inspiration in the kitchen that comes from a musician

By Dominc Rolfe

Chef/owner of Africola in Adelaide, Duncan Welgemoed was raised in Johannesburg and brings to his restaurant the flavours of his youth along with a no nonsense attitude. It’s all about being passionate, creative and having the ability to reinvent yourself to stay current….

What does the word hospitality mean to you and how has it changed since you started?

Hospitality is basically making people feel at home through us giving a lot of ourselves to curate certain experiences – food, wine or front of house.

Hospitality has become a lot more informal, a lot more welcoming and less stiff. But there’s always a fine line that needs to be played, there’s still a service that we need to provide and not just be a hipster lounge.

I think it’s changed because people don’t want to be spending the money so restaurants now have to appeal to a wider demographic.

Did you have a mentor?

I have a few mentors. Mentors are important for me because I have different facets of the business as well as an events company. From a cooking perspective, it was Michael North, one of the best chefs in the UK. Those were my formative kitchen years learning under him.

David Thompson is a mentor from a more philosophical point of view, helping me look at where I wanted to be in the future as a restaurateur and a chef. And from a creative point of view Mike Patton [from band Faith No More] is all about reinventing yourself to stay relevant. He’s always saying “stay true to yourself and who you are creatively”. As long as you produce quality and it’s interesting, you can pretty much do what you want.

What was the goal when you opened and is it different now?

When you start off working in Europe, my goal was to be a three star Michelin chef, especially working in the places I was working. Now it’s more about doing cool stuff. I’m from Johannesburg so having a job is a big driving force. It sounds ridiculous but that’s how it is back home. So I was just happy at the start to be working. Now, the goal is to work a hell of a lot less and to do cool stuff. I currently work basically 7 days a week, 16 hours a day. The goal for this year is more education, more travelling for a purpose and not just work.

Do you have a piece of advice for current chefs starting out? Did you have a piece of advice that you’ve carried through?

Get into it for the love and the passion of it, don’t get into it as a glamourous job. It’s not like that in the slightest. There’s only a very few chefs who have that lifestyle that you see on TV. It is extremely gruelling and you have to stick at it to achieve anything.

Recipe: Pan fried bug tail, baby cos, macadamia, yuzu curd, finger lime, Kombu butter by Jacob Davey

Pan fried bug tail, baby cos, macadamia, yuzu curd, finger lime, Kombu butter by Jacob Davey

Serves: 4

Skills Needed: Advanced

 Ingredients

4 bugs

2 baby cos lettuce

75g salted Kombu

275g butter diced

4g finger lime caviar

10ml lemon juice

Salt

4 egg yolks

25g sugar

50ml yuzu juice

50g macadamias roasted and chopped

10g macadamias roasted whole

50g tapioca flour

100g bug trim

Canola oil for frying

 

Method

Yuzu Curd

Mix yuzu juice, sugar, egg yolks in a stainless bowl and begin to whisk over a pot of simmering water. Continue to whisk until the mixture has thickened and remove from the heat and whisk in 100g of the diced butter, season with salt and pass through a fine strainer.

Lettuce

Remove out leaves and discard. Chop the bottom third off the lettuce and discard. Separate the leaves and spit the leaves down the centre. Wash and dry the lettuce.

Bug cracker

Blend tapioca and bug trim with a pinch of salt in the food processer, pass through a fine tamis and place in sous vide bags, 70g for 300mmx210mm size bags. Place in a cryovac machine on the highest setting. Roll the mixture to fill the bag with a rolling pin to get a thin even sheet. Place the bags in a steam oven for 5 minutes at 90Oc. Once cooked chill in an ice bath. Remove from the bags, slice the sheet in half, then slice thin strips, place the strips in the dehydrator for 1 hour or until dry.

Kombu butter

Freeze Kombu and blitz as fine as possible in a food processor. Add 150g diced butter and blend until incorporated. Chill.

