Acrobat: A Dining Room Tale

David Chong's Dining Tale was a gift of a man’s childhood memories of family and youth told in the most humble and humorous way.
Acrobat: A Dining Room Tale

Image by Justin Batchelor.

Melbourne has many ways of seducing our senses but I think the ingenuity of the concept called A is for Atlas has hit the jackpot. This not-for-profit venture is becoming one of the most innovative events in this city where eating out might even rival football. 

Sometimes, however, a meal may miss the mark – bad service, loud, unwelcome music, inferior food and, if you’re a solo diner, an uncomfortable feeling of being put in a corner and neglected.

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At a time when the ‘extended family’ is a faint memory for many, A is for Atlas brings 20 to 30 strangers together in a private home, to be welcomed by a host or hostess who will, over a delicious meal he/she has prepared, share their life story which often includes entertainment.

The responsibility for finding this person rests with Executive Officer/Artistic Director, Xan Colman. To date Colman has found obliging and interesting people from 18 different countries willing to bare their souls in this delightful way. In the case of David Chong, son of a Brazilian mother and Chinese father who met as acrobats, it took three years of persuasion. Although a singer and composer as well as practising psychologist, from the age of eight David had been moved from Australia to Hong Kong and Brazil and was tentative about revealing memories closest to his heart.

Warmly greeting individual guests, David shared offerings of wine and warm Pan de Quesey, a delicious cheese ball recipe from his home town in Brazil. As Australians, we are inclined to take for granted the food we relish from other cultures. We’re not always aware of the deep importance that food may have had in the lives of those who produce it.  

David used old family photos to guide his narration of the gourmet themes in his story. He joked that he was really ‘just a food pusher’ and was terrified of never having enough food, a legacy that came to him through his parents’ memories of hardship and food deprivation during World War II. When they finally settled in Brazil and opened a snack bar, David’s skills as a cook were honed. Entranced guests were treated to a Brazilian meal to remember.

‘Intimacy and food go together,’ David said: ‘a part of my life, like my emotional family.’

In the musical component of the evening, most of us were probably familiar with ‘The Girl from Ipanema’. But when David announced a song dedicated to his mother who died when he was eight years old, we weren’t prepared for the gentle melody of ‘Inté Mais Vê’ (Until I see More of You) accompanied by fellow musician, Nathan Slater, on a soulful guitar. When David sang there was a complete hush in the room as the cadences in his voice caressed the expressive Portuguese words.

As David spoke he fashioned a dove from origami paper and, to remind us of our own childhoods, gave us paper out of which we made paper planes and flew them around the room, creating a relaxing atmosphere to enjoy our meal. 

David and Nathan have been composing music together for eight years and play regularly around Melbourne in a Brazilian jazz band called Tatu Rei, so if you don’t manage to attend the remaining nights of A Dining Tale, you might take a trip in August to the Broadbeach Jazz Festival in Queensland  where they will be playing.

David’s Dining Tale was a true gift of a man’s childhood memories of family and youth told in the most personal, humble and humorous way to an enthralled audience with not a mobile phone in sight.

The sweet course was sublime and we even received a Dining Tale’s ‘doggy bag’ of delicious seeds to take home. 

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

Acrobat (A Dining Room Tale)

Stories of David Chong
Songs by David Chong and Nathan Slater
Food by David Chong
Performed by David Chong and Nathan Slater
Concept and direction: Xan Colman
Director’s attachment: Yuhui Ng-Rodriguez
Design: Xan Colman, David Chong, Yuhui Ng-Rodriguez, Clare Hamer
Photography: Jim McDonagh
Graphic Design: TomWilliamFrancis.com
Front of House: Sandra Carluccio, Vera Hu, Iain Finlayson
Associate Producer: Iain Finlayson
Producer: Xan Colman

Private Address, Malvern
www.facebook.com/events
www.aisforatlas.org.au
3 - 12 July

Barbara Booth

Monday 7 July, 2014

About the author

Barbara Booth has been a freelance journalist for over 20 years, published nationally in newspapers and magazines including The Age, The Canberra Times, The West Australian, Qantas Club magazine, Home Beautiful, and OzArts. She is now based in Melbourne.