Kitchen spy with champion barista Hugh Kelly

The home kitchen of award-winning barista, Hugh Kelly, who works for ONA Coffee in Canberra and lives in the suburb of O’Connor. Photo: Graham Tidy.


Having just won the 2016 Australian Barista Championships in Melbourne, Hugh Kelly, 25, can look forward to two things. First, travelling to Ireland in June to represent us in the World Barista Championships. Second, eating meat again.

“For three months leading up to the comp, my cooking is very different: I only eat vegetarian because it helps my palate.” Kelly, head barista trainer for Canberra roasters ONA Coffee, says strong-tasting red meat proteins can be a real hindrance for detecting subtle coffee flavours. Consequently, he eats a lot of Italian food, such as caprese salads and bruschetta. Kelly was born in Sydney but has been living in Canberra for the past seven years.

My pantry: I always have good quality tomatoes, a few pastas, fresh herbs and greens. In the cupboard, I keep it relatively simple with quality vinegars and oils. If you have a really good quality aged sherry vinegar or a truffle oil, it can make vegetables taste 10 times better. Today I’ve got Solera 77 Gran Reserva Sherry Vinegar and La Barre extra virgin olive oil from Yass. I don’t really dress stuff up too heavily, I just use a couple of good quality ingredients and try to make that work well.

My fridge: ​Cuppacumbalong eggs from Tharwa in the ACT are really amazing and I like to have them poached or scrambled for breakfast. Otherwise, I’ll always have basil, broccolini, and asparagus if they’re in season, wine, gin, parmesan, leeks, alfalfa, fior di latte mozzarella and avocados. For flavour, I also keep miso, tahini (I make hummus at home) capers and jalapenos, but I don’t use heaps of sauces.

Secret vice

I’ve got some Mini Connoisseur Murray River salted caramel and macadamia ice-creams in the fridge. I eat ice-cream a bit too much, maybe two or three times a week.

Last night’s dinner 

It’s been four weeks since I cooked at home, because of the competition. The last thing I did was roasted tomatoes, garlic, onion, capsicum, leeks and chilli all blitzed up and run through pasta.

I’m drinking

At home, I drink a lot of water because I’m dehydrated from work. I’m not sure how many coffees I drink a day because my job involves tasting so many different ones. I drink a little gin and white wine at home. I’ve gotten into a local Canberra wine called Ravensworth. We did some work with Clonakilla recently and it’s their chief winemaker’s own label. He does experiments with mixed varietals and fermentation techniques. At the moment I’ve got a 2015 “The Grainery”, co-fermented with marsanne, roussanne, viognier and chardonnay. 2015 was an amazing year for wines in Canberra.

My toolkit

I use my Microplane for zesting and I have a simple lemon squeezer for adding acid to dishes at the end of the cooking process. When I travel, I always take my Espro Press to make coffee. It’s a better version of the traditional plunger with a super-fine mesh, allowing the coffee oils to come through and only a small amount of fine sediment, which is great for mouthfeel.

My inspiration 

I like flicking through Nopi, the Cookbook, by Yotam Ottolenghi for flavour inspiration but I rarely follow the recipes word for word. In terms of coffee, The Coffee Roaster’s Companion by Scott Rao has given direction to our own roasting style at ONA Coffee. If you’re interested in understanding green coffee and the roasting process, it’s very good.


My Acaia scales. I use them for timing coffee brews (it will start timing when you begin pouring water and you can connect it to an app on your phone to monitor how the brew is going), as well as weighing everything else in the kitchen. I couldn’t do without it.

Most unforgettable meal

I went to Noma (in Sydney) recently. That was ridiculous – the best eating experience I’ve had by a while. One of the dishes was even nostalgic for me: a whole plate garnished in honeysuckle flowers. I used to have them growing in my backyard when I was five and I’d suck on them because they were so sweet.

Recipe stalwart

Chilli con carne. My mum always used to make it when I was a kid. The key is not to use too many spices, brown the meat properly and cook with black beans. There are a million things you can do with it: make toasties, burritos, have it on rice with vegetables, even make breakfast out of it.


The way Frank Camorra does his big field mushroom by alternating between frying and roasting, which allows the mushroom to absorb more garlic, butter and parsley flavours. I finish it off with sherry vinegar and a little bit of butter. It’s delicious.

Read the story originally published by good on April 5, 2016 here.