The Old Clare Hotel and the site of the old Carlton United Brewery seemed a fitting venue for the Sydney leg of the Appetite for Young Swines event – an Appetite for Excellence and PorkStar project to help foster a community of young like-minded hospitality professionals, where they can see; hear & learn from the rising stars of the hospitality industry.
The event kicked off with a welcome cocktail shaken (not stirred) by Gerald Ryan, restaurant manager of Oscillate Wildly in Newtown. Gerald was the Electrolux Australian Young Waiter in 2014 and had carefully selected the beverages to match the dishes our alumni Aaron Ward of sixpenny, Jake Davey of est. & Troy Crisante of Bennelong had collaborated on. Rounding out the team with her ever professional front of house flair was Brooke Adey restaurant manager of The Paddington Inn & Electrolux Young Waiter 2015. A special mention & thanks to Dan from sixpenny who came to help out the lads in the kitchen. You are a superstar!
In between the courses and throughout the day we hit each of the Appetite for Young Swines up with some hard hitting questions about the industry; their commitment to hospitality; why collaborations are important for the industry and what advice they would give to a younger version of themselves.
What inspired you to become a sommelier Gerald & a chef Aaron?
Gerald: My Colleagues. Working in a fine dining restaurant as a food runner as my first proper job in hospitality, and hearing the Sommelier’s talking about wine, using language I’d never heard intrigued me, and I immediately became the pest, asking all of the annoying questions of them, until they pointed me towards a couple of books, and I was away.
Aaron: I have always been interested in food as cliché as it sounds, but I would read recipes as a child and watch the cooking shows on TV. I think the fact that this industry is always changing, with new ingredients, techniques, and equipment being available also interests me. There is never a dull day or moment, it all just depends on how far you want to take it.
What motivates you and inspires you daily?
Gerald: Again, the people I work with. Seeing small business owners constantly at the helm of their operations, steering it in the right way, is motivation enough. Watching Karl Firla and Dan Hunter run their business’ so efficiently, but tirelessly changing menu’s, and market runs at the crack of dawn, all the while balancing restaurant life with a life outside their venues, has been a constant inspiration.
Aaron: Cooking to me is not just about food; it is also about bringing people together and creating a memorable experience. Sitting around a table with family and friends, having the opportunity to cook for them, and the feeling of gratification is something I love. Being able to achieve these same feelings and experiences in a restaurant setting should be what all chefs strive for. Showing passion and pride in what I cook is always apparent, whether it is for guests in the restaurant, family at home, or a staff meal.
What advice would you give a younger version of yourself?
Gerald: Write notes on what you are tasting!!
Aaron: Travel and experience different cultures and cuisines as much as possible. Go and spend time in different countries of the cuisines that interest you, learn the techniques and how the local chefs are bringing their own modern take on the culinary traditions.
What three pieces of advice would you give anyone considering it as a career?
1. It is the small things that make the big things fall into place. Long hours on your feet can take it out of you. Moving heavy tables, cartons of wine, polishing glasses, all very un-glamorous. But it’s the little things that matter. The final detail of the room, final check of set up, that really make things actually tick.
2. You need to love it. At times, you will hate it, it’s just how it is, but it’s got to be an overriding feeling of satisfaction and love for your job that motivates you. If you don’t enjoy what you are doing, find a way to, or do something else!
3. You need to have work – life balance. As is true with anything, but especially with Hospitality, where the hours can tend to lean on the unsociable.
1. Learn as much as you can from as many people as you can. The food industry is ever expanding, finding new experiences and opportunities to develop tastes and techniques. However, knowledge and understanding of the classics are pillars to building a successful and exciting career.
2. Keep your head down and work hard even with the long hours and little sleep, being a chef is a demanding career but if you embrace it, it is very rewarding.
3. Try to have a balanced work life and life outside of work. Having a balanced work/life is essential for mental health and productivity at work.
Do you think collaborations are important for chefs, FOH and the industry and why?
Gerald: I do, I think collaborations help shift every day routine, and challenge both front and back of house to think differently. If just for a once off, or a series of events, you learn how to operate in limited space and in different locations (kitchens, FOH spaces) which only broadens your experience and challenges the way you look at things.
Aaron: Yes, collaborations are very important as a chef. The opportunity to meet and talk with other chefs about food, learning their different techniques and then bringing them back and putting them in use. Cooking and eating different cuisines give chefs a bigger perspective on how large and diverse the industry really is.
How do you think we can inspire people to consider hospitality as a career?
Gerald: I’d like to say starting from the bottom, in school, and not making it seem a job for dropouts, but I understand how unrealistic this is. Honestly, I am unsure, except for constantly putting forward the best face of the industry, and showing how you can have a tangible reward for hard work and effort.
Aaron: The hospitality environment has drastically changed over the last 15 years. A career in hospitality is professionally recognised and accepted and there are many different channels of progression within this career choice which allows for constant expanding of skills and knowledge. There are also not many careers which allow you to work anywhere in the world, whether being a chef or front of house you will never be out of work.
What do you think needs to change/be done in the industry to keep those within it motivated/inspired to stay?
Gerald: I think the industry has come a long way in the 10 years I have been involved, especially when it comes to motivating people to stay involved. As the industry grows, it falls on the people who have been involved in the industry for a while to nurture the new generation, and I can see that happening in Sydney at the moment, with small groups or individual restaurants expanding, and the teams within those small restaurants teaching the new generation and staff, and again turning that cog of motivation/inspiration.
Aaron: Flexibility with working hours and days – It is a given that as a chef you will miss out on many special occasions and the choice when taking your holidays. Most chefs are accepting of this fact, however, to inspire chefs to stay longer in the industry this may be something to consider especially as a chef grows older and family commitments become a priority.
You can read more from Appetite for Young Swine Brooke & Jake here.
As the lunch progressed the chefs along with Brooke & Gerald were able to speak to the group about their experiences within the hospitality industry; what inspires them in their careers; how the stay motivated; why the beverages were chosen for the dishes and how the dishes were cooked.
The food was amazing; the drinks delicious and the company even more so! Thanks to everyone who came along (and to those who had driven from regional areas especially for the event) and to the team behind the event. You can check out all of the event pics here!
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