He has numerous TV shows and three cookbooks under his belt, but with the opening of his new Middle Eastern restaurant Maha East looming Shane Delia is excited to get back to doing what he does best.
"I'll be in my whites, burning my hands, cutting my fingers, cooking with the staff, making sure the food is right," he says. "I won't just be sitting at the bar watching everyone cook."
Maha East, slated to open 27 June in Windsor, will be the laidback sister venue to Delia's CBD flagship Maha.
"You can walk in dressed casually, sit at the bar, have a Negroni or a glass of wine, and the waiters will know who you are," he says.
Like a true little sister, Maha East will inherit some hand-me-downs: there's the slow-roasted lamb shoulder with pomegranate and smoked almonds, and chemen-cured swordfish. The Turkish-delight doughnuts will make the trip south of the Yarra too, though the portions will be upsized.
"Come to Maha East, and you'll get a big bowl of the doughnuts with lots of rosewater honey and a big scoop of walnut ice-cream on the side," says Delia.
Among the new dishes are taramasalata-filled buns topped with salmon roe, swordfish-belly sujuk, and hummus supercharged with Persian-style XO sauce.
"We've taken a traditional Persian fermented fish paste, added that fried shrimp element you find in Chinese XO, and turmeric and saffron," explains Delia. "It's a bit fishy, a bit sweet and there's lots of umami."
The chef has also introduced a chicken pasta dish from his childhood. "It's shell pasta with lardo, cavolo nero, some roasted chicken torn up with cinnamon and preserved lemon. It's really tasty, nice, relaxed food."
True to form, Maha East is still keeping it in the family. Until recently, the venue was a branch of Delia's hip hop-themed kebab shop Biggie Smalls; and you'll find familiar faces from the Maha staff roster – Simon Lillico has moved from his Maha sous chef posting to lead the Maha East kitchen alongside Delia, while Ross Frame will hold dual roles as restaurant manager and sommelier.
For Delia, he hopes this neighbourly, familiar charm will make his new venture a Melbourne favourite. "We want Maha East to become a local for people living in that south-eastern belt, an institution where they come for 10, 20 years," says Delia.
Maha East is slated to open on Thursday 27 June; 36 Chapel St, Windsor, Vic; Mon–Fri from 5pm, Sat–Sun from 11.30am; mahaeast.com.au