Best dining experience: I have had many great experiences, but two of my most memorable experiences would include going to The Establishment in Sydney, on George Street, where I had one of the finest meals in my life – everything about the experience was perfect. The staff, the décor, the flavours, the technique – everything you read on the menu was perfectly matched to what you were served.
I also had some great times at the Rockpool Bar and Grill on Hunter Street in Sydney with my family.
One of the best memories I have is when I went with my kids and my brother and his kids and when we walked in, we were thinking, perhaps this wasn’t the right place to bring kids. The kids were well behaved and ordered like adults, and then I just remember the look on the service staff afterwards – they came up to us and said, ‘your kids are amazing, they really know restaurants don’t they?’, and it was just such a nice compliment and experience to be all together.
Favourite cuisine: I absolutely love European classical cuisines such as German, Swiss, Italian and French food. When I spent six years in Europe working in different hotels, I really enjoyed and indulged in the French cuisine.
Most embarrassing fridge or pantry item: I’d have to say the Kraft Mac and Cheese. I don’t ever use it, and I’ve never tasted it, but my 23-year-old ‘kidult’ loves it, so it sits there just for him.
What ingredient can I not live without: I couldn’t say just one ingredient, so I’d have to say our fresh produce. Maybe our beautiful beef? Or lamb? Or Scallops? Every Thursday, I go to the Fyshwick Markets nice and early to make sure I get the best and freshest produce.
Next big thing in the Canberra food scene: In Canberra, we tend to follow everything that happens around us, but something I find really unique is how we embrace the paddock-to-plate concept. I think that’s definitely something that is getting bigger and the fact that we embrace our fresh produce and have so many fresh food markets, which is amazing considering we are a lot smaller in population than Sydney, Melbourne or Brisbane.
My go-to coffee spot in Canberra: Probably, Little Bird in Barton. I really love the coffee they do there, and we live in Kingston, so it’s really close by too.
A must-try on our menu: Definitely our sea scallop and chorizo risotto. It is just amazing and you can get it across all the venues.
Biggest culinary influence: With no hesitation, Michel Bourdain, who was the executive chef of The Connaught in London. I worked there in the 80s and I learnt more about food from that man in 2.5 years than I think I ever did in 40. He’s just a master craftsman for France. He picked the chefs for the Queen and so many people would come to him for advice. He influenced me more than anyone else.
Favourite cookbook: Larousse Gastronomique. It’s just the best cooking reference I’ve ever come across. I read it front to back as a kid when I was living in London and I just love how it gives you a dictionary description. It’s terrific!
What business do I admire in the Canberra food and wine scene: There’s a woman called Sylvia Elix and I’ve known her for a very long time. We worked together at the Hyatt when I was an executive chef there in the 90s and she owns a business called Express. As part of her business, she provides relief staff like a chef, waiter, front-of-house staff etc. Without her and her business, I wouldn’t have been able to run all these kitchens, especially over the last two years. Whenever I need help, I can call her and ask her for a chef and she saves me, basically.
Where am I travelling next: I am going to Brisbane as my father is turning 88, and because of COVID I’ve only seen him once this year so it’ll be really nice to spend his birthday with him.
Death row meal: I love a good medium-rare Angus eye fillet with mustard and harissa served with a beautiful salad. Our meat produce is just outstanding and the quality is just so good.
My least favourite food: I’d have to say hot English mustard. I just think it’s disgusting. There’s no place or need for it in the kitchen.
COVID-19 response: COVID-19 was decimating. I remember when we had the second lockdown, we got overnight notice that we had to close again and it was a Thursday and we had a massive weekend lined up, so it was devastating. We had staff loss, stock loss and our customers, and I guess a lot of customers in Canberra lost the confidence to make bookings for dinners and functions. I really don’t think we’re out of the woods yet as times are still unpredictable. It’s also a struggle to get staff, and because the international borders are yet to open, it’s just not the same as it used to be.
My three recipe tips:
1. Read the recipe before you start cooking
2. Read it explicitly, but add your own artistic twist to it
3. The more you make the food, the better you’ll get at it
Cornerstone Pub is open Wednesday to Sunday, from 10 am to 11 pm, and is located at 51 Hinder Street in Gungahlin.
Eastlake Gungahlin is open seven days a week, from 10 am to 4 am, and is located at 51 Hinder Street in Gungahlin.
Eastlake Calwell is open seven days a week from 10 am to 4 am, and is located at 1 Were Street in Calwell.
Eastlake Football Club is open seven days a week from 10 am to 4 am, and is located at3 Oxley Street in Griffith.