Jessica Martin – eat & drink insider knowledge

See where else to eat & drink around the country:

Jessica Martin is one of our 2015 Young Waiter State Finalists. Jessica shares her recommendations for the best places to eat & drink in Sydney!

favourite coffee shops

The Lucky Pickle Surry Hills

A hole in the wall offering great coffee and outstanding pork rolls. Get there before 1 o’clock or miss out.

Four Ate Five Surry Hills

Everything here is pretty amazing; the French toast is a gem.

Edition Roasters Darlinghurst

If I do have a coffee its definitely Edition. The guys here are so friendly and they are always doing something interesting.

favourite cafes/eateries

Bangkok Capitol Theatre

I have been eating at Bangkok for as long as I remember. It is traditional Thai cuisine which is affordable and open late. Great after a late night service.

Bar Reggio Darlinghurst

My favourite Sydney restaurant where I can get my pizza or pasta fix. It’s affordable honest Italian food and its BYO!

favourite restaurants

Sokyo The Star

Chase Kojima is one of the most talented Japanese chefs in Sydney. Make sure to ask for a sushi counter seat and let Chase do all the work. His sushi is fresh and flavoursome and his snapper tempura is next level.

Sepia Sydney

Truly one of the most incredible meals I have had in Australia. My meal was a journey of culinary discovery with every course leaving me in awe.

Sagra Darlinghurst

Amazing pasta with a seasonally evolving menu. It never disappoints!

favourite bars

Love Tilly Devine Darlinghurst

A hidden Gem behind the bustling crown street in Darlinghurst. It’s an awesome place to try new and exciting wines with Gabrielle Webster running the show. Its eclectic, friendly and fun and a great place to take people to show off Sydney.

Shady Pines Saloon Darlinghurst

I love to head to Shady for a gin and juice. The bar team is always entertaining.

This Must Be The Place Darlinghurst

I love a spritz. Luke and Charlie have created something truly magical on Oxford Street. Drinks are always light, fresh and set you up for a fun night out.

favourite food markets/local grocers

Sydney Fish Markets

I’m not a morning person but I don’t mind rising early to head to the fish markets for some fresh seafood. Sunday seafood feast was a large part of my childhood growing up.

Cabramatta Asian Markets

For all your Asian produce needs.

Taste Growers Market, East Village Zetland

I am really lucky to have a great fruit and vegetable shop in our local market. They specialise in organic vegetables and they always have a great range of produce.

favourite interstate restaurants

Franklin Hobart TAS

My interstate highlight. David Moyle’s offering at Franklin is interesting, ever changing and refined. I had an amazing meal there and I can’t wait to return. Fantastc selection of natural wines.

Africola Adelaide SA

What a surprising meal. I commend Duncan and his team for doing something different and utterly delicious in South Australia!

The Flinders Street Project Adelaide SA

Flinders Street is such a nice contemporary space to stop by in the mornings. Breakfast here is always a delight and Stewart does Smørrebrød for lunch, which takes me back to Copenhagen.


Kim Galea – eat & drink insider knowledge

See where else to eat & drink around the country:

Kim Galea is one of our Young Restaurateur national finalists of 2015 and is the co-owner of Pitchfork Restaurant  in Peregian Beach. Kim shares her favourite places for great eat & drink experiences on the Sunshine Coast!

favourite coffee shops

Tim Adams Lamkin Lane, Caloundra

Specialty roaster, brilliant coffee

Skal Coffee, Peregian Beach

Great local crew, fantastic coffee

Costa Noosa, Sunshine Beach

Great Noosa Icon

favourite eateries/cafes

Gunshop Café, Brisbane

Best breakfasts ever!

