Why do you think you were drawn to a career in food?
I remember seeing the Muppet Show with the Swedish Chef when I was around seven years old. This was the only exposure I had to being a Chef. It just became more and more what I wanted to do. I’ve got no idea why. When I was about nine, my parents said you still want to be a Chef? And they were trying to convince me not to. I’ve never ever wanted to do anything else.
Why were your parents convincing you not to? They would’ve got so many meals cooked for them!
Yeah but the thing is, they always said, “It’s very unsocial, you’ll be an alco and a druggy” –all the cliché Chef things. It’s not really want you’d want your kids to be doing!
What kind of Chef are you?
You have to be nurturing. The days are gone where you can just swear at everybody. The staff you have, you need to keep hold of them and train them up. You know it’s the key to the future in the current economic environment. They’re only as good as you make them. That’s something that I’ve learnt.
I’ve worked in and seen some very rough kitchens where you have two seconds to pick something up and if you don’t you’re out the door. To survive in an environment like that is amazing. At the same time, I know that’s not the future. Kids just aren’t the same as they used to be. I’ve seen some really fantastic Chefs who can’t manage themselves or their staff.
And they will never reach that next level in their restaurant because they can never get consistency because they’re always changing staff and they’re always changing their own jobs because they can’t usually keep hold of their own jobs because of the way they treat people.
Speaking of full on Chefs, what was Gordon Ramsey like?
He was incredibly passionate. He is full on; he’s incredibly full on. What a lot of people don’t understand about him is he’s probably the most passionate person about what he does that I’ve ever encountered in my whole life. And he inspired an empire. When he talked everybody listened. Even now, he’s got 30 restaurants and they’re all working unquestionably for this one man.
What he’s done to inspire his team is just incredible. Even when I was working for him I think he had 11 restaurants in London, and maybe half of them had a Michelin Star. So he had fantastic Chefs under him who were happy to work that way and they all had stars in their own rights.
Would you say he’s been your biggest mentor?
There have been others. Peter Gilmore made a big impact on me when I worked at Quay. Peter was very subdued in the kitchen, very calm and when he told you something he never raised his voice. Everyone has a different way of managing. From him I learnt how to be a Chef, and from Gordon I learnt more about consistency and taking responsibility for your actions. You obviously take the best from everyone.
Any hopes to be a celebrity Chef?
I just want to get this restaurant up and running, and full. And whatever happens after that happens. Of course I’d love to grow with the business, but I really just want to concentrate on getting this restaurant known and get people coming back for a great meal.
And how is it going?
It’s going very good. We’ve done quite well and picked up a few awards lately. We’re not toiling away in the wrong direction. People are starting to believe in us. New guys are coming and chatting with us, that’s something that wouldn’t have happened in the restaurant a year ago. Guests are happy. Revenue is up. We’re all very happy about how it’s going.
After dining here last night, I can definitely say you’ve got it right in every aspect. It must feel good knowing you’ve nailed it?
Yeah, well nobody wants to be part of a losing team! We have a bit of a buzz about us at the moment; everybody’s excited about what we’re doing. Of course, winning awards is great for motivation. It makes you work that little bit harder and that little bit better when you know you’ve got something to defend.
When you start winning awards, in some ways you get a target on your back. People want to come and they want to have their own opinion. You see it with the top restaurants around, they get Trip Advisor posts almost two times a day. Everyone wants to have their say about you.
Do you put a lot of pressure yourself?
Definitely. Sometimes you have a little freak out that things aren’t going that well. But that’s why I have to have a restaurant manager who says, “Calm down, its not that bad. People are still happy, they’re coming back.” You do put it on yourself, and I put it on my staff as well. It all comes from the head.
If I’m lackadaisy, fantastic we won an award good I’ll have a sleep now, of course it will all fall to bits. The better you do, the better you have to do because you’ve got to keep that momentum going.
Through your time working in fine dining in Sydney, the UK, the Middle East, how has all that experience contributed to developing Videre?
I’ve always tried to put myself outside the comfort zone. This means ‘the comfort zone’ gets bigger. The previous job I had, I was in charge of nine restaurants and we would do studies on footfall for opening new restaurants. So when I come to a place like Videre, I have a kind of confidence. I understand the demographic of the clientele, this is the kind of food that they’d like, speak to a few guests and say this is the food we’re going to go for.
As a Chef, you can do many different styles just like a fashion designer can do many different types of clothes. But as a Chef you have to some in and say what’s going to work for this restaurant. If you come into this restaurant and start doing molecular cuisine it’s not going to work because the clientele don’t care for that. They’re essentially very wealthy people who come here for a fantastic dinner. You know, if you start doing some wacky stuff they’re not going to appreciate it because that’s not what they come here for.
I love how you put it when you said, “Everything is on the plate for a reason.” Can you explain this?
It is there for a reason. There’s no lying. Everything is there for a reason, I’m not lying to anyone, I’m not trying to trick anyone and I’m not trying to educate people. We just want to give them the best plate of food that we can possibly give them on the night.
How do you approach designing a dish? Where do you get your inspiration?
Many different places. It used to come from books, now it will come from suppliers and what they can get me. You know, I see a fantastic beetroot and a dish starts unfolding in my head. It doesn’t happen so much when you’re a junior Chef. You go through books for inspiration. Now it’s seeing what’s coming together, tasting a few things, and then also the guests, seeing what they think.
What’s your favourite dish on the menu right now?
I can’t choose a favourite. I started planning three weeks ago for the summer menu, which is going to be released in the first week of December. I put months of thought into all the dishes; how to make them better, how to make it sit better, how to deliver the flavour, how to deliver the dish in a way that my chefs can do and a way that the guests will understand it.
When I put food on a plate it’s like a message I want the guests to understand. I try to do simple things, but do them perfectly every single time. The worst thing that I would want in this restaurant is for somebody to come in and say, “I had four courses. Two were average, one was okay, one was a standout.” That means that I haven’t done my job. I want them to come in and say, “It was all fantastic from start to finish.” People always remember flavours, you won’t even remember want it looked like next week but you’ll remember how it tasted.
If you could eat any dish for the rest of your life which would you eat?
Pork Belly, but I’d probably die soon after. I’d probably have a stroke about 3 weeks after eating it everyday. It’s just fantastic. Onion puree, braised pork belly, little bit of foie gras on top, just a little bit of heaven. It’s about four dollars worth of foie gras on top. It’s just stunning.
How’s life like after travelling the world and you’ve settled on the Gold Coast?
I came back to settle down and start a family. The Gold Coast is just amazing. It’s very up and coming -like being in Sydney sometimes. In Sydney and Melbourne house prices are crazy. Everything’s going bonkers down there. Every second person you bump into here has come from Sydney or Melbourne. They’ve come up to have a little piece of the pie. I think in Sydney now it’s 22 degrees. Here it’s a lovely 28. You can go to the beach now!
How would you describe the restaurant in a few words?
Stylish, friendly and honest. What you see is what you get. You see a stunning restaurant -it is stunning. You see some beautiful food –it is beautiful. That’s exactly how we try to do it.
Level 21, RACV Royal Pines Resort, Ross St, Benowa
P 5597 8700 www.racv.com.au