Like a Fish to Water in Subiaco
It seems that Olympic swimming hero and all-round nice guy Eamon Sullivan can do no wrong these days.
His new cafe in Subiaco, Louis Baxters, is going gangbusters and he has just released his first book - a cookbook called Eamon's Kitchen.
Oh, and he was crowned 2011 Cleo Bachelor of the Year in April.
The just-turned 26-year-old is flitting between Sydney for training commitments and Perth to cosset his new venture - with swimming taking precedence at the moment.
"The London Olympics are next August and that's what it's all about for now," he says. "The trials are in March, so I've got around six months."
That's not to say swimming will always be his number one priority. Sullivan is passionate about cooking and won Celebrity MasterChef in 2009, wowing judges and fans with his culinary prowess.
Not only was he a popular contestant but he also made a few friends along the way, including his cafe business partner, Laki Baker.
"We met on the set of MasterChef. She was my producer," Sullivan says.
"She was filming on my bench so I got quite accustomed to spending time with her. She's a lovely girl, really easy to get on with.
"We were both born in Perth and she was in Sydney for 16 years before moving back here with her husband. So we kept catching up and then she got a French bulldog and I'd been trying to find a breeder, so that's how I got mine.
"And we'd have doggy playdates and discuss what we were going to do and it went from there."
Oh yes, the bulldogs. In fact, so enamoured are the pair with their canine buddies that they decided to name the cafe after them - Louis-Pierre is Laki's dog and Baxter is Sullivan's.
"We really wanted it to be about us and to give it a funky name with a bit of a story behind it," he says.
His first cooking spark began while watching his mum, who was a baker for New Norcia Bakery, and helping her out in the kitchen.
As swimming took off during his high-school years, a gruelling daily schedule of training and school (starting at 5am and finishing at 7pm) left him a very hungry boy. Home economics saved him from certain starvation and left an indelible impression.
"I was quite a fussy eater and home economics sort of forced me to try different things. I remember the first time I tried beef stroganoff, and as soon as I tried it - well, it just all happened from there really," he says.
As Sullivan's hunger for food grew, so too did his thirst for knowledge.
"I just read and read. Every time I was in a physio room or waiting for a doctor I would read Woman's Day, and when I'd get to the recipe section I'd discreetly rip it out to try it out," he says.
"I read whatever I could and experimented at home. I'm amazed by the Heston Blumenthal thing and molecular gastronomy, that side of cooking. I like the science behind it. I guess I like the theatre of that sort of food.
"Then there were the cooking shows. I was watching Floyd with my parents when I was growing up and the Two Fat Ladies, and Jamie Oliver, and then the whole food and lifestyle thing took off and I'd be glued to the Food Channel on Foxtel. I pretty much preferred watching that to anything else."
As if training for the Olympics and launching a trendy new eatery wasn't enough, Sullivan also decided to write a cookbook with many of the recipes that feature in the cafe.
The book is not so much about healthy low-fat food - more along the lines of simple dishes he enjoys cooking.
"There's no whiz-bang sous vide machines involved or anything like that," he says.
"It's just about bringing together really nice, fresh ingredients that you're able to cook at home.
"I guess when I was growing up as a teenager, boys didn't really cook at all and this is good for the guys who don't know how to cook but want to attempt something a bit different.
"It's a good way to impress girlfriends or if the girlfriends want the boys to cook for them. I've tried to approach the book from every way. For example, if somebody's scared of cooking for a group of people, then I've put some menus in so they don't have to think about preparing.
"It just takes the stress out of it. Even a slight shift in techniques and approaches can make all the difference."
With his ongoing affair with all things food, it comes as no surprise that Sullivan has future plans with a culinary bent that look set on remaining local.
"I honestly love the eatery and that side of things and would love to get more involved," he says.
"I'd like to open another one in a couple of years with a bit of a wine bar and an a la carte menu. Somewhere where you'd spend some time and enjoy a glass of wine. I'm quite into wines, when I'm able.
"It was hard to move to Sydney as Perth was all I'd ever known. Family and friends are here, and that's something I really can't replace after spending 20 years of being in Perth. I love this city."
Louis Baxters is at Shop 2, 50 Subiaco Square, Subiaco (opposite train station). 'Eamon's Kitchen' by Penguin is out now.
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