award winning chef, Jake Kellie’s new beginnings

Australian Young chef

written by Dominic Rolf

Late last year, a message from Burnt Ends owner and chef, Dave Pynt, pinged into Jake Kellie’s inbox. It was an offer to work at Pynt’s restaurant in Singapore. Kellie had met Pynt a week earlier on a four-day swing through Singapore the restaurant he’s taken to Number 14 in Asia (and Number 70 in the world). “I replied asking Dave what sort of job he was offering,” says Kellie, “And when he told me it was the head chef job, I was like, ‘Whoa, are you serious?’ I couldn’t believe the opportunity. I spoke to a few people whose opinion I respect, then jumped at it.”

Spotting and then grasping an opportunity is something that has underpinned Kellie’s rise as one of the country’s talented young chefs. From leaping into an apprenticeship at ARIA in Sydney as a 17-year old to stints at London’s two Michelin-starred The Ledbury and The Fat Duck, which was then top restaurant in the world, the Electrolux Australian Young Chef of the Year 2015 (he came second in 2014), Kellie’s CV is marked by a powerful urge to push himself.

“To be ready for the next step, whatever it is, you just have to have the passion and the will to succeed”


“To be ready for the next step, whatever it is, you just have to have the passion and the will to succeed,” says Kellie, who was also was nominated for The Age’s Good Food Young Chef of the Year 2015, “I really wanted to be good at what I did. Even when you’re waking up tired, when the clock starts ticking, you feel the pressure to perform and that’s why I keep doing it.”

“Coming to Burnt Ends means dealing with a new style of cooking but I’m really ambitious and am excited to do new food,” says Kellie, “And having someone like Dave beside me and mentoring me along the way made this the perfect next step.”

Beyond the big name restaurants, Kellie honed his craft at some of the best local restaurants in Melbourne, from being head chef at Fitzroy’s The Commoner and then at Estelle in Northcote. He was most recently the founding head chef at The Lakeside Mill in Pakenham. Each job has seen him refine and develop how he approaches the next stage of his career. “When I came back from London, for example, I was beginning to look for places I could create my own food,” he says, “The Commoner was an awesome space – not too big and not too small. It enabled me to get a gauge on things and how I could design food.”

young chef, waiter & restaurateur 2017 applications are open. Why not apply?

The Lakeside Mill took it one step further. “After going back to the pans at Estelle, the Lakeside Mill was an opportunity that fitted with my ethos – local produce, locally-driven, using local farms and a tasting menu based on ingredients in a 10km radius,” says Kellie, “Opening a restaurant from scratch was full on. We did some crazy things and it was a massive learning curve.”

But being afraid of change is not something that Kellie would ever entertain. “You can’t prepare yourself for the unknowns,” he says, “You just have to keep learning, and seek out places that have good management behind the front of house and the business itself.”

Kellie also believes that taking opportunities beyond the kitchen and then building from them has been key to his success. He’s been on Masterchef Australia, continues to stage to learn not only cooking techniques but also management styles and practices  “While I was doing all this outside stuff, I knew that I wanted to turn it into something,” he says, “There’s nothing worse than getting on a roll and then not evolving. I wanted to turn it into something.”

For Kellie, recognising and grasping that net big break is helped by having people around that you trust. “I have some close people who care for what I do such as Scott Pickett (at Estelle) and Alla Wolf-Tasker (at Lake House),” says Kellie, “They’ve been a massive influence on what I do. They’re the two people I can rely on and talk to about anything.”

And winning the Electrolux Australian Young Chef of the Year was another boost for Kellie’s ability to tap the best brains in the industry. “I wanted to win it because it’s such a prestigious award,” he says, “it challenges you, and helps to make you think about where you want to be. But for me, I think the networking that the program brings is really important. It opens you up to good cooks and good people who want to help you as much as they can.”

