An early start in the kitchen and a career-defining scholarship led Troy Rhoades-Brown to open two restaurants in three years. Open House spoke with the chef and owner of Muse Restaurant and Muse Kitchen in NSW’s Hunter Valley about his culinary journey and some of the milestones along the way.
On the menu at Muse Restaurant.
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?
A: Winning the scholarship and the opportunity to travel and stage at The Ledbury was instrumental to the success in my career. Although I saw Robert as a mentor, Brett’s focus, dedication and achievements, relative to his age at the time (being in his mid-20s), made my dream more tangible, which put me on a three to five year goal of opening a restaurant.
Q: Why are opportunities like the Brett Graham Scholarship so important for young chefs?
A: The fundamental requirements of the scholarship submission, acceptance and preparation for the cook-offs are definitely the most beneficial part of the scholarship for these young chefs. During the scholarship, they need to start thinking as individual chefs, figure out who they are and what their style is, they’ll evoke creativity, plan menus and write down long and short-term industry goals.
The scholarship itself has continued to grow and gain further industry respect and support. It’s gaining broader media exposure, giving these young apprentices a great platform for continued success, and attracting commitment by local sponsors who understand the importance of investing in these guys.