Growing up, I had extensive exposure to a variety of cuisines due to my travels around Europe, and my mother told me, "if you want to travel, become a Chef.” Fuelled by this, as well as my love of food, I knew my path was clear.
I began my first apprenticeship at Villa Strauss (Napoleon’s Summer House) in Vichy under Alain Passard, France and after finishing in Paris, joined L’Arpege Paris, a two-star Michelin restaurant. Following this, I joined the team at Au Trou Gascon with Alain Dutournier, a one-star Michelin restaurant, before looking to expand my career in the international hotel scene with Le Meridien Group in Paris in their Michelin starred restaurant.
With a desire to travel, and the vast range of experience I gained in France, I made the decision to move to Montreal, Canada where I stayed until moving to Australia in 1992.
Once arriving in Sydney, I continued expanding my culinary credentials with the teams at La Grillade then the Intercontinental, Park Lane (now Sheraton on the Park) with Dietmar Sawyere. This gave me the local experience I needed to join Machiavelli Ristorante Italiano in 1994.
Apart from a few years where I worked in the Blue Mountains at Silk’s Brasserie Leura and The Rooster Restaurant at Jamison Guest House, I have worked with the team of six at Machiavelli Ristorante Italiano for over 20 years. I lead a team who are as passionate as I am about creating new and exciting dishes, while remaining authentic to the Italian cuisine and the extensive heritage of the restaurant.
Have you always wanted to be a Chef?
I loved cooking from an early age and watching my Mother and Grandmother in the kitchen. My family travelled frequently and as a youngster I was exposed to different foods which expanded my palate and appreciation for well-prepared dishes. However, the pearl of wisdom came from my mother who told me to be a Chef so I could travel. So, inspired by food and travel the path before me became quite clear.
How would you define your style?
Classic Mediterranean with a twist.
What is your feature flavour these days?
The freshness of herbs: basil, rosemary, parsley, and combining this to meat, fish and sauces are the flavours that say "I am an Italian dish.”
Obsessive compulsive about?
In the food:freshness, taste, presentation and value.
In the kitchen:team work and good utensils.
Your greatest culinary inspirations/influences:
Working with Chef Alain Passard, his passion and creativity for food still empowers me to this day. International cuisine inspires me and enriches my palate.
What do you love about this business?
"People” their appreciation and celebration in their experience of dining when done well.
An ingredient you can’t live without?
Most ‘eyebrow raising’ menu item?
Gamberoni Avvolti: QLD prawns wrapped in crispy potato with avocado tartare and acacia honey dressing.
Ravioli alla Veneziana: homemade stuffed ravioli topped with grilled snapper and scampi in a cherry tomato sauce.
Hidden away just beneath Clarence Street down a set of flagstone steps, Machiavelli Restaurant has been serving West Sydney locals for more than 30 years. Cured meats hang from sturdy crossbeams supporting walls with framed pictures, showcasing the rich history behind a traditional Italian menu, which journeyed from Naples to Sydney with Giovanna Toppi and a suitcase of lessons from her mother. Organic greens and regional ingredients come to the fore, with fresh fish delivered twice a day to match a cellar of Australian wine, sitting comfortably beside Italian drops. Begin with ocean trout carpaccio, lime, chilli, chives, caper lemon dressing and pomegranate; before delving into housemade pasta like ravioli alla Veneziana, topped with grilled snapper and scampi, in a cherry tomato sauce.