Firstly, I did not have a dream to be a Chef. Long story short, I took a commercial cookery course because I wanted to make good food for myself and my family, instead of going out to have a meal.
Down the track, I did my apprenticeship in Victoria to gain the skills, knowledge and experience needed to work in a restaurant.
I did my apprenticeship at Bistro Vite as I dreamt of cooking classic French.
How did you get to where you are now?
I have been working in hatted restaurants like Archies on the Creek, under Shaun Nielsen and Paul Wilson, Grossi Florentino under Guy Grossi, Lamaro’s under Michael Lambie and at Joseph’s Restaurant & Bar (Mansion Hotel & Spa at Werribee Park) under Anthony Garlando, who was trained by Pierre Gagnaire. I learnt so much from Anthony, particularly how to balance flavour, minimise wastage and utilise food scraps to make something that doesn’t only look good but tastes good.
Anthony Garlando is my role model, I always wanted to be like him! The way he creates amazing dishes to not only look good but to taste good with honest, clean and good flavours is an inspiration.
Have you always wanted to be a Chef?
The honest answer is no, believe it or not. My dream was to be in the racing industry. Since I was young, I liked to race, either cars or motorbikes. It’s in my blood! However, there is no reason why I can’t create amazing dishes or become a good Chef just because it wasn’t my first choice.
I am constantly learning to be a better Chef. I want to show my kids that if you keep on trying, keep on learning, one day you will be a better person and you will achieve your goals.
How would you define your style?
My style is keep it simple but work smarter, by utilising fresh, local ingredients to create clean, simple and honest food for my customers and to maximise profit for the business by reducing wastage. My style evolves with the trends though.
What is your feature flavour these days?
These days, at Otto Melbourne, I am using Japanese and South-East Asian flavours on my menu. There’s still more to come though, as we want to be different from all the other cafés around us.
Obsessive- compulsive about?
Firstly, making sure my menu suits the market and our diners. Secondly, is working with my suppliers and farmers to get the best local ingredients in town. Lastly, building my team to achieve our goals and targets.
Your greatest culinary influence:
My greatest culinary influence comes from when I worked at Joseph’s Restaurant & Bar as Sous Chef under Anthony Garlando. Anthony was brought in to develop the menu using his knowledge from Europe. We worked with Modern Australian flavours and gastronomic molecular techniques. He is now working at Aqua Restaurant Group (London) as Group Executive Chef. I learnt so many modern cooking techniques from him, along with modern French as well as the flavours I work with now, combining South-East Asian and Japanese ingredients to create amazing dishes.
I didn’t just learn techniques and flavour profiles, he also taught me how to cut precisely and how to fillet fish without damaging any of the flesh.
What do you love about this business?
Otto Melbourne is such an innovative café. I want to help them achieve their goals and grow with the business. They give me the freedom to create the menu how I see fit and of course before we finalise the menu, we test it. Not many Chefs can get the freedom that I have at Otto.
An ingredient you can’t live without?
There’s more than one! Xanthan gum, agar-agar, titanium powder, versawhip (soy) and soy lecithin.
Most ‘eyebrow-raising’ menu item?
Let’s make some smoke, hotcakes, pain perdu.
Egg custard with exotic mushroom fricassee, black garlic, truffle and freeze-dried black truffle.
A collective experience of everyday moments done differently – that's Otto Melbourne on Bridge Road in Richmond. With a name short for 'Ode to the Original', this trendy café has the kind of interior that can easily transition between morning coffee and pastry to special family occasions; all light, white and bright with splashes of greenery. Non-traditional seating arrangements such as a communal table - with high white stools, marble top and cylindrical overhead lights – are ideal for meetings, family gatherings and sharing. Expect honest food and specialty coffee like exotic mushroom fricassee, with egg custard, black garlic, crispy enoki and rye toast; or the Otto burger, with 18-hour, slow-cooked beef ribs, housemade BBQ sauce, onion, rings, Monterey Jack cheddar and Pommes Frites.