Peter Gilmore’s recipe for success for young chefs

Appetite for Excellence Peter Gilmore

Be passionate about the job, stick with a good employer and show your individuality. That’s the advice for young chefs from industry veteran Peter Gilmore.

“For me, cooking is a great creative outlet. It always has been something that I’m incredibly passionate about. I love the idea of being able to create something that gives people joy,” says Gilmore.

Alongside passion, ambitious young chefs should also avoid switching jobs too often.

“You probably get more out of a job if you actually stick with an employer,” says Gilmore. “Once you find someone you’re really happy with, spend some time there and you’re going to get the most out of it. Otherwise, I think you’ll find that you just get put on larder everywhere you go.”

As one of the judges of the Appetite for Excellence Awards, Gilmore says he is looking to see some individuality from this year’s entrants.

“A sense of not just following the latest trends, but actually reaching deep into their own backgrounds to create something that is meaningful for them, and then have that translated into something that is special for us [judges] to experience,” he says.

The Appetite for Excellence Young Chef program has evolved into the country’s most respected awards program for young talent.

 

Hear more of what Peter Gilmore has to say…

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Christine Manfield on how to be a successful restaurateur: “You can’t just wing it”

She’s one of the country’s best chefs and restaurateurs, but Christine’s Manfield’s success is no accident.

“You need to have a really thorough understanding of all aspects of the business, because you can’t just wing it,” she says. “You’ve really got to do your homework.”

As one of the judges of the Electrolux Appetite for Excellence Awards, Manfield is keen to share her knowledge and experience with young restaurateurs.

“The program is all about educating and nourishing the next generation. And I’m really interested in the people that live and breathe the pressures of the business,” she says.

The Young Restaurateurs program is the only one of its kind in Australia and provides a chance for owners of businesses, who need to have owned and operated their restaurants for at least two years and be under 35 years of age, to get feedback from some of the industry’s leaders.

Applications for this year’s competition close on Monday, April 3. 

So, have you got what it takes to be crowned this year’s Young Restaurateur of the Year?

“One of the key things I’m looking for,” Manfield says, “is how effective they are as a leader in their business and what they do to empower and nourish their staff. A good manager has to be able to delegate and to trust their staff. Often they’re hard lessons to learn.”

Check out more of Christine Manfield’s tips and advice on succeeding as a restaurateur and what the judges are looking for…

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From the judges table: Christine Manfield & what she’s looking for

written by Dominic Rolfe

While she’s recognised as one of the country’s best chefs and restaurateurs, Christine Manfield admits she would never have entered the Electrolux Appetite for Excellence Awards. “I had a mid-life crisis before I even started cooking,” she laughs. “I was too old to enter any competition like this!”

But the young restaurateurs she now judges should be grateful for Manfield’s life experience before she decided to professionally rattle the pans. “Being a teacher before I became a cook means that educating the young restaurateurs is almost second nature to me,” she says. “The program is all about educating and nourishing the next generation. And I’m really interested in the people that live and breathe the pressures of the business.”

The Young Restaurateurs program is the only one of its kind in Australia and provides a chance for owners of businesses, who need to have owned and operated their restaurants for at least two years and be under 35 years of age, to get feedback from some of the industry’s leaders. “Mixing with their peers in a forum where they can talk through business in a non-threatening environment is invaluable,” says Manfield. “There’s a strong camaraderie in our business and that’s one of the things that’s really great about it.”

It’s also an industry that caters to different ways of structuring a food business. Some, like Manfield, decided to concentrate on one operation. Others take on a range of different ventures. “I’m not an entrepreneur,” she says, “but people like Neil Perry and Guillaume Brahimi have a number of businesses and they’ve done it very successfully. There are role models for everyone and I think that’s really important.”

Irrespective of the way the participants have structured their restaurants, Manfield and her fellow judges don’t only consider the success of a business when deciding on the finalists and the eventual winner. “While we look at their track record,” says Manfield, “we also see how they describe their five year goals, what the award would mean to them and how it would enrich their business and profile. And we get them to talk as much about themselves but not in an egotistical way.”

