Cooking up a dream
The tables are set, music is blaring from the depths of the kitchen, and Matt Sinclair gives a wave, signalling he’ll be out in a minute. The smile on his face says it all, Matt has found his happy place.
With a coffee in hand, a nod to his previous role as a roaster before he signed up for the MasterChef adventure, Matt Sinclair takes a seat against the exposed concrete and turquoise wall, remnants from the preceding restaurant, Coconut Grove, which closed two years ago.
Throughout Matt’s time on the show, he spoke openly about wanting to run a food truck business, which he did for six months, with 10 Piece Cutlery at Brisbane’s Eat Street Markets.
“While Eat Street was an amazing platform and a really good training ground for how to get our heads around running a small business, we made the decision to bring the business back home, we wanted to be operating in our own backyard,” he says.
Matt and his mate Michael 'Moe' Rickard, who he ran 10 Piece Cutlery with, looked for available spaces to open a restaurant and kept coming back to the Sunshine Beach location, albeit a little too large a venue for the pair to manage, so they teamed up with two other mates, Dylan Campbell and Jeremiah Jones.
“We all met working at Bistro C in Noosa, Dylan and I were out the front, Moe and Jeremiah were in the kitchen,” Matt says, “That was a bit over nine years ago and we’ve all remained mates, but everyone moved on in their jobs and we started doing different things, and then it all came full circle and everyone was ready.
“There had been many times over the years where you have those off-the-cuff conversations, usually when you’re getting flogged working for someone else in the heat of summer in Noosa working in hospitality, and you just go, ‘When are we going to do this for ourselves?’”
Over the Easter long weekend this year, Matt, Dylan, Moe and Jeremiah began fitting out Sum Yung Guys.
“Ninety-eight per cent of it was us, fortunately my dad comes from a construction/landscaping background, so everything he had learned in his life came into play, and Dylan’s dad is an electrician, so he did the sparky work, which was very handy – we still have a lot of IOUs on our whiteboard, but that’s what made it possible, it was all hands on deck from friends and family, just getting in and getting it done,” Matt says.
“It’s turned out better than we thought, being our first establishment we didn’t have an exact image of what we thought it was going to turn out like and it changed a lot throughout the fitout process, but where it’s at now, we couldn’t be happier, wouldn’t change anything.”
And I have to ask – where does the name came from? To which Matt responds with a belly laugh.
“It was Jez, I feel like he was sitting on it for a while and as soon as we all agreed it was going to be the four of us, he sent it to us all in a text and said, ‘On one condition, that our name is Sum Yung Guys’, and we all went, ‘That’s it’! With names it’s a creative process you can’t force it, and as soon as it dropped, it’s perfect – it encapsulates who we are and what we’re about, it’s a little bit cheeky and it’s catchy.”
Since opening earlier this year, the boys have been feeding the masses, including loyal locals and some of Matt’s fans who travelled from as far as New Zealand, India, South Africa and the Philippines.
“The reach that show has is amazing and the fact people have followed it through, followed my journey into a journey with these guys and they’ve come to the doorstep to support it is mind blowing,” he says.
“Me and the other boys had a conversation five years ago, when we were kicking around the idea of having a restaurant, we’d always say, ‘Never in Noosa’, but Noosa has changed a lot in the last five years. Back then it was a bit seasonal, a bit up and down, so we were adamant to never have a restaurant in Noosa and from day one, hand on my heart it’s been hammering, which has been a shock to us, what we predicted and projected was nowhere near what happened, it’s been received really well.”
With dishes including Moo Ping Skewers, Tom Kha Mussels, Gado Gado and Sticky XO Beef Cheek, Matt says the inspiration for the restaurant is simple – it’s food they love to eat.
“This is our style of dining, it’s everything we love about that style of food, we took a lot of inspiration from places in Melbourne and Sydney and really felt like Noosa had a gap in that market, we didn’t feel like anyone was really committing to the share-style concept,” he says.
“We didn’t know how it was going to go, on the Sunshine Coast and in Noosa in particular, we perceive the older generation to still enjoy their entree, main and dessert, we think that’s how they want to eat, but funnily enough they have really taken it on and they really enjoy it and embrace it, we were surprised.”
With clear goals to carve a culinary career in the kitchen, that’s where Matt spends most of his time, but having come from a restaurant management background, he says he sometimes tags in with Dylan to give him a rare service off.
I can work in the kitchen during the day and go to Jez’s house, have a shower, get changed and come back and run the floor,” he says.
“The whole purpose of going through what I’ve been through in the past 18 months was to cut that path into the kitchen, that’s where I wanted to be, so that’s where 98 per cent of my time is spent when I’m in the building. But I really do enjoy having that time being out the front, to see how the beast is operating on the other end, see how the staff are interacting with customers, and interact with the customers myself.
“I’ll never forget the first night I did a service out the front, it was quite emotional to see because it was chockers, everyone was having a good time, the drinks were flowing, the food was hammering out of the kitchen, it was a bit of a moment, ‘Wow, this is really cool’.”