Now, with Dave Pynt by his side, he’s ready to soak up the knowledge of someone else who has carved his own successful niche. “I just want to learn and feed off what Dave knows,” he says, “But I’ve got the drive to succeed. It’s easy to say something, it’s harder to do it. But if you’ve got the will in you and you can do it, that’s what is the most important thing.”

the insider’s guide to eating/drinking central coast with cameron cansdell

Ever wondered where those in the biz head to for great eating and drinking? We’re often asked so we asked our #youngexcellence for the lowdown and the insider’s guide to eating/drinking….Avoca with Cameron Cansdell chef/owner of Bombini restaurant in Avoca.

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

I have two places, Likeminds in Avoca or Loo Loo’s Coffee Shack in Macmasters Beach.

Favourite places for breakfast and brunch?

Bambini Trust on Elizabeth St, Sydney. They do a great coffee, omelette and a glass of champagne for breakfast, whenever I stay in the city I make it a must to drop by there.

Favourite restaurants in your home state for special occasions?

For a special occasion Biota in Bowral, chef/owner James Viles for his creative and inspiring food. Or Ormeggio at The Spit in Mosman, delivers modern Italian food by Alessandro Pavoni.

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

On the Central coast, Pocket Bar Terrigal for a great Negroni or the bar at Bells Killcare do a very good Espresso Martini

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

Locally I grab fresh locally caught seafood from Fisherman’s Wharf in Woy Woy or fresh crayfish from Seacoast Fishing in Macmasters Beach. When in Sydney, I often stop by the Fish Markets, Franks Fruit Market in Haberfield for some interesting finds and Victor Churchill butcher for great meat.

Where have you had the best interstate dining experiences?

Cumulus on Flinders lane in Melbourne is great time and time again. I like to sit at the kitchen bar and order small dishes. They do great charcuterie & oysters. Their wine list is also extensive and with a very interesting selection.

See where else our #youngexcellence alumni go to in ACTNSWNTQLDSATASVICWA

The Classic Martinez with Sonia Bandera

Sonia Bandera was our young waiter of the year in 2013. Here she shares top trends for 2017 and her go to classic cocktail recipe The Martinez..

What do you see trending in Melbourne right now?

The trend of people making Australian Vermouths, Bitters etc is really starting to take off and we’re seeing better quality products. There’s also more of an openness from the general public to try alternatives to the brands of Campari and Aperol and other big names like them. As the public becomes more informed and more open, the market for these things is opening up. I’m a huge fan of Contratto Bitter and Aperitif as substitutes for Campari and Aperol as well as their White Vermouth. I also love that the Australian counterparts are embracing our native ingredients. There is so much to be utilised and appreciated here.

What’s exciting you about 2017?

I think that I’m excited about the same thing everyone is – Melbourne playing host to The Worlds 50 Best! We’re going to have all the leading Professionals in our industry coming to our shores and I’m excited to show them just how rich our Food and Drink culture is. I’m hoping we are able to showcase the things that are native to Australia and also our multiculturalism. Hopefully this also includes us embracing and showcasing our Indigenous culture, which shamefully, we don’t do enough.

What do you see as the next big thing in 2017?

I think we’re going to see the emergence (or re-emergence) of the proper late-night eatery. As Melbourne moves to be a 24 hour city, we’re already seeing more venues do one off late nights or venues such as Kirk’s with their new site. Hospitality staff may rejoice at the prospect of something other than Ling Nam to eat after work!

What are you ‘crushing on’ this week?

I’m a big fan of a good cocktail. I owe most of what I know to the patient and talented people at The Black Pearl. I have been known to sit and pick their brains and ask lots of questions. To their credit, they’re free with their knowledge and make an amazing drink. I have a few standards that I fall back on but the one that tops the list and that I’m really loving again this week, and to take us back to Vermouths and such, is the Martinez. I love a good classic and the guys down at the Pearl make a mean one with Ransom Barrel aged Gin. I like mine Vermouth heavy but you can play around with the specs depending on your tastes.

#AppetiteAlumni applications are now open until 03 April 2017. See why you should consider entering!