And there is one other area, however, that is critical to the judging. “One of the key things I’m looking for,” she says, “is how effective they are as a leader in their business and what they do to empower and nourish their staff. A good manager has to be able to delegate and to trust their staff. Often they’re hard lessons to learn.”

After two months of reading, digesting and evaluating the hefty submissions that the entrants have provided, the judges then spend a day interviewing each finalist. They also do a group lunch to see how the entrants’ social skills stack up. It’s a gruelling process but one that Manfield believes gives them a great handle on the merits of each individual. The judges also do a little background evaluation of their own. “You can tell a lot from the strength of writing and their ability to hold their own at an interview,” she says, “but we do a fair bit of homework and snooping around!”

Regardless of who is crowned Young Restaurateur of the Year, Manfield believes that the mere experience of sitting down and doing the submission can be an extremely useful way of reflecting on a business. “The questions make you take stock,” she says, “Which I think is good for the entrants. You can get so wrapped up in the business that you forget about the bigger questions but this forces you to write down a lot of stuff you need to think about. There are a lot of great cooks but it’s an entirely different skill to be a great businessperson.”

Dave Pynt: the chef & the restaurateur

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

How did you become a chef?

I became a chef because I like eating, it’s as simple as that.  I sort of fell into cooking as university didn’t appeal and I wasn’t sure what I wanted to do. But I really enjoyed being in the kitchen so it all started with making pizza in a local restaurant in Perth. My passion for cooking really started probably at Tetsuya’s when you see the level & skill that you can achieve. You really get driven by the people around you, the environment to produce top quality food. When you’re doing good things, you become proud and passionate about what you are doing.

A piece advice for a younger version of yourself?

Eat more, work harder and read a lot more. I thought I worked relatively hard but the fact is the more time you spend in a kitchen or in a restaurant the more you learn and the more you see. You don’t learn or see those things by not being in a kitchen or a restaurant

Some advice for young chefs?

If you are staging, to read books about philosophy or cook books about where they go into details about what they thought about, what they like what they did in their spare time it gives you an insight into the way they thought about and approached food. if you’re reading this books you’re going to get a lot more about how to structure the way you want your restaurant or run your kitchen or the food that you want to create.

Why did you become involved and what are you looking for as a judge this year?

It’s important to give back to the [hospitality] community and the next generation of people that might want to open restaurants. What really excited me about last year was the chefs really wanted to be there and show of the skills that they had.

This year at the national & final cook off, I’m looking for young chefs that have drive, motivation, knowledge, skills and a good attitude. Not necessarily fine dining skills, but knowing what to do with different produce.

Some tips for the chefs?

Calm down, take a bit of time to plan & think about what you want to produce & what you need to produce and then do it better than anyone else.

The success and failure of the Wallis Lake Fisherman’s Co-Op is driven by its people

Wallis Lake Fisherman’s Co-operative by Andy Day & Cam Cansdell

Established in 1947 to become the voice of the local fisherman in the area of Forster Tuncurry and the central receiving depot to handle the daily catch & distribution, the Co-op members today are made up of the children; grandchildren and great grandchildren of the original fisherman.

The cooperative itself stands not to make a profit (and hopefully not a loss!) but to represent the collective will of its members and improve the profitability and welfare of the 50 active and 40 non-active shareholders.

Several years ago the Co-op found itself on its knees in a state of financial disrepair, facing bankruptcy, and fighting to keep shareholders.

70% of the Co-ops activities on the water take place on Wallis Lake itself and its surrounding estuaries and this is where we find ourselves today, observing and absorbing the passion of the Co-op’s Operations Manager Suzie McEnallay, member Danny Elliott and the Co-op Chairman Greg Colby.

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Blessed with blue skies and crystal-clear water for the day it’s easy to be lulled into the belief that life’s a breeze here in paradise.

However, like many primary production industries the fishing community faces pressures. Several years ago the Co-op found itself on its knees in a state of financial disrepair, facing bankruptcy, and fighting to keep shareholders.