Kombu sauce

Bring 60ml of water to the boil, lower heat and slowly whisk in 80g Kombu butter, reduce sauce until the sauce is suitably thick.

To serve

Fry the bug cracker in vegetable oil at 180-200oc, drain on paper towel, allow 4-6 pieces per portion.Lightly season the bugs with salt, pan fry over medium heat for one minute on the top side, turn the bugs over, add 25g of butter and baste the bugs for 30 seconds. Drain on paper and rest. Saute the cos lettuce with a spoonful of the kombu butter until slightly wilted and add the chopped macadamia – place to the side ready for plating.

Plating up

Place a dollop of the Yuzu curd and swipe across the plate with a thin spatula. Gently place a few of the lettuce leaves & macadamia on top of the swiped curd. Place one bug tail on top of the lettuce and top with a spoonful of finger lime pearls. Drizzle a spoonful of the Kombu butter onto the plate at the end of the bug tail. Place 4-6 bug crackers over the bug tail and using a microplane or fine grater, grate a whole macadamia over the plate to finish.

 

 

 

Courtney Nichols – eat/drink brisbane

Courtney Nichols, restaurant supervisor at The Balfour Kitchen in Brisbane shares her favourite places for great eat/drink experiences in her home state of Queensland!

Where do you go for coffee before work/after work/not at work?

Coffee is always great at the Three Little Monkeys in West End.  This place is deceivingly huge with so many different options for seating.   The Emporium Barber inFortitude Valley boasts amazing tasting coffee, quick service and quirky staff.  Plus what a unique idea, having it combined with a barber!  Elements Sunshine Coast is great for high tea and has a beautiful view.

Favourite places for breakfast and brunch?

Avalanche in Fortitude Valley has fresh, healthy, natural foods and a team that are always so accommodating and friendly.   Chop Chop Changs in West End offers fresh food which is full of flavour.  The Little Larder in New Farm has friendly staff, innovative food and a resident chicken called Pumpkin that the chef comes out to feed with the leftovers!

Favourite restaurants in your home state for special occasions?

The design of flavours and textures behind every dish of Cams at The Long Apron in Montville is so interesting and the option to have perfectly matched wines is a bonus.  Gerard’s Bistro in New Farm is great for dining in groups so make use of the share plate options.  At the Lilly Pad in Cairns, the menu is innovative, the food is always fresh and staff are quirky and friendly.

Best bars to head to after work and on your days off?

The Elixir in Brisbane has a great atmosphere, rooftop bar with mini gazebos and greenery with fairy lights wrapped through.  Bar tenders are really knowledgeable and always stock great products.  Papa Jacks offers tasty cocktails.  They make all their own spices and syrups to use in them.  I also would head to Cloudland, purely because this venue is an absolute work of art.

Where do you go for fresh, seasonal produce and market bargains?

Eat Street Markets has a funky atmosphere and wide selection of quirky snacks to try.  Newfarm Markets is great if you are after fresh produce.  Eumundi Markets boasts beautiful produce and food to try, especially the frozen mango cups on a hot day!

And finally, where have you had the best interstate dining experiences?

Zanzibar Kingscliff has a funky vibe and friendly staff.  Everything is made fresh and the flavours are zippy!  The Thievery in NSW has a quirky setting with personable staff and innovative food.  Mr Wong also in Sydney offers classic Chinese cuisine with a modern twist.

See where else to eat & drink around the country:
ACT, NSW, NT, QLD, SA, TAS, VIC, WA

 

hospitality is… with lisa van haandel

by Dominic Rolfe

Lisa van Haandel brings over 30 years of hospitality experience to our young waiter panel and is a doyenne of the Australian hospitality scene. In the 2nd of Appetite for Excellence’s hospitality is… series, Lisa shared her thoughts on the industry she loves, the lessons she’s learnt along the way and some advice  for those just starting out…

What does the word hospitality mean to you and how has it changed since you started?