Gaston, Noosa

Easy going, good food and bar

Maison de Provence, Cooroy

Delicious French treats

favourite restaurants

Spirit House, Yandina,

Beautiful location never fails to impress

Spice Bar, Mooloolaba,

Great food, great service

Ricky’s, Noosa,

Top location, great service

favourite bars

Solbar, Maroochydoore

Live music

Flux, Noosaville,

More of a restaurant, but makes a big effort on craft beer

Woolly Mammoth Alehouse, Fortitude Valley


favourite food markets and/or local grocers

Yandina Market

Local, fresh quality veg

Noosa Farmers Market

Nice products

Fishermans Road Sunday Market, Mooloolaba

favourite interstate restaurants

Movida, Melbourne

Awesome food, reasonably priced, never fails

Bar Lourinha, Melbourne,

Great Atmosphere, tapas and cocktails

Bei Amici, Sydney

Small neighbourhood bistro, great food

Burning Brightly: The Aussie Chef Lighting Up Singapore

article by Dominic Rolfe

From the moment he got behind a pizza oven in a family-run Italian restaurant in Perths City Beach, David Pynt wanted to open his own restaurant. But it was during five unforgiving months at a London pop-up in a railway arch during the 2012 summer that he knew he had to make the dream a reality. If only to get four straight hours of sleep.

“It was great but everything about that pop-up was tough,” says Pynt who had previously done stints at world-beaters Noma, Asador Etxebarri and St John, “We were open three days but I was still working seven. We set up and packed down every day. And because it was London the deliveries would come through at 2am. So Id have to get out of bed, jump on my bike, let them in, put the stuff away and go back to bed for a couple of hours. After that, I understood how good it would be to have a permanent restaurant.”

Today, Pynt is still working six or seven days a week but hes now cheffing at his own place – a fiery bolthole called Burnt Ends in Singapores Chinatown that opened in 2013. As well as the crowds, the plaudits are rolling in. The “Modern Australian Barbecue” restaurant that the 32 year old co-owns with Andre Chiang and Loh Lik Peng (The Old Clare) was recently ranked 14 on the Asia’s 50 Best Restaurant awards by Sanpellegrino and it was one of Zagats 2014 “10 hottest restaurants in the world”. Hes also made the pages of newspapers from the New York Times and The Straits Times to The Australian and is in demand for food events across the globe.

But while the attention and international gongs are good to have, Pynt is happiest when the guests leave smiling. “This is the kind of food that I like cooking, the kind of food I like to eat and I hope other people enjoy it,” says Pynt, “Of course the awards are great, but the biggest success Im measured by is happy customers. You could put on what you think is the best or most creative dish in the world but if your customers arent happy, your business isnt worth anything.”

(Incidentally, he was momentarily successful in getting better sleep but thats evaporated with the recent arrival of his first child. “Id never get forgiven for not getting up to her now,” he laughs, “My partner would say, “You used to get up for a quail delivery at 2am and now you wont get up for your screaming daughter?”)

As well turning out food he likes to eat, Burnt Ends has also allowed Pynt the freedom to cook food the way he wants. Put simply: cooking with wood. It’s a technique born of his father’s love of a wood-fired barbecue and something that would have a profound effect on Pynt’s palate. “When you grow up eating food cooked on wood,” he says, “and then taste the same food cooked on gas in a commercial kitchen, you get the feeling something’s missing. I don’t know why, and you can’t get that flavour over charcoal either, but there’s a ‘magic’ that comes from cooking with wood. That’s why now my core set of equipment is the four ton, dual cavity, wood burning oven with elevation grills.”

Cooking is a business that Pynt admits he mostly fell into. After washing dishes at the Italian restaurant through high school, he filled in for a sick apprentice one evening and was hooked. He enjoyed the learning aspect – “Can you cut a veggie, can you work quickly, can you make a sauce?” – but it was when the pressure ramped up that he felt most at home.

“I loved that intense period of service,” he says, “and I still do. Im a pretty high energy, intense individual. I was never good enough to be an athlete or footy player and the kitchen is the next closest thing you can get to being out there on game day.”

