Interview by Beverley Hudec
4th October 2013
BEGAN AS A KITCHEN HAND AT JONAH’S, HE NOW WORKS WITH A DEDICATED TEAM AT THE AWARD-WINNING FISH CAFE BALGOWLAH
WHAT DOES WINNING THE BEST RESTAURANT AWARD MEAN TO YOU?
Winning the Sydney Fish Market’s award for the Best Seafood Restaurant in NSW is an honour and reassurance that we are heading in the right direction, offering quality and service to our customers.
WHO HAS BEEN YOUR GREATEST CULINARY INFLUENCE?
I come from a large family and extras were always welcomed to our table. Mum’s cooking was simple, fresh and plentiful. I still can’t beat her baked dinner. I started my career as a kitchen hand at Jonah’s under head chef, Richard Purdue. I followed Richard to Belinda Franks Catering. As an apprentice chef with Neil Perry at Rockpool, I have never worked as hard, but there was not one day that I didn’t want to be there.
WHAT LESSONS HAVE YOU LEARNT FROM THEM?
Being a chef, cooking for others is rewarding. It takes passion to meet the challenge of your customers and your own expectations. Keep open-minded about difference, in cuisine, flavour or technique, and don’t be afraid to make mistakes.
WHAT DO YOU BRING TO THE FISH CAFÉ?
The Fish Café holds a huge amount of value to me as I have been involved right from the beginning. We have built up the business adding positively to it every week. I work long hours but see the fruits of my labour when the restaurant is at full. Happy customers keep me going. Early in my career I learned that working with fresh, quality, seasonal produce makes all the difference. We hand make everything in-house – except Big Red tomato sauce – it seems our hand-made tomato sauce does not meet the expectations of our smaller patrons.
WHAT IS CURRENTLY ON THE MENU?
Beer battered flathead, chips and mushy peas is the favourite at the moment. I like to keep the menu flexible and offer what is fresh and seasonal so the menu is always a little different. A couple of my favourites are the seared scallops with sautéed mushrooms, mushroom puree and truffle oil and the lobster and prawn linguine.
WHERE DO YOU LIKE TO EAT OUT ON THE BEACHES?
Mum introduced me to a place in Mona Vale, Banana Blossom, it serves great fresh salads with some amazing dressings with a twist of Asian flavours, rice and noodles. I also enjoy Manly Grill as they consistently do a great steak and their dessert menu satisfies my sweet tooth.
WHAT IS YOUR MOST MEMORABLE MEAL?
With my financee Rebecca in a street restaurant in Thailand with our guides. We had fresh clams with chilli, whole fried mud crab with a sauce I can’t describe, but was so good.
WHAT IS A SIMPLE FISH ON THE BARBIE RECIPE?
The ocean jacket (leather jacket). Place on a double layer of foil with chopped fennel, lemon thyme and garlic, salt, pepper and a dash of olive oil. Wrap the fish in the foil and cook on the barbie with the lid closed. As a guide 500gms of fish should take about 15 minutes on a medium heat. Serve with a fresh spinach salad, asparagus and avocado with balsamic dressing.