The secret to Depot's success

L-R: Kyle Street, Hayden Scott and Al Brown of Depot. Picture / Babiche Martens.

Al Brown wrote 40,000 words for his new cookbook Depot: The Biography of a Restaurant. And he spilled another couple of thousand telling me why. The short version? No secrets.

The book is Depot's "recipe for success", detailing everything from the restaurant's decor to the soundtrack to every dish ever served, to the team he couldn't have done it without. That includes head chef Kyle Street and chef Hayden Scott, both of whom wrote the recipes for the book.

Here Brown shares his thoughts on his team, their award-winning restaurant, and his favourite recipe.

On sharing recipes:

"Two words that should never be in the same sentence are secret and recipe. Recipes are about sharing, they're about passing things on, they're about making them your own, creating memories and connecting people. I've always given away my recipes to anyone who was interested in using them or trying them, mainly because I think I can do better than anyone else.

It's not gonna hurt me." 

On sharing Depot's recipe for success:

"So much of the time people don't realise all the layers that are there to make a successful restaurant, and to be able to champion and expose the guy that makes the furniture, the ideas of how we created the restaurant, the branding, the management, the style of food and the recipes and style of liquor [is amazing]. We all covet each other anyway, we all travel and eat in other restaurants and eat other people's food. We're like magpies, we take bits and pieces and then we create our own.

"Of course people can serve wine in tumblers, people have been doing it for years in Spain and Italy etc. A slider is a little hamburger that has been produced in the States for 30, or 40 or 50 years, so that's nothing new either. People can copy the artwork, they can copy the dishes, they can copy the wine service, the menu, all the rest of it but they can't take your soul. And they can't take your people.

"It's the X factor. It's the one thing people can't put their finger on, that they'll never be able to take. You have to create the culture, and the feeling and the vibe of the place and that is all about people. All the rest of it is just hardware or things that you eat."

On the team:

"It's really rewarding to highlight everyone that's involved, it feels really good. As I said in the book, I'm the face of Depot, but that's relatively fraudulent because so many people are involved or have been involved. I love collaboration and I love working with really clever people and we've got a thing going with the same sort of designer and architect and even the management ... we've moved from the Depot into the Fed and we keep feeding it with the good oil and that's the people that we put together."

On the book:

"All the books that I've done, there has to be a read. I can't just do a recipe book because I find that extremely boring, even though I love recipe books. Books to me should be things that people pick up and fall asleep reading or they're at the bach on a rainy day going 'Hey, listen to this, did you realise they did this at Depot?' If you're gonna put so much effort into a book it's got to be for as many people as possible to get pleasure out of it.

"You should be able to pick it up, flick through it, read some pages, bits and pieces, look at the recipes, look at all the branding and the collateral. We've stuffed the book with everything that represents Depot. That's what we wanted it to be, a book that really invoked everything that the restaurant is, the vibe, the feel, the casualness, the people, the fun atmosphere, the sense of humour."

On his favourite recipe:

"Oohh, that's like asking who my favourite daughter is. Probably the groper belly with the eggplant kasundi. No, my favourite dish to eat is the skirt steak with tobacco onions, habanero mustard and iceberg wedge." Click here for the recipe.

• Depot: The Biography of a Restaurant by Al Brown. $70, Random House, available from Friday.

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