My training started as work experience
at Mercers and then at Eltham College Hospitality program where I received both
back and front of house training and received my Certificate 3 and 4 in
Hospitality Training. I started after work experience washing dishes with owners
Stephen and Ute Mercer for four years, where my passion really started to
develop. I was then offered an apprenticeship where for three years I worked
under Stephen, learning every section and had every opportunity to progress. During
my apprenticeship I was able to win awards such as:
For the Thierry Marx Award, I won a trip to Pauillac in Bordeaux, where I worked for a month in the then 3 star Michelin restaurant Chateau Cordeillan Bages. Once qualified I sought the help of second mentor Scott Picket to train me in readiness for Europe. I worked under Scott Pickett at the Point in Albert Park (2 Hat) and I was lucky enough to watch, learn and help as he opened up Estelle Bistro in Northcote. I moved to Paris working in Sur Mesure restaurant under the guidance of Thierry Marx (2 Star Michelin), where I learnt valuable lessons in high end fine dining, gaining invaluable knowledge and skills. I then decided to fund my food adventure throughout Europe by working at a busy Paris bar as Bar Supervisor for a year.
Moving back to Australia, I worked for a year as Sous Chef, then Head Chef in a busy breakfast lunch café called Mart 130 in Middle Park. Missing France, I returned and after arriving in the French Alps, took a job working for a restaurant/ group on the Bocaux (a traditional way of conserving foods), while also working with a local gardener learning farming and sustainable growing practices. A stint as Chef de Partie/Sous Chef in a semi-formal French restaurant followed, where I learnt classic and traditional recipes, as well as creating a local network of wine makers, fishers, cheese makers, bakers, chefs and dairy farmers. After almost three years I decided it was time to come home and move to Daylesford, where I was offered a job in semi-formal dining. I ran the kitchen as Head Chef for almost two years working very closely with the owner (Belvedere Social). In that time, I won three awards:
I was also a part of overall awards with Belvedere Social:
Have you always wanted to be a Chef?
I guess when I started work experience I had no idea. I loved playing team sports and always felt I learnt by working with things, never sitting down at school. I really loved the pressure of being in a kitchen – it was my new-found sport - the heat, the camaraderie and the pressure. I found, I thrived in a kitchen environment.
What is your feature flavour these days?
You can’t beat butter, garlic and parsley! I love old school flavours. Real basic flavour combinations that when cooked well, take me back to a place in time.
Define your style?
French, I cook with butter, garlic and wine. Cheese is always good too.
What do you love about this business?
I designed the kitchen to be open for the pure fact that I would be a part of the experience of my guests. To watch people’s reactions when they eat my food and the passing comments from guests makes my day that much better. Also, working for myself truly allows me to express my style of food and share the food I love so much with my diners.
What are your greatest culinary inspirations and influences:
This is a tough one. I think the Troisgros family is incredible. Their food is so beautiful and thought out and their business model fantastic, as well as their determination to change their brand without taking away from the overall goal and business model. If I was to choose someone closer to home, it would be Stephan and Ute Mercer. They took me in as young kid and trained me to become the Chef I am today, instilling a work ethic, care for produce and how to run a successful business. They have had their restaurant for 20 years - it is still as strong as ever - and to this day they continue to help me in my business.
What are you obsessive compulsive about?
Sauces. I take two days to make them and who doesn’t love a good sauce when finished well. Also if I was to ask the guys at work they would say labelling things, they need to be written a certain way and with neat hand writing!!!!!
What ingredient can’t you live without?
Butter. It makes everything taste that much better.
Most eyebrow raising dish?
I created my own version of a forest floor last year in mushroom season. I took inspiration for the surroundings at a local spot where I forage for mushrooms. People loved it and there was a lot of work that was put into that plate.
I’m unsure. I feel I’m too young to have a signature dish yet, as I don’t stop growing and changing dishes. I feel it’s only a natural progression to make things better. Although saying that, people love my braised lamb shoulder and I feel I’ve gotten it to a point where I’m happy, for the moment.
For a little slice of France in the heart of Daylesford, locals rendezvous at Bistro Terroir on Howe Street. This sophisticated neighbourhood bistro is the place to savour fine fare, paired with a carefully selected drinks menu, whether stopping by for a quick catch-up, an extended liaison or private indulgence. Dark wooden floors and exposed brick create a warm, welcoming vibe as diners bask in abundant natural light at white-clothed tables and ponder starters such as tempura snails with parsley and garlic cream, or quail, with sweet potato puree, truffle, pine nuts, currants and jus. For the main, delve into dishes like Sher Wagyu rump steak, shoestring fries and café Paris butter; or market fish, French peas and asparagus, finishing with chocolate and coffee cremeux and spiced tuille.