Can tho, Vietnam.
I came to Australia as refugee in the early 80’s and I was a performing arts student, where I studied graphics, advertising and fashion. My food background is Italian; the last 2 places I worked at were Casa di Nico where I was a sous chef under head chef Paul Catto, I then went to Pendolino and ran the cafe during the day and worked in the restaurant at night under head chef Felicity Goodall.
Have you always wanted to be a Chef?
I have not always wanted to be a chef, but I have always been interested in cooking at a young age. Before I became a chef, I studied fashion at east Sydney and the White House Institute of fashion.
How would you define your style?
I like to try and make old things new without compromising too much of its integrity but still keeping it simple, I just like cooking tasty food and I like big flavours. For a long time I used to cook what I felt people would like or wanted or what was the trend, but these days I mostly cook what I enjoy eating and sharing with family and friends.
What is your feature flavour these days?
Ginger, I’m using ginger in a lot of things lately, as I’ve started embracing my heritage.
Obsessive compulsive about?
Clean work space, putting things back in the same place.
Your greatest culinary inspirations/influences:
David Chang, Richard Blais, Thomas Keller and my mother, of course.
What do you love about this business?
The smiles on people’s faces as they enjoy a meal together and know I had contributed to their experience. There is also a big adrenaline rush when you have a smooth service and you’re under the pump, it’s a full house, dockets keep coming in and you just started service knowing there’s a good 3-4 hours to go and it just doesn’t stop. Hospitality is a tough trade you’ve got to love it. It’s definitely not for everybody.
An ingredient you can’t live without?
Most ‘eyebrow raising’ menu item?
4 hour braised pork belly in coconut juice with a 63-degree egg and cuttlefish emulsion.
My signature dish has always been pork. I love pork; I find this protein very versatile and lends itself to so many flavour profiles. At the moment it is a twice cooked pork belly which is braised for 4 hours in coconut water and pork stock, pressed chilled then fried, so it's crispy on the outside and soft and tender on the inside. It’s served with a 6 minute egg that’s marinated in cuttlefish and soy emulsion, at 6 minutes the yolk is still runny so when you break the egg and mix the yolk into the sauce it adds to the flavour and makes it richer. This is my take on a peasant dish most Vietnamese families from all regions grew up eating called – Thit heo kho.