My preferred recipe for this Grandfather to the Martini is…

50mls Sweet Vermouth

25mls Old Tom Gin (I like Ransom Barrel Aged personally)

1 barspoon Luxardo Maraschino

Dash of Orange Bitters (technically Boker or Jerry Thomas but doesn’t have to be)

Stir down and serve straight up in a Coupette or Martini Glass.

Lemon garnish (traditionally a lemon triangle but a twist does fine as well).


© 2016 Alyson Thomas/Drywell Art, available at

Marilyn Annecchini says be a leader who is respectful, motivating and encouraging of staff…

by Dominic Rolfe

2017 applications are now open until 03 April 2017. See why you should consider entering!

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

It means making customers our priority, looking after their every desire and taking care of them, making sure their expectations are not just met but wowing them. Treating all guests in a warm, friendly and generous manner.

I think the younger people in our industry don’t always see it this way.  Sometimes it’s more about themselves and their egos rather than putting customer’s first.

Did you have a mentor?

We had a number of older restaurateurs who had been doing it for a long time as our mentors. We’re an Italian restaurant so it was a lot of the more senior members of the restaurant game such as Armando Percuoco and his wife. And we’re a husband and wife team as well so we looked to them as a way of doing things.

We used to spend a lot of time with them and they were great with advice. As you get going and the business matures you obviously make your own mind up about things but in the beginning they were really inspirational because you go in blind.

A lot of the young restaurateurs that we interview for the Appetite for Excellence program are so green and a bit naïve to the realities of running a business. It’s not all doom and gloom, we try and make it positive but it’s always good to have someone there that has done it before.

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

The goal was always to just continue to improve. We always wanted to be really successful at it, we didn’t want to do it just to pay the bills. We wanted to be an example for others in the industry and to create a place where people were proud to work.

That’s something that evolved. When you open it’s really about keeping your head above water. We’re at the stage where we want to give something back and really nurture a new generation. And to hand things on and create more opportunities for the next lot coming through.

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

The previous generation always said: “Work really hard and don’t spend a lot of money.” They drum it into you that it’s going to be hard, it’s long hours but that it was really enjoyable and if you didn’t do it for that reason then it wasn’t worth doing.

In this economic climate, the best advice is to have a plan, having working capital is really important. Having a passion, having ideas and the creativity is great but you really need some money behind you! That’s the reality of it.  And be prepared for things you never thought you’d have to pay for like Workers Compensation and strata fees – it’s more than the food and wages. That’s where people come unstuck.

Be a leader who is respectful, motivating and encouraging of staff – firm but fair, and you will get the most out of your team.

The ‘fishscape’ of the australian dining scene is changing..


applications are now open until 03 April 2017. See why you should consider entering

As a 20-something year old young chef Josh Niland entered into our Electrolux Australian Young Chef in 2013, cooking his way to Highly Commended.

At the time Josh was working as head chef at Fish Face Sydney. Fast forward 3 years, after a stint as head chef at the now closed Cafe Nice in Sydney; Josh along with his wife Julie have opened their own restaurant, Saint Peter in Paddington.

Named for the patron saint of fisherman, Saint Peter features Australian sustainably sourced seafood. On a rare day off from the restaurant Josh kindly took the time to catch up with us and spills the beans on what it was like opening his own place; the process of dry-ageing fish and his particular fascination with ‘fish & bits’.

What was opening your first restaurant like?  

Nothing like opening anyone else’s that’s for sure! It’s been really exhausting but we are extremely proud of what we have been able to produce so far. Paddington locals along with friends & family have all been very supportive and it’s wonderful to be seeing familiar faces returning each week. Our staff are amazing and have made the whole process less stressful then I thought it was going to be.

What do you think has been the biggest hurdle?

Biggest hurdle has been discovering the ‘hidden joys’ of a heritage Paddington terrace, the continuing small issues that arise in the beginning were tricky and required a lot of patience.

Do you have 3 pieces of advice for someone who is thinking of opening their own venue?

