History: I have been cooking at a professional level for 21 years. I completed my apprenticeship at Wangaratta TAFE in 1990-94 and during that time, in 1993, I was Victorian Apprentice of the year and runner up at the National Nestle Golden Chef Hat competition for Apprentice of the Year.
My career experience as a senior chef started at Caffe Bacco, an offshoot of Simone’s Restaurant, where I completed my apprenticeship. As head chef at Caffé Bacco I helped earn the restaurant a Victorian Good Food Guide one hat rating, at which point I returned to Simone’s Restaurant of Bright as its head chef.
In 1999 I moved to Melbourne to take up a position in the kitchen of Donovan’s at St Kilda, another renowned two hat establishment.
In 2000, a huge challenge and career highlight was leading Sirromet Winery’s Restaurant Lurleen’s as Executive Chef. I was an integral foundation staff member, handling activity during its conception and building time. Opened in July 2000, the establishment would later win awards such as Best Tourism Restaurant and Best Restaurant in a Winery in 2002. Not long after my departure to travel overseas, the restaurant was voted Best Restaurant in a Winery in Australia. My role there encompassed the a la carte restaurant, which could seat 120 and would often do 200, functions in the private dining room for corporate and VIP guests, as well as special events such as the winery birthday celebrations, which catered for more than 6,000 guests.
In 2003 when I returned to Bright after travelling overseas, Simone’s – which had always been an awarded restaurant, one of Victoria’s best country dining experiences and a favourite of foodies and critics alike – was to be moved to a new location in a heritage building. This atmosphere befitted their reputation and, with my assistance, also allowed us to gain another long awaited hat as we progressed the food to another level.
In 2005 after marrying and moving back to Queensland, I took over as Chef de Cuisine of the award winning, iconic fine dining restaurant Siggi's at the Port Office, situated at Stamford Plaza. I led the team at Siggi's until 2009, whereupon I joined the Spicers group as Executive Chef of Clovelly Estate and The Long Apron Restaurant.
My highlights of the past three years have thus been the wide scope and reign I have accumulated. I have been allowed to create The Long Apron’s dining experience from scratch, to grow and change its direction at times, and ultimately take it to its current award winning status.
Have you always wanted to be a chef?
Yes, it's one of those things that I always knew I’d do. I was accepted into university to study cartography but chose to do an apprenticeship instead. It’s who I am, and I can’t see myself doing anything else.
How would you define your style?
Quite simply, to make the food taste as good as it possibly can, in the most restrained and natural way. The restaurant, service and food are mutually conducive to a fun night out as opposed to just a meal out. We hope to offer stripped-down fine dining, devoid of any pretension or ceremony, served in atmospheric surroundings by a friendly and enthusiastic front of house team. Nothing more, nothing less.
What is your feature flavour these days?
Hands down favourite ingredient at the moment is... hay. I started using hay in a salt crusted chicken in a restaurant that I worked at in 1999, and since then I have dabbled with it, but now I love it. It can be baked in, cured with, infused into cream, smoked with, burnt and used as ash; the list goes on and on.
In the past I have infused Guernsey cream with toasted hay. They cooked a biodynamic potato in it and served it with sautéed greens from our garden and Kenilworth yoghurt. At the moment we are dry aging duck breasts in hay ash and serving it with a raw celeriac puree, pickled rhubarb, chestnuts, berries and cured breast. We are also working on a hay ash cured scallop dish, with pork neck baked in hay.... Stay tuned for that one!!
Obsessive compulsive about?
The marriage of everything on a plate – nothing superfluous.
Your greatest culinary inspirations/influences:
Everyone who ever worked in a kitchen and did what they thought tasted great.
What do you love about this business?
Being creative and taking basic ingredients and turning them into a journey of sorts.
An ingredient you can’t live without?
I love them all! Anything of great quality and freshness.
Most ‘eyebrow raising’ menu item?
Local (Glasshouse) snails usually raise a few. We currently serve them with morcilla, grilled leeks, leek oil, vichyoisse and herbs from our garden.
Every dish should be evolving all the time, so I don’t believe in signature dishes. I think that we have a signature style and people can pick our dishes or show them in a magazine or something. I'd rather that than a single dish.