From Florida to Sydney, chef Brendhan Bennison has travelled long and far – and it has been quite a journey. From backyard barbies to running the show at Surly’s, the American BBQ-style restaurant that is heating things up in Sydney’s vibrant Surry Hills, we caught up with the brains behind the barbeque, head chef Brendhan himself.

My BBQ background just grew from a hobby

I’ve spent a lot of time trying to get my cooking right, but not necessarily in the kitchen. It was a lot of backyard barbeques and a lot of beer.

I’m still pretty new to this. This is my first real go at running a kitchen and being a chef – and I use that term loosely. I know some real chefs and I ain’t one of them.

I don’t cook for the praise; although I won’t complain if you want to give me some. What I cook for is the kick that I get from someone’s reaction to the food that I’ve made from scratch. There’s something really enjoyable about being the cause of someone’s satisfaction. It’s that simple, really.

Commerical Kitchen
“There’s a lot of curse words being used between bites,” Brendhan laughs. “That’s a good thing, right?”

I am pretty much self taught

I never had anyone show me how to cook. I think that’s why it was such a challenge.

You have to really love to cook like this because it’s such a tedious method. It takes a great deal of patience. It’s a very simple process but it has to be done right. And when it’s done right, people are happy.

My favourite things to make are the beans: the slow-braised green beans and the barbeque beans have the best aromas when being cooked down. I’m constantly sticking my face over the pot and inhaling blissfully.

Slow-cooked pork infused with a distinctive Coca-Cola flavour
“Whether you’re in a suit or a tutu,” Brendhan says of Surly’s, “you’ll really fit right in.”

In the right place at the right time

As far as ending up at Surly’s, I’d really chalk it up to being in the right place at the right time – and a few beers.

We wanted to build a place where people could be comfortable and be able to really enjoy the whole experience. I think we pulled it off really well. Whether you’re in a suit or a tutu, you’ll fit right in.

The Aussies really seem to be taking to the food, which is great. For it all to be going as good as it is now really it gives me a certain sense of pride. They really seem to like it. 

There are a lot of curse words being used between bites. That’s a good thing right?

I’ve lived in Australia for three years now and I love the fact that everyone is your mate. I do miss my Mom and all the outstanding citizens of Cocoa Beach, Florida, but people still say g’day here! So there are pros and cons.

I don’t really know where I’ll be in five years or 10 years. All I know is that the next thing for me will be a nice cold schooner. I’m starting to feel Aussie through and through.

Surly’s played host to a Coca-Cola Contour 100 celebration  in late 2015. You can check out the restaurant here.

Brendhan Bennison
Brendhan has created a limited edition menu that boasts slow-cooked pork infused with a distinctive Coca-Cola flavour – yielding a delicate balance of smoky and sweet.