  1. Don’t spend too much money on the fit out or be smart about the choices you make and consider every purchase.
  2. Stay off Gumtree for important equipment purchases.
  3. Make time to go and say thank you and hello to your customers and the same to your staff/ look after staff during those first gnarly weeks.

Your focus is primarily on fish specifically the overlooked and under-utilised parts like offal. Have you always been interested in using ‘fish bits’ and why?

Since I was about 19 or 20 I’ve been fascinated that the yield from a fish is so poor and the loss is so high. Fish is so expensive and the shelf life is so slim so if that isn’t motivation for a chef to think out of the box then I’m not sure what is! Having worked in restaurants that sell a lot of fish, I began to keep all the bits.

The obvious method to start with was burying the fish roe from all of the different fish in salt, allowing them to harden then using them as a seasoning. Since then it has been a constant ambition to come up with delicious & different ways of cooking or serving these bits. From pan fried fish livers & parsley on toast, smoked fish heart, salt & vinegar fish scales, poached & rolled head, puffed swim bladders to aged and marinated milt served back with the fish that it came from.

I’m also aware that as Australians we aren’t overly keen on eating ‘fish guts’ but I hope to at least get them to try it!

Can you tell us about the process behind dry ageing fish and how you came about this?

In Japan and even locally in good sushi bars, there are chefs ageing mackerel & tuna and many other fish to heighten the flavour characteristic & texture of the fish.

We start by buying a perfect fish that is wonderful and firm, no imperfections and dry. We process the fish being sure it is thoroughly clean and again kept dry. We then place a butcher’s hook at the tail end and hang in our fish cabinet. Every day we wipe the fish with paper towel to remove any possible surface moisture. Come day 8/9 we remove the fish from the cabinet and place on the second rail we have in the cool room that is in the room with the fan blowing, we allow the fish to hang for another full day and allow the exterior to really dry out. Then it’s just a matter of application, raw/cooked .

We are fortunate to have had a fish cabinet custom made for us that allows us to hold fish between 0 & 1 degrees Celsius. This allows us to hold most fish (depending on the type) for up to 15/16 days. It takes quite a bit of trial and error to find the ‘sweet spot’ of different species but slowly we are getting very good results. In particular the albacore we have on our menu is hung & aged whole for 7 days in our static cabinet and then brought out to our main cool room area to hang for a further 2 days with the assistance of the cool room fan to dry further. By doing this we have found the fish tastes more savoury and the texture is far firmer than it was as a ‘fresh fish’.

My main reason for wanting to do this is mainly to extend what is usually a very small window of time to use fish and try to really hone in on what a particular fish species really tastes like so that we can pair it better with garnishes and wine.

Do you get the fish in whole and clean it? At Saint Peter we buy everything in guts in, scales on & head on. We then dry process the fish, we go to great lengths to be sure that our fish is well maintained and looked after.

What does dry ageing do to the flavour of the fish?

We’ve noticed that in oily fish like Spanish mackerel, albacore & wild kingfish that the unique flavour qualities of the fish begin to become more defined after approx 4-5 days. After 9-10 days the flavour is really promoted and it is like cooking and eating a totally different product.

For example the wild kingfish when fresh tastes wonderful and clean and has a mild acidity to it that tastes like fresh lemon juice. The idea then was to push it to a point (6 days) where the fish had a distinct acidity to it that it made your mouth water, the skin was dry – making it extremely crisp when cooked & with a firmer texture.

Can you serve it raw?

Yes definitely we have served 9 day aged raw wild kingfish with great feedback, the only thing to be conscious of is the red muscle oxidising giving the appearance a less then perfect look. This is maintained by constant love & care.

How do you train your FOH staff on the processes of cooking & ageing your dishes?

We ensure that we all taste the fish that we serve each day and discuss the length of time potentially that it may have been aged and why we wanted to do that then why we decided to pair it with a certain vegetable or sauce.

As the menu is changed every service our FOH staff have a very important roll to play at Saint Peter. Ensuring that the customers are fully briefed on what they are getting if they have any additional offal coming with their dish or if it is aged and then what best wine to pair it with.

