Q: What inspired you to start a culinary career at just 16 years old?
A: At the age of 16 I had already started working at a small family-owned Italian restaurant, Pascalles. It was wonderful. We were cooking simple, honest Italian food.
After three years I moved to the Hunter Valley and found a job at a fine-dining French restaurant run by chef Robert Molines. It was an exciting and challenging time. The menu at Robert’s Restaurant was filled with beautiful unique produce I’d never even seen before. Whole carcass butchery, amazing seafood, complete pastry work, local seasonal fruits and vegetables. A brigade of professional chefs driving a busy restaurant, it was a fun and addictive environment to be a part of.
Q: Tell us about winning the 2005 Brett Graham Scholarship and your experience at The Ledbury?
A: Winning the scholarship in 2005 was a wonderful experience. Like all competitions, it was uncomfortable
and stressful, but ultimately rewarding, regardless of whether you won or not.
When I staged at The Ledbury it was still quite a young restaurant. It was a one-star venue, pushing two with a hungry team of chefs, the majority of which were Australian expats. The kitchen environment was next level for me regarding intensity and focus. I was lucky enough to work a few services on both cold larder and pastries. I sponged as much as possible during my work experience and left truly inspired.
Q: How did that experience kick-start your career?