Hospitality is always about making people feel comfortable and looking after them. That hasn’t changed and in fact it’s probably more prevalent now because the world is so ruled by technology which can make people feel quite isolated. So while some people come to restaurants just to be fed , being able to go somewhere to meet and eat , have fun, be nurtured and totally looked after is becoming more important.
You can have the best food in the universe but if you don’t have the ability to make people feel comfortable, to project that warmth, they just don’t enjoy it. That’s what hospitality is for me, what the human factor brings. If you don’t have that, people don’t come back.That goes for hotels, pubs, restaurants and bars.
What I love about hospitality is the human contact element, and giving people joy. – At the bank, the supermarket and so many other places there is no longer any service or interaction. So to be able to offer somewhere that people feel well looked after is really special.
Technology in hospitality has so advanced service, sharpening efficiency , speed and administration. Mind you – I still prefer people putting things on a pad when I’m ordering!.
People also have so much access to the venue before they arrive – they can see the menu, what the food looks like and read about it, they can post their own views on it. It means we are under more scrutiny than ever, but also provides t the obvious advantage of reaching a greater curious future clientele.

Did you have a mentor?

Not really. I am largely self-taught. Thrown into it! I come from a family of six and I was always happiest making the meal and watching them enjoy it. I have always had that delight in looking after people.
I don’t remember ever getting any advice but I wish I had! I do remember doing a management course and realising I didn’t Have to do everything myself!. Then we opened our second restaurant and I was pregnant so I was forced to delegate. The information I had received about the advantages of giving others responsibility, not micro managing, was probably the biggest thing for me. Learning how to relinquish day to day responsibility was really hard. But you cannot grow unless you embrace that.

What was the goal when you opened and is it different now?

The challenge of opening a new place and finding the right place has always been really exciting. So the goal really was finding a gap or a niche in the market, looking at the demographics and knowing what was happening in the food scene, feeling what people wanted at that time and creating a unique new venue.
Now it’s wanting to give your team opportunities in new places, to open a place together. But you need to have your own vision. [My husband and co-owner] John has a talent for design, great vision and is always on to the next thing and then I fill in the gaps!
New ventures are always exciting, but having built up the mothership you always need to look after her. For us.25 years ago it was the Stokehouse, As the team grows, talent developes and opportunities are identified, a successful solid base enables growth and new ventures.

Do you have a piece of advice for current chefs starting out? Did you have a piece of advice that you’ve carried through?

Eat out a lot, read a lot, tap into your basic hospitality. If you don’t have the instinct to nurture, then don’t even go into hospitality. It takes intelligence to serve people, to look after and manage them. Tap into your passion.Be dedicated, it will reward you.Smart employers hire attitude and teach skills.
Don’t underestimate the life skills you also learn along the way – the efficiency, the economy of movement, thinking ten steps ahead, the people management, stress management and crisis management.Let alone the food and wine knowledge, peer exposure and the great people you will meet.
And never forget we are in the wonderful business of bringing happiness!

Elizabeth Thomas – eat/drink Melbourne

Elizabeth Thomas – supervisor at Supernormal gives us the lowdown on where she likes to eat/drink in Melbourne.

 

Where do you go for coffee before work/after work/not at work?

Dukes Coffee Roasters is my one-stop coffee shop on the way to work. No matter how busy they get they always produce a great quality coffee. Commonfolk Coffee Roasters in Mornington as the cold drip and pour over are worth the drive from the city and while you’re enjoying your coffee check out the local artists that share the space. Industry Beans Fitzroy. The team here will lead you through different brewing methods, roasting, the different flavours of different origins and you will leave enthusiastic about coffee.

Favourite places for breakfast and brunch or sweet treats?