One of his biggest lessons came when he moved to Balthazar, a buzzing, top notch wine bar and bistro in Perth. He put in long hours and followed orders perfectly until the chef pulled him aside and upbraided him. “He said, ‘Mate, youre not at high school, show some initiative, some interest. Go and buy some books, some knives, eat out at good restaurants. Were not going to spoon-feed you,” says Pynt, “That moment turned me around and is a big part of what I push onto my guys now. Its about helping yourself generate the interest and passion for different parts of the industry.”

 That passion then took him to Tetsuyas, where he worked with Sepias Martin Benn, who he says is one of the best chefs he has ever worked for. “The way he runs a restaurant is insanely good,” says Pynt, “The standards he sets, how good he was with everyone in the kitchen and the control he had over the food that was coming out was incredible.”

In 2010, he headed to Noma for four months, then to Etxebarri and on to St John in London. In 2011, he started working with Nuno Mendes, then head chef of Viajante and now Chiltern St. Fire House before running that sleep-killing “Burnt Enz” pop-up in London, with Pynt working almost exclusively on the grill. During a six-month vacation in South America after the pop-up closed down, he got the call about opening a place in Singapore. Mendes had mentioned Pynt to Peng, when Peng talked about opening a barbecue restaurant in the city-state.

Despite the sum of Pynts Singapore knowledge coming from transiting through the airport as a child, he didnt hesitate. “Its all about positioning yourself to be in the right place at the right time,” says Pynt, “From the start, if an opportunity came up to work with a good chef, I always took it, paid or unpaid. I wanted to work, see new ideas, experience new creativity, meet new people. And, to a certain degree, youre always networking. So when this came up, I jumped at it.”

And while the experience hasnt come without a few scars – Pynt still bristles at the memory of one of Burnt Endsfirst lunch services where not a single customer showed up – he believes the sum of his experience to this point has played a big role in the restaurants success.

“You have to put in a huge amount of work,” he says, “and not necessarily time in the kitchen. Its reading, eating, drinking, talking, just absorbing everything that the industry has to offer and developing your own view on it. Then you translate that into a restaurant business.

 “The restaurant game isnt like a gas oven where you just turn it on and away you go. Its more like a wood oven, where you get in a bit earlier, prepare the fire, light the fire, manage it so it comes up to temperature then make sure its all in line and firing at full intensity during service. It’s a place where youre constantly learning and evolving.”


Pynt on Noma: “Its all about time and place, what produce is in that place at that time that is incredible. The biggest thing I took from there was the energy, the drive and the dedication that Rene commanded. You wouldnt get that anywhere else in the world.”

On Extebarri: “Until I got there, I never thought you could cook on wood on a barbecue at a good restaurant. And the handling and quality of the produce that he selected was the best in the world.”

On St John: “St Johns is purely about cooking tasty food and cooking it really well. The skill level in the way that they cooked was insane. And the flavour and how tasty is was – its all about tasty, tasty, tasty!”


back Row: Peter Doyle ( est. Restaurant); Simon Denton (Izakaya Den, Hihou, Kappo); Peter Gilmore (Quay, Bennelong); Mark Best (Marque, Pei Modern Melbourne & Sydney) Christine Manfield; Lisa van Haandel (Longrain Melbourne, Byron Bay Beach Hotel); Duncan Welgemoed (Africola); Lyndey Milan; Lucy Allon (co-founder)

front Row: Sam Christie (Longrain Sydney, Cho Cho San, The Apollo); Guy Grossi (Grossi Florentino, Merchant, Ombra); Danielle Gjestland (Wasabi); Marilyn Annecchini (Pilu Freshwater, Pilu at Akuna Bay); Peter Sullivan; Luke Mangan; Troy Rhoades-Brown (Muse Restaurant, Muse Kitchen) David Thompson (Nahm, Long Chim Singapore & Perth)


With over 40 restaurants between them that include; 27 Hatted; 2 listed on the Worlds 100 Best Restaurants; 2 ranked Asia’s 50 Best; and a grand total of 490 years of combined hospitality experience it’s easy to see why our judging panels are so revered. Here we tap into some of the knowledge of one of our judges, Simon Denton, owner of 3 restaurants in Melbourne


Written by Dominic Rolfe

There are some things you can forgive in a restaurant. The odd garish tablecloth, lights dimmed almost too low to read the menu and even a slightly awry entree. But, for Simon Denton, one thing is death to return customers, “People don’t like people being rude to them,” he says. “If, say, their steak isn’t cooked well then people will give the restaurant a second look as long as the service is good. But if you get bad service then people won’t go back there.”

