Griffith NSW in 1986
My first experience was work placement at Tango’s Restaurant and Bar in year 11. This lead to me getting my first taste of what it was like to work in a kitchen. Since I enjoyed the experience I decided that’s what I wanted to do, become a chef.
In year 12 I did a work placement at L’Oasis Restaurant, which was an award winning formal restaurant. They asked me what I wanted to do in the future, I told them I wanted to be chef. They put the pressure on me a fair bit during the week there, so I could get a real taste of what it was really like. I loved it, the pressure and the rush, working fast and producing good quality food. I thought it was great! At the end of the week they offered me an apprenticeship. So I finished year 12 and started my apprenticeship at L’Oasis Restaurant. Straight away they threw me into the deep end. I had a huge work load and lots of pressure and responsibilities thrown on me. We did lots of wine dinners, regional food dinners and a book release dinner for Peter Howard. The bosses also made me enter cooking competitions at TAFE, where I won the local one and came third in Southern NSW. This is where I got a taste of fusion cooking, mixing Asian flavours with French techniques. I learnt most of my cooking skills in my time at L’Oasis and it has been the basis of my cooking style to date.
I decided, for a change, to broaden my cooking skills so I ventured to a local busy Italian restaurant Il Corso. Cooking there was completely different for me. It was a change in flavours and styles, lots of quick pan work and pushing lots of meals out. Working at Il Corso taught me good time management skills and how to be quick and organised. If you did not keep on top of things you would be flooded with dockets. After a year and a bit there, I felt that I had learnt enough skills and knowledge from this establishment.
I was approached by the local Griffith Leagues Club who offered me a job there as they were trying to boost their business by promoting better foods in clubs. It was at the Leagues Club where I learnt about plating up and organising larger functions, working in larger brigades and in different sections of a kitchen, on the grill, fryers, veg, salads etc. It was where I got a good idea of the business side of things, of what works and what does not. I finished my apprenticeship at the Griffith Leagues Club. With my experience in the three hospitality establishments I decided that what I could offer diners would be successful. The following year after completing my apprenticeship I opened my own restaurant, Novus Restaurant.
Owning my own restaurant has allowed me to go back to the style of cooking that I love, which is marrying Asian flavours with modern and French techniques. It has allowed me to really knuckle down and concentrate on perfecting my own skills and knowledge of food. It has also led to my own palate maturing, being able to explore new foods and flavours. As I am the only chef our restaurant has, everything reflects off me and what I do. So there is always a lot of pressure, I have to keep on top of my game and lead by example for my apprentices.
Being isolated from major cities has allowed me to use and source out local produce from around the Riverina, matching it with wines from Griffith and the surrounding areas. I always look for quality local products first, trying to support the community. At Novus we have done many successful wine and regional food dinners, always trying to highlight the high quality of Riverina produce.
Have you always wanted to be a chef?
I have always had an interest in food and cooking, but never thought about it as a career. It was not until I did work placement in hospitality during year 11 and 12 that I realised that this is what I wanted to be, from this point on all I wanted to be was a chef.
How would you define your style?
My style is modern Australian with a heavy Asian influence, with foods big in taste and full of flavour. In saying this, I never over complicate things with too many flavours and textures on one plate. I like to let the quality of the products still shine through.
Obsessive compulsive about?
I am definitely obsessive about being organised; this starts from ordering, prep list, to prep, to service. If I am not organised and don’t have everything in order the kitchen is in for a long, stressful and disastrous day.
Neil Perry, Susur Lee, David Thompson. Michel Roux Jnr, eating out at restaurants, books and magazines.
What do you love about this business?
For me this is the perfect job, as I am someone who can’t sit still, I always need something to do and there is always work to be done in a kitchen. I love the fast pace and the rush of working in a kitchen. I get great satisfaction out of pushing through and getting to the end of a busy service. I love making everything from scratch and seeing the end product that is created from the raw ingredients.
An ingredient you can’t live without?
Salt and seasoning. I can’t stand bland foods.
Most ‘ eyebrow raising’ menu item?
Char grilled harissa rubbed kangaroo fillet with a chocolate and red wine jus, topped with braised red cabbage on a bed of herbed mash potato.
Twice cooked duck, finished with a cinnamon, star anise spiced orange and red wine jus with side of pinot noir jelly.
Slow roasted pork belly, with crisp crackle, Thai caramel sauce, topped with fresh shredded apple and mint salad.
These two dishes would have to be my signature dishes, both have been on the menu since day one. Both always get amazing feedback from our customers.