Rustica Fitzroy because the closest match I’ve found to a real Portuguese tart is made at Rustica. The staff are welcoming and the menu inspires you to try a breakfast that may be outside your comfort zone that you won’t regret. Dee’s Kitchen Dromana. With that city buzz and the fact it is by the beach I get the best of both worlds. Friendly staff and a talented kitchen team whipping up great middle-eastern inspired dishes. Giddiup in South Melbourne is my favourite trendy local cafe that is great for breakky and lunch or grabbing one of their delicious house-made sandwiches or a wholesome salad and coffee on the go.

Favourite Melbourne restaurants for special occasions?

Cumulus Inc. and Cumulus Up – Although you may say this is my biased opinion, I would still count Cumulus as one of my top 3. It is a restaurant that is based on fresh produce and dishes inspired by talented chefs and knowledgeable and friendly staff who will always provide you with the full experience. It is also the restaurant that got me excited about working in the Melbourne restaurant scene. Tipo 00 the one Italian restaurant in Melbourne that I think truly represents Italian cuisine with a modern twist and takes me back to my travels around Italy. The stinging nettle risotto and rabbit pappardelle are a must. MoVida has amazing Spanish tapas and if you’re waiting for a table they have MoVida Next Door where the team will set you up with a drink and a snack while you wait.

Best bars to head to after work and on your days off?

Gin Palace – the knowledgeable staff can help steer you through a vast selection of gin (my spirit of choice) to match your tastes or introduce you to something new and then top it off with one of their famous chicken sandwiches you won’t forget. It is a great bar for people in the industry to amalgamate after those busy late night shifts. The City Wine Shop – let the staff talk about wine with you, purchase a bottle and take it home or enjoy it with a charcuterie board and if you have time make sure you visit the cheese cave. Lily Blacks is a hidden laneway gem where you can have the perfect cocktail tailored to your taste and you’re always likely to run into a friendly face once all of the restaurants around Melbourne close.

Where do you go for fresh seasonal produce and market bargains?

Spring Street Grocer for the fresh fruit and vegetables, delicious take home meals if I don’t feel like cooking but most of all the cheese cave downstairs is a must visit. South Melbourne Market. This market is a foodie’s heaven. While you are weaving your way through the fresh produce and different flavours and cuisines make sure you take a break and grab a freshly shucked oyster from one of the seafood stalls and Prahran Market in South Yarra. Like South Melbourne market, Prahran Market sources the best produce to add to your dishes but as a bonus you will also find The Essential Ingredient.

Where have you had the best interstate dining experiences?

Bentley in Sydney. Brent Savage has definitely given me one of my best dining experiences in Sydney with every dish leaving me asking “how did he come up with that?”. Worth the travel up to Sydney. Cafe Paci before it closed had a fantastic set menu with little twists and the sommelier tailored a great selection of beverages to match. I was happy for Café Paci to do all the work and I just sit back and enjoy the experience and Momofuko Seiobo in Pyrmont is a  food-lovers dream. If the customer is looking for that sharp and friendly service with dishes that are innovative and created to perfection then this is the place.

 

See where else to eat & drink around the country:

ACT, NSW, NT, QLD, SA, TAS, VIC, WA

Hospitality is…with Mark Best

by Dominic Rolfe

 

What does the word hospitality mean to you and how has it changed since you started?

Hospitality will always mean that relationship that is formed around the table – it hasn’t moved much since the kitchen table at home with the camaraderie, the buzz, the preparation and the food arriving. That’s what I always aim for and no matter what trickery, what fancy theatrics or where my ego is at that point, you still have to feed people. People are coming to be fed and you have to remember that.

That’s some part of the success – you have to remember that you’re feeding people. You’re not saving the forests, you’re a cook and it’s a trade, a craft.

Marque’s been around for almost 17 years now, I’ve been cooking for 25 years and I think that you certainly change. I went into hospitality as an angry young man, worked out my issues, brought some wisdom and tried to not grow into an angry old man.

