First published on 11 May 2011. Updated on 3 Apr 2012.
If you could do an apprenticeship at any restaurant in the world, where would it be? The Square in London. The chef lets the ingredients star, where seasonality is paramount.
What is your favourite restaurant in Sydney apart from your own? Altitude. The food is brilliant, the view is priceless and the ambiance makes for a very special evening out.
Who is your culinary hero? Michael Caines. A chef who nearly ended his career by a motor vehicle accident. He lost his right arm. To come back from that and be able to cook at a 2 Michelin Star standard shows that there aren't any barriers and if you've got the drive and the passion nothing can stop you.
What is your least favourite job in the kitchen? Prepping globe artichokes for the amount of work that goes into them, putting up with the horrible sticky feeling on your fingers, or the fact that you cant get rid of the smell once you've started prepping them. And to end up with a finished product that doesn't really reflect the amount of work that goes in – I'd definitely rather be making mash than doing globes any day of the week.
Favourite chef's tool? My knife. It's an essential tool and I would be lost with out it. It's such a personal knife to me – it was the first knife I ever bought and still is my favourite one to use today.
Anything you can't/won't eat? I'm willing to try anything really, as a young chef I feel it's necessary to try everything you can. The one thing that I don't enjoy is oysters and the slippery texture that they have.
What was your food epiphany? I'd always wanted to do something in sport whether it be sport management or something to do with sports medicine. But while doing hospitality at high school, I got to spend a week in a commercial kitchen doing work experience, and that was it really – I decided sitting in an office wasn't for me and that working with food was going to be my calling.
What would your Death Row meal be? One of my grandma's homemade chicken schnitzels with mash potato, cucumber and apple sauce.
Best food tip for Sydney diners? Go out and try new things. Of course go to your favourite restaurants every now and then, but also go and enjoy the higher end of the restaurant scene as well as local restaurants. For me it shows just how diverse the Sydney dining experience is and that way you are always exploring and trying new and exciting things. But most of all be polite, on time and enjoy the experience.
What do you cook at home? To be honest I don't really cook at home, it seems to be the last thing I really want to do after doing a 70hr week. If I do cook it's usually stir fries, or simple pastas. Something that's easy to put together and tasty.
What was the thinking behind the dish you created for the Time Out Taste Test? To try new things, to use this as a learning experience and use ingredients that I wouldn't normally think about using. In this case, it was the rabbit! To create a dish that was seasonal, and that would use the entire animal throughout the dish. So the rabbit shoulders and legs were confitted and used in the terrine, the loin was sous vide and become the centerpiece of the terrine. The rabbit belly was confitted and then pan-fried till crisp and used in the salad. I made a stock from the bones to create the vinaigrette as well as the binding agent for the terrine. At the same time I trying to re-create the surroundings where a rabbit might be by using pumpkin and micro herbs to create the feeling of being on the ground and creating the colours that would be associated with a rabbit's environment.
What was the Time Out Taste Test like to participate in? An absolutely great experience! I'd heard about it through Micheal Mu Sung from Est who I was at Tafe with last year when the competition started. So when the competition entries opened this year he mentioned it to me and I entered. As a young chef I think people have this image that we're the ones who just do the dishes, peel potatoes and do all the boring jobs in the kitchen – a very wrong impression they have! As an apprentice, to be able to let your food brain run wild and create the sort of food you'd like to serve, at such an early point in one's career was very exciting! Not only that but to then get to work with other young apprentices from some of Sydney's top restaurants showed that there is a lot of passion out there and we're all doing it for the same reason – the love of food. I must admit when I entered and was selected to cook in the heats I didn't quite realise how much work was going to be under-taken to get the one dish to the plate, from breaking down the rabbits, to building the terrine, to pickling mushrooms and to organising baby herbs – it was a massive task, but was completely worth every minute of time and stress that went into it. To know at the end of the day that the people in the restaurant are eating a dish that was created by you – for me is the most rewarding part. The competition allowed me to meet other young apprentices, work in a foreign kitchen and experience the pressure of creating dishes for 100 people all at once and for that I'm ever so grateful to the organisers and Felix Restaurant who have allowed us to come in, and express ourselves on a plate.
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