In 2017-2018, I was Sous Chef at high-profile The Summit Restaurant located at Mount Coot-tha, however I commenced my apprenticeship at Che Asado in Brisbane’s South Bank, which specialised in char-grilled and wood-fired steaks and all forms of meat and game.
A foodies’ journey through Western Europe gave me many great food memories, inspiration to bring home and the of love those countries where the food, drink and family culture seem so seamlessly intertwined.
In my early days I drew inspiration from cookbooks by great Australian Chefs like Thai Food by David Thompson, MoVida by Frank Camorra, Banc by Liam Tomlin and Rodney Adler and I loved the common-sense cookery books, Larousse Gastronomique and Silver Spoon.
Have you always wanted to be a Chef?
I’ve always loved cooking and have fond memories of cooking with my parents from a young age, mostly so I could have the honour of licking the bowl…but I would say my passion to pursue it as a career came after my visits abroad, which ignited that drive to create art, flavours and experiences similar to what I experienced.
How would you define your style?
I like to showcase sustainably sourced seafood, ethically farmed meats and hero vegetables with beautifully balanced Asian aromas and the distinctive sweet, hot, sour, salty flavours of Vietnamese cuisine. While respecting the traditions of French and Asian cuisines, I like to bring an edgy and funky flair to the fusion.
At Spicers Balfour Kitchen & Bar, we value the freshest ingredients, including citrus and herbs from a rooftop garden and we maintain beehives on the property. Our food philosophy is to ‘keep it simple’ by making the actual produce the hero of the dish and minimise wastage by allowing every part of an ingredient to play its role.
I do a lot of slow cooking, roasting and cooking with fire; I love the influence of wood smoke and charcoal and making the most of the primal heat. For instance, we cook cabbages whole in the coals, they are effectively self-steaming in their own charred cocoon and when cut open, the flesh inside is so sweet, juicy and full of flavour.
What is your feature flavour these days?
The dishes I enjoy creating the most are ones which play a little twist on classics, those dishes people know so well but don’t expect to taste, such as octopus with cassia and anise crème, katsuobushi, finger lime, lonza and micro coriander. It has many of the essential elements and flavours of Takoyaki, but with a colourful and balanced Vietnamese twist.
Being organised and neat and I’m a big planner.
I am in awe of our local suppliers who provide Balfour with sensational fresh produce like green mangoes and herbs from local farms around Inala and Boon Luck Organic Farm near Byron Bay.
Your greatest culinary influence:
That sense of working together to produce great food, every day, started young for me when I grew up with four siblings on acreage, miles from any take-aways.
My family played a huge part in my cooking development, as my parents were very good cooks and one of my sisters loves baking, so I learnt all that I could from them.
Once I began my apprenticeship that sense of family transitions to your team which instills a great passion to constantly reach new heights.
What do you love about this business?
The relationships. Balfour has a really warm, friendly and inclusive work atmosphere that is so rare and I am forever learning from the great experience and skills of our Chefs within the Spicers Retreats group – a priceless ingredient for which I am abundantly grateful!
Most ‘eyebrow-raising’ menu item?
I have tried some pretty crazy ideas over the last few years, most of which were successful. However, I’d say our biggest eyebrow-raisers actually come from the extensive vegan options on our Balfour menu.
Dishes like umami bamboo shoots and mustard stem, shiitake mapo, fried pickled cauliflower, bang-bang eggplant, or thrice-cooked chats always surprise guests who return to order the vegan options with our meat-based dishes.
The hot, sticky and sweet beef cheeks are an irreplaceable item on the Balfour menu. I attempted to replace them once, however due to the outcry, they were returned immediately.
Tell us something no one knows about you?
At least I think no one really knows but I’m a huge nerd when it comes to movies, books and research. My ADD means I’m constantly looking for new things to learn about and consume.
Where do you see yourself in 5 years’ time?
It sounds cliché but honestly, I hope to still be immersed in the Spicers Retreats group. It is a constantly growing and evolving company, so I hope to play a role in their future development and progression.