Nicola Teffer is curator of Celestial City: Sydney’s Chinese story, showing at the Museum of Sydney until 12 October 2014. Sydney’s Chinese story is intrinsically linked with food. The Chinese community has supplied, served and inspired hungry Sydney-siders from market gardens, merchants’ shops, street hawking businesses and Quong Tart’s tea rooms, synonymous with Sydney in the late nineteenth century. Nicola joins The Cook and the Curator as guest blogger, relating food stories prompted by the Celestial City exhibition.
I have very fond memories of the ‘Golden Apollo’, the Chinese restaurant of my childhood which perhaps landed in the otherwise nondescript suburb of Thornleigh around the same time Neil Armstrong landed on the moon. It seemed to have always been there, like all the other Chinese restaurants of our suburbs and country towns. Sydney wouldn’t be the same without them, and they have a long line of appreciative customers, going all the way back – past my misspent youth in the 1980s – to the steely-eyed suffragettes and social reformers of the 1890s, who first patronised the Chinese merchant Quong Tart’s Loong Shan Tea Rooms on King St.
Dr Nicola Teffer is an art historian and curator who specialises in 19th-century Australian social history and photography. She was the 2012 State Library of New South Wales Nancy Keesing Fellow, and won the University of Technology Sydney’s Chancellor’s Award for her doctoral thesis in 2001. As well as Celestial City: Sydney’s Chinese Story, Nicola has curated a number of exhibitions for the Historic Houses Trust and the City of Sydney, including No Ordinary Man: Sydney’s Quong Tart; Coffee Customs; Recollecting Rowe Street; and Spanning the Decades. She has lectured in art history at the universities of New South Wales and Sydney and her work has been published in a number of academic journals.