I started working in kitchens at the age of 16, when I was in high school doing dishes on the weekends.
During that time, I thought it was great hanging out with older Chefs and watching them cook like rock stars and seeing them work with so much intensity, passion, drive and creativity. At that time a documentary series came out about a young Gordon Ramsay, called 'Boiling Point’, going for his third Michelin star.
After watching that series and working with some old school great Chefs, it really helped light the fire and give me some direction in life. I went on to do my Chef apprenticeship at some great restaurants across Melbourne with some real industry leaders.
One of my favourite memories as a young Chef during those times was being in the kitchen with Jeremy Strode and Lee Dundas and eating a dish of smoked eel, bacon and potato puree at Langtons restaurant which had 3 Hats at the time.
I realised that food didn’t need to be crazy complicated and that perfect produce, plus great cooking technique was the way to cook. This made the most sense to me and to this day, I follow that lead and work with only great produce.
At the moment in my kitchen these days at Pretty Little we are using some incredible, beautiful heirloom mixed variety tomatoes. There so incredible they don’t even look real and biting into one of them with perfect Summer ripeness is sensational.
I’m so lucky now as a Head Chef years later, that my ‘workplace’ isn’t really work, because I love it so much and food will always be number one.
Have you always wanted to be a Chef?
No, I haven’t always wanted to be a Chef. During high school I had no idea…until I did kitchen hand work and 'work experience' through high school and that set me up to realise that being a Chef could be a great career.
One of my first Chefs Ray Capaldi also helped light the fire, with his intensity and presence in the kitchen, to become a good Chef.
How would you define your style?
Buzz word - ‘Produce driven’. As it should be…I just think that at Pretty Little we cook from the heart and that means it could be anything that tastes delicious.
Pretty Little's decor doesn’t really dictate a certain style like so many other restaurants. It’s an intimate, open kitchen, interactive, dinner party, incredible energy vibe. Melbourne is so multicultural, beautiful and has so many layers to, that we just cook the best produce we find. We use smaller independent suppliers who are proud of their produce and we get great energy from that.
One of the dishes on the menu at the moment is some beautiful Summer ripe heirloom tomatoes alongside pineapple, whipped tofu and a dressing made of yuzu, ginger and hazelnut oil. Another example of a dish on the menu - albacore tuna tartare, spring onion, soy, puffed wild rice, finger lime, foie gras.
The best thing about our style is we get to interact with everybody that comes to the restaurant and talk all about the food and share the experience with them.
What is your feature flavour these days?
Great Australian seasonal produce. For example at the moment, fresh vibrant Summer herbs, heirloom tomatoes and stone fruit.
Obsessive compulsive about?
I'll admit it…cleanliness.
Your greatest culinary influence?
Leigh Dundas, Ben Shewry, Jeremy Strode.
What do you love about this business?
I love the creative side, the feeling of freedom and the feeling of giving and sharing with others from the heart.
An ingredient you can’t live without?
I’d be pretty upset if we couldn’t have mushrooms.
Most eyebrow-raising menu item?
At the moment the most questions from our customers are about the sweet corn dish - sweet corn, miso, blueberries, Parmesan custard, King oysters, wild sorrel and society garlic.
Tuna, spring onion, soy, puffed wild rice, finger lime and foie gras.
Communal dining from an ever-changing fresh seasonal menu, paired with boutique wines, awaits Balaclava diners at Pretty Little on Carlisle Road. On balmy Melbourne days, take to the courtyard to soak up rays while grazing from the snack menu with a glass of vino; while indoors a moody vibe of subtle lighting, a long wooden table and wine-rack covered walls, sets the tone for innovative dining. From a six-course tasting menu, think dishes like sweetcorn, King oyster mushrooms, miso, Parmesan and blueberry, or tuna, spring onion, puffed wild rice, foie gras and finger lime; while mains may present like lamb Scotch fillet, beetroot, raspberry, garden peas and sorrel. Dessert lovers will be enticed by choices like dark chocolate mousse, Earl Grey ice cream, salted butterscotch and hazelnut.