Now I intrinsically understand more about what I’m trying to achieve and what I’m putting on the plate. I feel that I have my own voice and I’m comfortable in that. But there’s always striving within that because of the ephemeral nature of what you’re doing. Cooking is a moveable thing, your perception changes everyday.

Did you have a mentor?

When I started out, my mentors were those people that took an active role in my life. I worked early on with Alain Passard [at L’Arpége in Paris] and he was my mentor, my Jiminy Cricket on my shoulder – I’d always wonder what he’d think about what I was doing.

There were also people like Gay Bilson saying things like “it’s what you take off, not what you put on a plate.” Later on, people like Ferran Adrià saying things like “All ingredients are equal.” He pretty much laid the groundwork for what’s going on now – that a piece of seaweed is as important as a lobe of foie gras.

These are the little philosophies – as well as things like “Being creative is not copying” – that drive what we do at Marque as well as a lot of my peers.

What was the goal when you opened and is it different now?

When we opened Marque we were aiming to be a small suburban bistro. But as we grew more proficient in the craft, the goals changed. We never went from that early goal to wanting to get onto the international stage. The ambition was always just slightly ahead of where we were.

I’m naturally ambitious. I’ve got an itch, I put on my hair shirt everyday – who knows where it comes from. But there’s always that drive to do something better.

I’m also cursed with a sour, disapproving resting face so I’m trying to change that a bit. And I’m finding that people are now starting to gravitate towards me! But after a while, you become reconciled with what you do, you’re happy with your work and you’re proud of it. You reach a point where you’re not trying to prove things to other people.

Do you have a piece of advice for current chefs starting out?

Don’t try to be a superstar. Realise that you’re signing up for relentless hard work and that’s the only way to achieve something truly meaningful. As long as you can rationalise that and realise it’s not a job, it’s a lifestyle choice because it’s going to take up most of your life. And try not to let too many relationships go through to the keeper as you pursue your dream.

 

 

 

 

Matt Dempsey young chef to restaurateur

by Lilani Goonesena

Young Chef of the Year 2009 and Young Restaurateur National Finalist 2014 – Matt Dempsey  was Executive Chef at Pettavel Winery when he entered the Appetite for Excellence Young Chef program in 2009.

“I entered because the prizes looked really cool,” he says with a laugh. “I thought I’d have a go, just as a chance to learn. And it was awesome, a real highlight of my professional career.”

Matt won the 2009 Young Chef award and as part of the prize, spent two weeks in the UK at Brett Graham’s two Michelin star restaurant, the Ledbury, in London, and Heston Blumenthal’s three Michelin star Fat Duck in Bray.

Cool prizes indeed.

Three years later though, he was rundown and needed a change.

“After I won in 2009, I left my job at Pettavel for another role in Geelong. But within two years, I was burnt out and had lost all motivation. I didn’t want to drive [from Geelong] to Melbourne everyday to work in a two or three hat restaurant as I had young kids. So, I decided the only way to stay motivated was to open my own restaurant,” he says.

Gladioli opened in late 2011. Matt and his wife Kate chose the small regional town of Inverleigh, 20 minutes west of Geelong, as the site of their new venture.

Three years and two hats later Gladioli has carved out its rung on the ladder and marked Inverleigh as a fine dining destination. In 2013, it was awarded Best New Regional Restaurant in the Age Good Food Awards. Gourmet Traveller ranked Gladioli #5 on its 2015 best regional restaurants and #55 in its 2015 Top 100 Australian restaurants.

In 2013, in the midst of success and hard work, Matt and fellow Pettavel chef, Graham Jefferies, opened Tulip Bar and Restaurant in Geelong. Designed as a casual dining experience with an emphasis on its extensive, all Victorian wine list, Tulip won its first hat in 2015.  “It’s been an awesome three years,” says Matt. “Far better than I could ever have expected.”

In 2014, Matt went through the Appetite for Excellence program again as a Young Restaurateur Finalist.