Droughts affect the Co-op just as badly as agricultural industries inland and on the coast. A lack of rain means a lack of nutrients entering the estuaries, in turn providing less food for the aquatic food chain and reducing fish stocks.

Commercial pressures and compliance with regulations are constantly evolving and can only be properly managed by a collective; “how do we market our 3 ‘U’s (undervalued, under fished, underused species)?”,”how do we best make people aware this is Australian fish, and not imported?” and “how do we do business with Woolworths and not get pressured?”

The most impressive lesson from today was learning not WHAT the challenges were but rather HOW and WHY the community took them head on.

Facing bankruptcy less than a decade ago the Co-op’s board of directors made the bold decision to effectively ‘freeze’ shares, meaning no member could sell their share(s) until 2019. This was a clever solution to secure what capital the co-op had at the time and create an ongoing commitment from their members (a large proportion of whom are now the non-active shareholders having since retired) that the co-op must endure and succeed for the individual shareholders to themselves survive. Beyond that the shareholders effectively bought more shares to build up the Co-ops capital and help it pay off debts. Only a tight community has the courage to band together at such times, and only an extraordinary one has the strength to survive it.

They face the distinct possibility of running out of fisherman over the next 30 years with an average active shareholder age of 54. This is further compounded by a stemming of generational fishing families; the next generation are either told not to or don’t want to become professional fishermen.

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With almost no young, skilled fishermen coming through the ranks in the next decade it was vitally important for the Co-op to assist 18 year-old Jack in securing a grant from the Rural Assistance Authority to begin the process of acquiring fishing license endorsements so that they could build up and sustain their shareholder base. The process to obtain a commercial fishing license in NSW is quite a lengthy & intricate process. Even the governments’ own guide to commercial fisheries says that ‘due to the complex nature of the NSW commercial fishing arrangements it is impossible to produce a simple guide that is guaranteed to fully explain all aspects. The law and policies are also subject to change, so anyone who wishes to fully understand all elements of the current arrangements must not rely solely on this guide’.

And by working with the FRDC (Fisheries Research and Development Corporation) the Co-op can more effectively influence, through education and research, the market factors that create the “3 U’s” and can generate a better revenue stream by successfully marketing species like Luderick and Mullet that are in such strong supply in Wallis Lake.

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The Wallis Lake Fishermans Co-operative is blessed with a wealth of pristine resources and hard-working, passionate individuals that form a sum greater than all the parts. Their methods and resourcefulness is the key to their success and is something to be admired and imitated by any business willing to create a more collaborative and egalitarian environment for business.

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Tiwi College Project Visit October 2016

A few weeks ago two of our alumni young chefs, Aaron Ward & Troy Crisante along with our project director Phee Gardner were invited to spend a week with the Hayden Reynolds Tiwi College Project. The Tiwi College Project seeks to improve the well being of the Tiwi Island youth by providing educational opportunities at Tiwi College, ‘We seek to create opportunities, which provide pathways for positive social change’. This is achieved by harnessing the profile and influence of positive role models across the fields of sport, entertainment and by a cross section of corporate executives who are keen to share experiences and opportunities that will enhance social change.

Aaron and Troy shared their cooking skills & food knowledge with the college students and home carers, attended classes with the students, assisting them with their literacy skills and cooked up a BBQ of marinated buffalo skewers and pepper crust steaks (you can get their recipes here).. We put together a clip of their time at the Tiwi Islands Project –  thanks to all of the students and the Tiwi Islands Community along with the Hayden Reynolds Tiwi College Project for welcoming and hosting us!

Heading back on our tiny plane we asked Aaron about his experiences at the Tiwi College Project and some background into the project.

What is the Tiwi College Project and what do you think they’re trying to achieve?

The college is trying to improve the lifestyles of the Tiwi people by providing the Life Skills program, where the kids are taught to cook, clean and respect the other people around them. These skills can then be taken back into the communities to help lifestyles of those back home.

The college is trying to create job opportunities for the kids once they graduate from the college. Some of the kids are going into apprenticeships at the college in the garden program and going to the fishing lodges to work as guides on the fishing charters.

