Shoalhaven on the NSW south coast.
After finishing high school in 2014, with few options for a Chef’s apprenticeship, I spent the first few years of my career at the Bomaderry Bowling Club. In 2016 I was offered a job at Muse Dining in the Hunter Valley and left Shoalhaven, eager to learn and one day return to give back to the food scene that I grew up in.
Muse Dining Chef and owner Troy Rhodes-Brown had a powerful influence on me as a young Chef with his humble yet refined attitude to food. Working the main section with Troy taught me how important it is to stay calm under pressure and that having a high standard and work ethic comes before all else.
One happy constant in my career has been my close friend and colleague Brandon Cole; we’ve worked together in the past five kitchens we've been a part of. It’s the kind of relationship where we don’t need to talk about food, we already know what the other wants to see on the plate. I was a groomsman at his wedding in 2021 and he’s been my Sous Chef at éRemo since November 2022.
Have you always wanted to be a Chef?
My Auntie owned a busy cafe in Kiama, just up the road from Shoalhaven, and as a kid I loved seeing what everyone was up to in the kitchen.
I realise now that I was probably that annoying kid getting in the way. I loved the hustle, creating meals and baking the sweets, knowing that the guests got just as much joy from eating there as I did. I did high-school work experience at the cafe and was hooked.
How would you define your style?
Modern Italian with a signature emphasis on locally sourced produce!
What is your feature flavour these days?
I am a fan of cooking ‘low and slow’ - gelatinous beef cheeks or large cuts of lamb and venison given gentle treatment to relax the meat and unlock rich flavours that you can't get any other way
I can also finish the meat on a BBQ to give it a smoky richness and add a crust of seasoning and fat to the dish, as with éRemo’s dish of a ‘Binnie Beef’ Hunter Valley MB6 Wagyu tri-tip, cooked sous vide for 36 hours then char-grilled and served with creamy polenta, pumpkin and candied onions.
Creating seasonal gnocchi dishes is one of my favourite things. Making gnocchi by hand with just roasted potatoes, flour and salt is a wonderful foundation for any flavours you can create. I also love tiramisu, it’s such a classic – who doesn't love coffee and alcohol!
Just a few other favourite things: fire-roasted vegetables, like smoked eggplant as a purée, roasted peppers in a sauce and char-grilled squash; cured seafood, as crudo, brandade, or smoked mussels and a combo of mussels and prawns, particularly with light pasta.
Your greatest culinary influence:
I have great admiration for Mitch and Troy from Muse Restaurant and their unique way of gathering flavours and textures across a range of cuisines and consolidating them into one solid menu with a firm identity. Mitch and Troy upheld strict standards in the kitchen and yet maintained a personal relationship with all the Chefs, something that isn't always easy to do.
Also, in 2018, I travelled to Italy and visited the region around Naples, Sorrento and the Amalfi coast, including the Casinelli ancestral town of Arpino, about 100 km southeast of Rome.
I ate my way through the best seafood and pizzas and saw 101 ways to use tomato and lemon so it seems only fitting that I end up running Italian-inspired éRemo where I can put this experience into practise.
What do you love about this business?
The beautiful space, the kitchen, the great produce and ever-changing menus and our amazing staff are all what I love about this place. Our clientele is very diverse and has a broad palate, which makes éRemo like a blank canvas for our cooking.
Being a Chef draws out creativity and passion that many industries can’t, in a hands-on role where I can see a project through to the end, like breaking down a fish, then cooking and serving it as a completed dish.
At éRemo we get to cook for some of Australia's best winemakers and their well-trained palates, it’s another great thing that makes this place exciting.
When creating new dishes I like to think what wine I would drink with this, I imagine being the guest and thinking what they’d enjoy. Likewise when tasting a new wine, I think about what matching flavours I’d like to experience in a meal and how I could balance that against the subtleties of the wine.
Tell us something no one knows about you?
When not at éRemo, I take full advantage of the magnificent natural environment, horse riding with my partner, playing in the weekly golf comp with my best mate and Sous Chef Brandon, firefighting with NSW RFS or looking after my farm and animals.
Embark on a culinary adventure where each day and sometimes each table is different at eRemo Restaurant on Ekerts Road in Pokolbin. This modern and contemporary Italian eatery, the centrepiece of Spicers Hunter Valley Guesthouse, exudes an elegant and stylish vibe of blond wood, sand-coloured brick and softly glowing downlights, while on balmy days, the verandah beckons as a sunny spot to sample a drop of local wine. From a menu boasting share-style dishes, start with roasted Tasmanian scallops and nduja cream before osso bucco Milanese with saffron risotto, snap peas, Parmesan and buckwheat. Perhaps char-grilled rib eye fillet tempts with celeriac remoulade, truffle pecorino and green peppercorn jus, finishing sweetly with apple zeppole, salted caramel, toffee apple and cinnamon gelato.