What are three pieces of advice you can give about seafood that people may not know?

Never wash fish under water – use plenty of paper towel when cleaning up a whole fish to be sure it’s thoroughly cleaned before storing or cooking.

Never wrap fish or any seafood in cling wrap as this will cause the protein to sweat and it will deteriorate very quickly – invest in go between!

In my opinion avoid flexible fish knives and go for a long slender hard no flex knife, you’ll achieve better more consistent results when cutting whole fish.

Thanks to Josh, Julie and their team for taking time out of their busy schedule and for allowing Appetite to film behind the scenes… Keep an eye out on our website for more of Josh’s how to dry age fish in the coming weeks…

Saint Peter 

362 Oxford St, Paddington

02 8937 2530

Luke Mangan on young chefs & what the judges are looking for

written by Dominic Rolf.

There’s nothing wrong with being the next celebrity chef. Which, coming from Luke Mangan, is reassuring. But, he cautions, just don’t think that the first step in a chef’s career begins with a visit to the make-up department and the green room for an appearance on morning television. “It’s about getting the foundations of a young chef set up,” he says, “about doing all the steps first.”

In a curiously circular way, Mangan set up the Electrolux Appetite for Excellence Awards ten years ago in response to the media coverage that he and his team were receiving for his launchpad restaurant Salt. He now owns and operates ten bars and restaurants in five countries, including glass brasserie at the Sydney Hilton, as well as Salt grill onboard three P&O cruise liners.

But back in 2005, there were just a handful of hot Sydney restaurants – think Rockpool, Tetsuyas – and, unlike today, the chefs were still cloistered in the kitchen. “I was lucky enough to be in the media but I had a lot of friends who were great chefs but were struggling away and getting nowhere,” he says, “and the award was started to help give those guys some recognition. It also gave them the opportunity to get mentoring from top chefs in the programme, if they want to ask about the business or anything.”

“We’re looking for someone who can represent not only young Australian talent and the industry but also their future.”

While the way food is prepared has changed in the past decade, the attributes Mangan and his fellow judges are looking for in a young chef hasn’t. “We look for someone where we can see the passion coming through,” he says, “where we can see whether they want to get somewhere, be somewhere. And not only do they have to be passionate, they have to be creative and have a good sense of taste and presentation as well. It’s the whole package.” The package is not just about passion, it’s also about being confident, but not over confident. “We’re looking for someone who can represent not only young Australian talent and the industry but also their future.”

The first cull is straightforward. Misspelt words or missing steps in an applicant’s own, original recipe mean a quick exit from the programme. “And the dish needs to be balanced,” says Mangan, “it just can’t be gels and foams on a plate. It’s good to have veggies and protein and a nice balance. What we’re trying to see is the skill and technique from this person which also includes their food philosophy.”

Over the years, cooking techniques may have shifted, especially with more molecular techniques being incorporated. However, the constantly changing panel of judges mean applicants are not only being reviewed with fresh eyes but also by those from the full spectrum of food preparation. “There’s Peter Gilmore with the molecular style, Peter Doyle with his classic French style and Guy Grossi with his Italian influences,” says Mangan, “What we’re wanting to see is what the entrants think cooking is about today. We’re after real food, cooked well and seasoned well. And you can do that with any form of cooking. It’s also about where they see themselves in the future, and how they are going to get there”

The other ingredient that helps chefs in the programme rise to the top is a good dash of the jitters. “It’s good to see young people with a good head on their shoulders and some good nervous energy,” says Mangan, “You see the potential that they have and they mightn’t get it perfect with all three dishes but when you see them get it right with one or two dishes, it’s pretty exciting. It’s about recognising talent, and their future in this industry.”

It’s about getting young chefs keen to practice their craft and show what they potentially can do.  Appetite for Excellence helps chefs expand their professional network, further their skills by providing workshops and help them individually grow their career and stay in the industry.

Entries to young chef close on 03 April 2017.