Why did you want to go to the Tiwi College Project?

Going to the Tiwi Islands and visiting the Tiwi College Project was such a great opportunity for me. I wanted to see what the project was about, how the college operated, and how the kids lived their day-to-day lives. Also being able to give back to the community by sharing my cooking skills and recipes was an experience I couldn’t say no to.

How as a chef do you think you can help implement change to help young kids in the Tiwi community?

As a chef I think it is important to teach the kids in the Tiwi community about different foods and give them a better knowledge base of foods they can cook. After talking to the kids, food is a big part of their culture as it brings the families and communities together. I hope that by teaching them some new techniques and sharing some new recipes it can help them to make healthier choices along the way.

What did you learn about the Tiwi community at the college?

I learnt how much knowledge the Tiwi people have of the land they live on. They know how and when the best time to hunt is; where to find the best catch and the best ways to track and capture the animal. And the ways they fish to catch turtle, stingray and dugong in the most successful way. They were also able to explain which trees can be used for medicine if sick and which trees can help to cook their food.

What was the highlight of the trip?

The highlight of the trip for me would have to be working with the kids in class and cooking for them.

We had the opportunity to sit in on a reading class and help the kids practice their reading skills. To see the joy on their faces when they accomplished reading a book with no help was amazing.

On the final morning at Tiwi College Project we cooked breakfast at one of the homes. It was a privilege to cook for the 13 girls and their house carers. We received plenty of thank you letters from the girls so I’m pretty sure they enjoyed it

What have you learnt from this experience?

Before going to the Tiwi Islands I didn’t really know much about the project. Having experienced first-hand what the project is trying to achieve it is a great initiative to help the kids of the island improve the way they live and help them with their life skills in the future.

What have you taken away from the visit?

This was a great experience for me and one I will not forget. Working with the children, the families and the dedicated staff that make it all happen is truly inspirational. Giving something back by cooking food for the homes and helping the kids with their reading and literature was a great experience.

recipes: tiwi college project by aaron ward and troy crisante

During their time on the island, young chefs Aaron Ward & Troy Crisante cooked some of their secret recipes for the Tiwi College Project, and shared these recipes along with some of their chef’s secrets with the college. The marinades are perfect for a BBQ at home.

Buffalo Marinade by Troy Crisante

Prep time: 20 mins + time for marinating

Serves: up to 1kg of buffalo meat

Ingredients:

100ml honey

250ml soy sauce

50ml oyster sauce

2 x oranges (zest & juiced)

4 x cloves garlic

1 x knob garlic (medium size)

1/2 bunch coriander – leaves and stem

2 tbsp sesame seeds

Method

Mince garlic and ginger and then wash & chop coriander stems included.

Zest the orange into 1 cm strips then juice. Mix all ingredients into a bowl and whisk.

Place your meat in the marinade and marinate for a minimum of 4 hours.

Chef’s Tips:

Can be used for lamb and beef also.

Using orange in your marinade is great for those tougher cuts of meat as it helps with the breakdown of the meat, leaving it nice and tender after marinating overnight.

Marinate overnight for the best result!

Pepper Steak Crust by Aaron Ward

Prep time: 20 minutes + marinating time

Serves: 14 x steaks

Ingredients:

3tsp ground pepper

2tsp garlic minced

1tsp salt

1 x lemon (zest)

½ cup veg oil

Method:

Mix all ingredients in a medium bowl & place meat in bowl.

Massage rub mix into sides of meat and cover.

Refrigerate for 4 hours before cooking or leave overnight and cook the next day!

Chef’s Tips:

Marinate overnight for the best result!

Can also be used with chicken lamb, buffalo and pork!

 

 

 

it’s a pigs life at melanda park

Melanda Park by Aaron Ward, George Papaioannou and Kelvin Shaw

From potatoes to pigs, that’s how farmers Matt and Sue Simmons have spent the last 13 years of their lives, on the farm that has been in Sue’s family for almost 100 years. Located in Ebenezer just outside of Sydney, Melanda Park began its life as a citrus farm, before floods; market crashes and ageing orchards gave way to cattle in the latter part of the last century.

