in your mouth

 

“This is the way I love to eat curry – everything on the plate – then I mix it all up and eat it. It’s great to have all the flavours together.

“Sri Lankan curry is best when it’s all together on one plate,” says Rashad.

Now let’s hope Adelaide gets onboard with Rashad’s Curry Night and keep him together with his friends, family and colleagues in Adelaide.

 

Rashad’s Sri Lankan Curry Night

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