Matt Dempsey

“I had such a great time the first time round; the produce tour and the networking opportunities were brilliant, so I knew it could only be a positive experience,“ he says. “If I have staff at the right level, I try to encourage them to enter too.”

Finding and managing staff is just one of the issues Matt now has to contend with as a chef-owner, though he finds it a lot easier working for himself than for other people.

“Between managing and working in two businesses, I can combine all the things I liked about some places I’ve worked in and none of the things I didn’t. But the financial anxiety is something I don’t think you can prepare for, and we’re still learning about how to deal with that.

You train to be a chef but with your own restaurant, you also have to understand admin and marketing and finances and those sorts of things,” he says.

There’s also the unexpected element that can throw out the best-laid plans. For example, “we opened Tulip 2 years ago and it’s actually taken a lot of our primary business,” he says. “We’ve had to put a lot of time into how we deal this.”

He admits that trying to chef in all three restaurants, do the paperwork, and spend time with his three kids is not easy. “Time management is what I have to work on,” he says.

Given the hectic pace of his own life, perhaps this is why Matt advocates patience to industry newcomers. “A lot of young chefs come in expecting to become a superstar in a year and it doesn’t work like that,” he says.

“Listen, learn and expose yourself to as much as you can – embrace it as a way of life. I read books, talk to people, and travel. Everything I do has some sort of food relevance; it’s a passion not a skill, I love it.”

 

 

Khanh Nguyen – eat/drink sydney

Khanh Nguyen; 2015 Young Chef National Finalist is now flexing his culinary talents at Noma, Sydney. Khanh recommends his best places to eat/drink in Sydney.

Where do you go for coffee before work/after work/not at work?

Coffee Alchemy in Marrickville. They have delicious coffee and that is all they specialise in. Also very close to home. Gumption Coffee in Sydney CBD. Also owned by the owners of Coffee Alchemy, you can tell they take their coffee seriously. Considered best coffee place in the city in my opinion. Brewtown Newtown. Delicious coffee and simple food. Also a decent menu with sweets to have with your coffee

Favourite places for breakfast and brunch?

Cornersmith in Marrickville for their light organic food breakfast/ brunch, specials which change daily. Three Blue Ducks in Bronte, this place serves the most delicious breakfasts in Sydney in my opinion. It’s definitely a heavy breakfast which is what I love, I usually order one dish and add all the extras! The black sausage is something you must try. Devon on Danks in Waterloo has a hearty menu with great options for a high protein breakfast/ brunch, very delicious and they will have truffles when it’s in season. Their truffle soft serve is amazing!

Favourite Sydney restaurants for special occasions?

Sepia because I love Japanese flavours and this restaurant is doing some great things. Definitely a world class restaurant. Sokyo is hands down my favourite sushi restaurant in Sydney. There is no place like it and nowhere else in Sydney can even compare with it. Monopole  is a busy restaurant with delicious food and excellent vibe. Also love how the menu is designed to share.

Where do you go for fresh seasonal produce and market bargains?

Eveleigh Markets  has a great selection of seasonal produce, not only vegetables but also great proteins. Marrickville Markets many of the stalls here are certified organic with a wide range of fruits and vegetables. Also some great food here and a great market vibe. Sydney Morning Herald Growers Market in Pyrmont is a very large market often with cooking demonstrations. Can enjoy a great coffee and also a breakfast here.

Where have you had the best interstate dining experiences?

Attica Melbourne – the food isn’t only the great thing at Attica but also the service, paired together with it creates a memorable experience. Gerard’s Bistro  Brisbane, don’t be fooled by the name, this restaurant isn’t bistro food at all. Some very clever food served here and The Town Mouse Melbourne is a great small restaurant with delicious food and love how the menu is designed to share.

Check out where our alumni eat/drink in their home town here – ACT, NSW, NT, QLD, SA, TAS, VIC, WA