Growing up, the importance of good food was always emphasised.
Being surrounded by my Maltese heritage meant meals were associated with tradition, family and memories. That upbringing ignited my own passion for cooking and from a young age I would cook any chance I got.
I wanted to be a Chef since I was about 13 and started out in the industry washing dishes at a local Italian restaurant when I was 15 and then moved on to do my apprenticeship at a club.
I was cooking very basic food for my apprenticeship, however I loved being in the kitchen and the satisfaction of cooking a new dish and having a good service.
When I had completed my apprenticeship I moved overseas and lived in London and Amsterdam, where I started working in 5-star hotels and Michelin restaurants, where I fell even more in love with food.
While there, I learnt how far I could take my profession and what could be achieved. I also spent a lot of time travelling throughout Europe and the Middle East, where I experienced so many different foods and cultures and greatly appreciated the effect food has on us all.
Moving back to Sydney I was fortunate enough to develop more unique skills such as charcuterie, baking and cheese-making while working at Nomad, where I built relationships with the producers.
That is why I moved to the Barossa Valley and Hentley Farm, so I could work closely with a community producing exceptional produce.
Living and working in this region and being surrounded by fresh, seasonal produce both grown and foraged, is exciting and inspiring and challenges me to create something new every day.
How would you define your style?
I aim to be as respectful and purposeful with the produce as possible, which means that my cooking style usually highlights key ingredients, while also letting more subtle flavours lift each other and shine in their own light. I try not to complicate dishes too much, as to not let anything get lost or forgotten.
What is your feature flavour these days?
I have recently started fermenting mustard in beer and local honey, so am trying out all the different ways I can utilise mustard seeds in cooking.
Your greatest culinary influence:
I have grown up with a lot of exceptional cooking at home and from other people close to me in my life and have worked alongside brilliant Chefs, however my grandmother is whom I think of the most.
She would cook food from Malta, which always left the family happy, full and ignited in memories and nostalgia. When she and my grandfather moved to Australia, they would eat new dishes they hadn’t had before and she would recreate them at home.
She wouldn’t have a recipe she could look up, so instead she would recreate from memory, adding what she thought the dish needed and making it her own.
What do you love about this business?
I love the creativeness, discovering something new. There is always something to learn and then getting to share that with guests. The relationships built between restaurant teams and guests can be very special. Exposing a guest to a new ingredient, or how to use it, to going out of our way to make their day a little bit more special. It can be very rewarding.
Aged kingfish sashimi with sesame soy dressing and chickpeas, cooked overnight in master stock.