South Coast, NSW. I moved to the Hunter in Jan 2016.
Walking into the kitchen of a Bistro on the South Coast as a 17-year-old, fresh out of high school, I never thought my journey through the hospitality industry would take me down this path, or in fact, move so quickly.
I was working as part of a large club and function centre, where I stayed until the beginning of the 3rd year of my Chef’s Apprenticeship. At the group, I met some dedicated Chefs and learned a lot about time management, running functions and a small team, as well as having the opportunity to run a pop-up bistro as a young apprentice.
Through a great program run by the Bomaderry TAFE, I had the opportunity to work on a menu with two Chef Hat awarded Chefs Troy Rhoades-Brown and Mitch Beswick from Muse Restaurant in Pokolbin.
After this experience, I was offered a position at the restaurant to finish my apprenticeship. As an eager 19-year-old, I made the 4-hour move north and started my career in fine dining with some of the most invaluable training a young Chef could be offered, learning the ropes at a highly awarded regional restaurant.
After completing my apprenticeship, I remained at Muse Restaurant as a Commis Chef, 18 months after I moved to the Hunter where I was offered the position of Junior Sous Chef at the 1 Hat awarded Muse Kitchen, the sister restaurant to that of my new mentors.
My next venture took me to another Hunter restaurant, still eager to learn in a different aspect of the industry, I took a position as Head Chef of a slightly larger team, and then as the Manager of the business.
As a 23-year-old and looking for a new challenge I was put in contact with Kim and Scott Waters of the newly renamed Kawul Restaurant in Pokolbin. A rustic 80 seat restaurant in the heart of the wine country, inspired by native Australian bush flavours with a focus on plant based and organic food grown in the Hunter Valley.
The opportunity to grow as a professional alongside the young business and develop as a Chef is something I am greatly looking forward to. I am really excited to see where this venture takes me and what new connections can be made.
Have you always wanted to be a Chef?
I have always loved cooking. While I was at school, I had a strong interest in maths and chemistry, which turned into determination from a business perspective. I applied for an apprenticeship eager to do something I loved and join the workforce, little did I realise at the time, being a Chef is just maths, chemistry and business. That is what I was passionate about, so I guess it is what I always wanted to do.
How would you define your style?
My style is quite traditional with influences from Australian contemporary Chefs and the changing food scene. My style changes with the seasons and what produce can be sourced locally.
What is your feature flavour these days?
Australian native, taking traditional concepts and flavours and exchanging them for what’s indigenous to the area.
Consistency with the traditional cooking. Tradition exists because it works, if you are doing a play on a well-known dish, get the basics right.
Your greatest culinary influence:
A strong culinary influence of mine would be Thomas Keller and his notion of using ‘local ingredients cooked with an inventive French hand.’ Closer to home, who could go past Maggie Beer and her homestyle food.
What do you love about this business (Kawul Restaurant)?
The setting is a great place to start, overlooking Pokolbin forest and some of the older vineyards in the hunter. The timber-clad restaurant full of natural light is so inviting for diners after a quick refuel or looking for a four-course meal. The family that owns the restaurant are incredibly easy to work for, knowing exactly what they want from the restaurant whilst still giving a lot of freedom as far as its development.
An ingredient you can’t live without?
Obviously butter or olive oil, really anything that can be used to add richness or body to a dish.
Most ‘eyebrow-raising’ menu item?
Any time you use stinging nettle, saltbush, Mexican cucumbers or an item not commonly eaten. My menus change constantly so it is hard to single something out.
As for a signature dish, I don’t really have one. As my palate and food trends evolve, so does the menu, but you will almost always find native pepper in one of my desserts or gnocchi with a less than traditional accompaniment on the menu.