Pasi Petänen is one restless chef. Since closing Café Paci in December 2015, he's done Italian pop-ups, vegetarian dinners and soon he'll cook Chinese as a guest chef at Lee Ho Fook. But his next challenge is to cook in monochrome, creating not just dishes, but entire menus of a single colour as part of his latest pop-up with former Café Paci collaborators Zoltan Magyar and Dennis Roman.
The Cooking by Colours event, happening in October and November, will move from red to yellow to white to green during its four-week stint at Mecca in Alexandria, with the intent of making the most of spring's abundance from week to week. Each Monday, the trio will head to the market to see what looks best and will write menus from there.
"The only thing we will have week on week is the potato and molasses bread from Café Paci. Everything else will change each week," says Petänen.
Petänen says his favourite springtime ingredient is any sort of lush green, but other ideas he's playing around with for the pop-up include an all-white dish of calamari, garlic and almond, and yellow onions, egg yolk and a yellow wine sauce.
The "white salad" at Café Paci
Why cook by chromatics? Apparently Pierre Gagnaire planted the seed in Petänen's head when he plated up duck, tuna, red capsicum and ruby grapefruit a decade ago.
"Ever since, it had been in my mind that everything with the same colour should go well together," Petänen says.
Cue the white salad - white turnip, green apple, cured Murray cod and buttermilk dressing - that was on Café Paci's first menu, and now it has inspired this latest instalment in Petänen's string of pop-ups that keep both him and his diners entertained as he continues to hunt for a permanent home for Café Paci.
Roman's drink picks will match the food shade for shade, including a weekly cocktail - although the trio is prepared to loosen the rules for the green week. For fans of the Petänen touch, the forecast for spring is bright.
Red Week: 12-14 October
Yellow Week: 19-21 October
White Week: 26-28 October
Green Week: 2-4 November
Cooking by Colours: five-course set menu $85, matched wines additional $65; all other drinks charged on consumption. Mecca, 26 Bourke Rd, Alexandria, NSW. Book at email@example.com