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Iku Yakitori Bar. Image credit @ikuyakitoribar

Cooking at home with Iku: Your next iso adventure

Dominica Czaczka | April 2020

Time to sharpen your culinary skills: This Burleigh eatery will have you dishing up authentic Japanese fare at home in no time.

When Mitch Chesterton took on the reins of Iku Yakitori Bar in Burleigh Heads 6 months ago, he never imagined that a global pandemic would bring the precinct’s burgeoning dining scene to its knees.

“It’s the craziest thing that’s ever happened in my life,” said Iku’s head chef and owner Mitch Chesterton.

“I’ve been in restaurants since I was 14 and this has been a big learning curve. There’s no one I can ask; ‘hey remember when this happened last time? What did you guys do?’ Everyone was like I’ve got no clue.”

As widespread restrictions brought the lively industry to a standstill, Chesterton took a step back to assess his restaurant’s next move and appraise how his business could adapt to this new reality.

“Originally I thought, sweet let’s just do takeaway – but everyone else was doing takeaway.

I just didn’t see any point in competing.

“We don’t generally do takeaways and I thought it would be pretty hard to go up against businesses that do takeaway already. Our whole thing is that your meal is cooked in front of you over these special coal grills from Japan and if you take that aspect away, it just ends up just being some barbecued meat by the time it reaches your house.

“Our meals wouldn’t travel super well either so my idea was to give something for people to do; more of any activity rather than just getting a meal,” explains Chesterton.

“We wanted our customers to takes home an experience”.

And so Iku 2 U was born. From pork belly ramen, miso glazed eggplant to okonomiyaki, the ready to cook meal kits give customers the opportunity to recreate the magic of their favourite Iku dishes from home; while learning some new kitchen skills in the process. All ingredients are supplied, along with a recipe card and online tutorial. With the menu changing each week, Iku 2 U even has vegan options covered; with plant-based recipes available once a month. Pick-up is available every Wednesday and Friday between 4pm and 6pm, with ingredients vacuum sealed to ensure freshness.

Iku’s head chef and owner Mitch Chesterton shows viewers how to make Pork Belly Okonomiyaki. Video credit: Iku Yakitori Bar  

Want to pair your MasterChef worthy masterpiece with a glass of vino? The team at Iku are more than happy to match a bottle of wine to your meal.

“As much as I love my favourite takeaway places, I don’t want to have takeaway every single night,” explains Chesterton. “We can’t offer the restaurant atmosphere but we can help you learn new things in the process.”

Despite the challenging times that lie ahead, Chesterton says the community spirit is well and truly kicking in the tight-knit suburb.

“I was trying to do some cooking at home and I didn’t have any flour. Went to the shops, couldn’t get any. We don’t have flour here (at Iku Yakitori Bar) because we don’t generally use flour. I went to Osteria Del Mare down the highway and he was like ‘yeah of course, I’ll give you some flour’. Everyone is just helping each other out.

“Even people that aren’t regular customers are sharing us on Instagram or popping their head in our front door to tell us to keep on trucking.

“Everyone knows everyone in Burleigh. We’re all in this together.”

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