Adam D'Sylva
Adam D'Sylva

Adam D'Sylva

It’s no accident that Adam D’Sylva has become one of the most talked-about chefs in town. As part-owner and head chef of Coda, Melbourne’s hottest bar and restaurant, Adam has built himself an enviable culinary reputation.

Growing up in a mixed Indian/Italian family, his mother was a major influence on his decision to follow his passion for cooking. ‘I fell in love with food from an early age. My nonna and aunty looked after us when we were young and always let us cook and eat with them,’ explains Adam.

Adam’s apprenticeship began at Hilton on the Park in Melbourne. He then worked as a chef at the popular celebrity restaurant, Cosi, in South Yarra. He explored his love for quality food travelling through Europe and Asia, working in restaurants in the Marche region of Italy and in Hong Kong. Returning to Australia, Adam worked as Head Chef under the much awarded and respected Geoff Lindsay at Pearl Restaurant, one of Melbourne’s most highly regarded restaurants.

He also became the first Head Chef at Longrain Melbourne for Martin Boetz. Adam won The Age 2008 Good Food Guide’s Young Chef of the Year and as part of his award travelled to New York to work with Thomas Keller at Per Se, arguably one of America’s best restaurants. Adam has also twice been the Victorian winner in the Lexus Young Chef of the Year award. 

In June 2009, Adam opened Coda, in Melbourne’s Flinders Lane (the name was borrowed from the title of Led Zeppelin’s 1982 album). Within a year the restaurant was awarded One Chefs’ Hat in The Age Good Food Guide 2010 and 2011. When cooking at Coda, Adam draws inspiration from across the globe, blending Asian and European tastes and techniques.

How do your personal signature dishes develop?

I believe they’re chosen by the diner - if it sells and is a popular dish, it becomes a signature. I’m proud of all the dishes I create, although some standout more than others.

From where do you draw your inspiration?

All parts of life, be it travelling the globe, books, magazines, cooking programs and dining out. A little idea or experience can transcend into an amazing dish.

What can we expect from you in the future?

I think Australia is at the forefront of cooking, where the trend is leaning towards casual shared dining with smart service and relaxed atmosphere.

What’s your earliest memory of food?

My earliest memory was watching my Nonna make gnocchi—as kids we used to eat the raw dough.

What’s the best advice you’ve been given?

Work smart not hard.

What advice would you give a novice cook?

Success does not come overnight, you need to work at it and make sure your decisions are calculated with goals and objectives.

Weapon of choice in the kitchen?

My waterless wok burner. I love the power and heat the flames generate—it can also gently flicker like a candle.

What would you do with a jar of tomato sauce?

Comfort food—make a Napoli sauce with gnocchi, which brings back childhood memories.

This is an edited extract from Signature Dishes by Michelle Tchea, published by New Holland, $29.95.

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