Simon is co-owner and managing director of Izakaya Den, Kappo and Hihou in Melbourne. He has been in the hospitality industry for close to 32 years, has managed restaurants since his late teens and has been an Electrolux Australian young waiter judge for six years. He knows exactly what makes a restaurant sing and nothing is more important to him than the front of house. “In a sense, the service side seems like the third rank behind the chefs who get all the stardom and the restaurateurs who get a lot of media,” he says, “But front of house can be more important to the restaurant than the food. If we do great food [at Izakaya Den] and it’s not served properly, then there’s no point.”

Serving properly, however, isn’t just plonking the plate down with curt efficiency and topping up an amply water glass. He needs his team of wait staff to be as passionate about the food as the pan-rattlers creating it. “You want people with great attitude who are committed and want to learn about the food,” says Denton, “Because they are selling the food, they’re selling the product.”

Denton admits that he chooses staff as much as for their professional abilities as those who fit with the personality and attitude of the restaurant. “We look for people who have character, who say ‘That’s the sort of place I want to work’,” he says. “Skills are great but we can train people. You really want a champion team not a team of champions. If you have a place full of waiters with big egos it doesn’t work.”

Keeping a close eye on the finalists at the Australian Young Waiter program as they serve, pour and clear the tables at the Apprentice Restaurant in Ultimo, Sydney, Denton says that pride in their work is one of the biggest things they can show. It’s also something that he tries to instill in staff at his restaurant. “It’s important that people want to be part of a good restaurant,” he says, “that they want to see it do well and they’re proud of good reviews and people talking about it. The judges are looking for someone who they’d have in their team.”

Over the past seven years, Denton has been encouraged by the increasing skills level of the entrants to the Young Waiter program. He’s also noticed that the average age is dropping. “Five years ago most of the entrants were in their mid-twenties,” he says, “now they’re a bit younger, around 20 or 21 years of age. It shows they’ve got a plan in their head already and that’s probably the biggest difference.”

But for young front of house staff in an atomised industry that can often be tribal and lacking collegiality, Denton believes that fostering an understanding that you’re part of a wider hospitality community is vital. And building a strong network of like-minded service staff, as he has seen happen with the groups of past finalists, is almost as good as being named the best young waiter of the year. “We have to understand that it’s one big hospitality family and it’s crucial to be talking to other people,” he says. “Yes, we’re out on our own, we’re small businesses and we’re all fighting for the same thing but learning and working with others is really important.”

Applications for young chefs, waiters and restaurateurs are open

Flavour Trend 2016

On the 09 February three of Appetite for Excellence’s young chef alumni brought to life the McCormick Foods Flavour Forecast for 2016 at the launch lunch held in Sydney.

The Chefs, Josh Niland Head Chef at Sydney’s Cafe Nice; Nicholas Hill recently returned to Sydney after 6 years as Sous Chef at The Ledbury in London and Simon Tarlington Head Chef at Highline Restaurant in Melbourne collaborated together, bringing to life the flavour trends in a 6 course lunch menu.

FlavourForecast Nicholas Hill cocktail

Flavour Forecast Josh Niland canape

FlavourForecast Simon Tarlington

Flavour Forecast Josh Niland Main(2)

Flavour Forecast Simon Tarlington pre dessert




Josh NilandNicholas HillSimon Tarlington
josh Nilandnicholas-hillSimon