I caught the cooking bug early in life, I was 14 when I first stepped into a kitchen and was so lucky to have great mentors who really taught me about the industry, who were good, great, and legendary.
This formed a catalyst for my pursuit of greatness and the last 20 or so years has been about chasing that, knocking on doors of kitchens that I admired to get my foot in the door at restaurants like Quay, Dinner by Heston, the Press Club and more.
My early career was in a world where the internet and social media didn’t really exist, so if you wanted to know something you would buy a book or get taught it through rigour in a kitchen. The hours were long, it was gruelling, but I honestly wouldn’t have it any other way. It all formed the me today, gave me the foundation of things that I naturally turn to for technique, flavour and even the way I manage people.
Now overseeing multiple food spaces and concepts I have a few core principles that I hold near and dear; we always look in our backyard first, can we get the product locally, what are they doing, are they doing it well, can we talk about it?
We look at process and the strain that can sometimes play on individuals and how can we streamline processes, ensure that we are taking care of our people, ensure that the flavour is in the dish at the point of prep not relying on humans to make clutch decisions under pressure.
Have you always wanted to be a Chef?
I have never really known anything else starting so young, over the years I have, like anyone, had moments of ‘what am I doing’. But I have learnt that you really need to swing the tables back to you and dine out, explore the industry from the other side to reignite that passion. The job is not for the faint of heart. It is long, it is hard and it is mentally and emotionally tough, but I wouldn’t have it any other way.
How would you define your style?
I would like to think my style is exactly that, it is my style. I am the guy who says what is the most ridiculous thing we can do, how can we make an impact, how can we make a statement? How can we make someone walk away and say ‘that was the best thing ever’?
I wear a lot of hats these days but I like that we have so many core principles that we can’t be pigeon holed. We wanted to create a menu that is eponymous to South East Queensland and talks to the endemic species in the region through foraged items, to the food bowl we have in the region through produce selection, the amazing producers through the products we choose from 100-month-old miso to beef that is grown locally then aged for up to 160 days.
What is your feature flavour these days?
I love to play with umami to bring full flavour through the savoury palate. There are so many pathways to this, we feature so many different things on our menus that get us here from a series of house ferments like blackened vegetables, to shoyus and misos.
So many things, I don’t think you can be a Chef without having some level of OCD. Whether it be the way a dish comes to the pass from the hot line to the way the mise en place sits in the service fridge.
Details should always be considered in every step we take throughout the day, how can we impact the team positively by ensuring the way they do things is regimented and thorough. This in turn relays to the guest as those choices around the way things are done allow for flavour to be brought to its highest level.
Your greatest culinary influence:
My greatest influence has always been Peter Gilmore. At a formative point in my career I was lucky enough to be able to spend 2 years working in a space at The Pinnacle, being the best restaurant in the country.
I was so grateful to Peter and his team, he took us all on that journey. He also was very stoic in the way he didn’t chase the limelight he was always about the food and not afraid to rack in and get the job done, which I have always admired.
What do you love about this business?
I love this simple yet profound idea that if we as a restaurant can do everything right we can imprint on an individual for the rest of their lives. They will remember us when they smell a particular scent, or taste a particular taste and that is a great privilege in life.
An ingredient you can’t live without?
I honestly would be lost in a world without butter - most of the ways to flavour are through butter. I often am remarked for using too much, but what is life without a little bit of guilty pleasure.
Most ‘eyebrow-raising’ menu item?
On our current menu people are often wondering about the 8-day dry-aged carrot cooked in 100-month-old miso for 8 hours.
It’s a pretty high concept dish that runs parallel on the tasting menu with the fish for vegetarians, but also resides on the main menu. The idea was to effectively give the humble carrot (sourced from the Darling Downs) the same treatment as we would a luxury piece of beef.
We dry age it as we would a piece of beef and we found that day 8 was the perfect texture the carrot softens, but as the atmosphere in the dry ager is so high in relative humidity it draws the moisture from the carrot and enhances the flavour.
We then coat it with a miso that is now 101-months-old which we are also the only people allowed to access this product. Then we cook the carrot ever so slowly for 8 hours.
This allows the miso to penetrate the flesh of the carrot and balance the sweetness with a salty and umami flavour. We serve it atop of a caramelised celeriac purée, with some crisp vegetables on top. Then at the table we pour over a housemade kombucha that we spike with a roasted sesame oil.
The result is a dish that is crispy, creamy, textural, salty, sweet and umami laden.
As we change the menu we don’t hold a signature, but I have a dish that has traversed 2 menus now that we will likely keep with different iterations.
It is poached Hervey Bay cuttlefish, which is cooked in dashi which we make utilising any and all seafood trim we have in house we dry and then rehydrate and then that stock is emulsified with the same amount in butter. Then as it currently is on the menu, we serve it with a shiitake chawanmushi, bottarga, soy pearls and flowers from the HOTA precinct.
Why should diners visit your restaurant and what can they expect?
Palette is a restaurant that set out to be a picture of the city, to be a reflection of who we are as a region and to highlight and hero amazing producers.
We want to take our diners on a journey, our amazing floor team are encyclopaedic in their knowledge of the menu and the stories associated to each dish and exude passion for the journey.
We love to share our space and cuisine with everyone and we pride ourselves on guests leaving having had an amazing experience.
What do you think COVID has taught restaurants and Chefs about their diners and the industry in general?
I am still holding on to the hope that we are going to have a roaring 20s. Dining culture of course has shifted, economics have changed, expectations have changed and people are vigilant about their choices as a consumer.
This is why we wanted to be a space that is multi-layered, accessible to everyone and able to be enjoyed and explored over multiple visits, each one having multiple touch points.
Tell us something no one knows about you?
I have a real penchant for linguistics, when I was a kid growing up we used to read the dictionary at the dinner table and choose a word to highlight and understand the way to use the word properly.
Where do you see yourself in 5 years’ time?
I think that the last 12 months has taught us that plans are overrated and sometimes the best laid plans can be foiled with the introduction of restrictions.
That said my hope is that I can be in a similar place to where I am now, somewhere creative, encouraging, but also with the perfect amount of balance so I can enjoy my family and can get out to explore the world, along with different cuisines.