In 2003 they started producing certified organic vegetables like potatoes and leafy greens and in keeping with organic farming principles they introduced pigs to the farm as a way to remove the excess waste and vegetables left behind and also to prepare the soil for the next round of planting. It was using these industrious animals to clean up the paddocks that inspired Matt and Sue to actually start breeding free range pigs as well as their organic vegetables.

The pigs are all free range and pasture raised and roam as they please, for 365 days of the year. They’re are able to dig for grubs and potatoes, wallow and interact with other pigs.

The pigs at Melanda Park fatten at a slower rate but have a much more flavoursome meat because of it.

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We were fascinated at the speed of which the pigs grow and at the age they’re able to reproduce. After only 4 weeks a sow is able to give birth (farrow), having up to 10 piglets in a litter. The sows have special hutches designed with straw stoppers to farrow in as the 1 or 2kg piglets need to be protected from natural predators like eagles and foxes as well as their mothers.

When we first walked onto the farm I thought it was just about rearing a pig and sending them off to the abattoir but there is so much more. Matt and Sue constantly have to check the soils, check the PH levels, the hydration levels and continually throw seeds to grow grass, not just for the pigs to graze but to keep the neighbours happy with keeping the dust levels down. Having that strong base in a nutrient rich soil is a fundamental part to being able to rear a pig at such a high standard, as Matt and Sue have accomplished.

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The Simmons have carved a niche in the industry by rearing suckling pigs, averaging a weight of 15-18kg at just 8 weeks old. Through their care and dedication to free range farming and a superior tasting product they have found their way into the Sydney fine dining restaurant scene. Their passion for what they are doing on the farm really shows in the pigs they produce and constant high standard of the farm they work.

At Melanda Park you can hear the wind coming up the valley, no pig squeals, the occasional barking Maltese terrier, but no stress and a relaxed feel. The open fields and paddocks where the pigs graze or lay in the hutches where they farrowed smell clean, like a farm, grassy green with a scent of manure, whipped up with the wind but an expected aroma of a farm.

 

We visited Melanda Park as part of the 2016 National Finalists Produce Tour of NSW.

the insider’s guide to eating/drinking in Canberra

Ever wondered where those in the biz head to for great eating and drinking? We’re often asked so we headed to our  #youngexcellence almuni for the lowdown and the insider’s guide to eating/drinking….Canberra with AKIBA & Sages Andy Day.

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

We’re spoilt for choice in Canberra with great local roasters. Right in the centre of Canberra is Coffee Lab, run by ONA Coffee, which is my favourite spot for a pre-work coffee. A bit further afield and a crazy-busy weekend favourite is Redbrick Espresso in Curtin who also do great food, and Highgate Lane in Kingston put their roaster on full display so is a fun and busy spot with great service.

Favourite places for breakfast and brunch?

Brunch is kind of my thing because I’m probably at work for most of my other meals! My fiancée and I really like the food at TwoforJoy in Kingston, it’s always changing and is really creative and generous. Likewise at The Cupping Room, I’m a sucker for Central American food and their dishes are always on point.

Favourite restaurants in your home state for special occasions?

Canberra punches well above its weight for fine diners and good places for that special time. I love Pod food out at Pialligo; it’s charming, seasonal, has a great wine list and Brent leads a crack team of service professionals. Brunch at Pod is about as fine-dining as brunch can get and it is spectacular.

I also love the dinner experience at Courgette in the centre of Canberra and it’s the go-to for birthdays and anniversaries. The wine list makes celebrating easy!

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

A number of small bars have popped up in Canberra over the past few years and getting a glass of something interesting is easy and always relaxing. My new favourite is Vincent, in Barton, which has a daily list of wines – almost all by the glass – that always has something I haven’t tried before. The fun vibe and scrabble-pieces menu is light entertainment to match. Also good for a glass of wine and a snack in the afternoon is Parlour Wine Room in New Acton with a beautiful vintage fitout and sunny terrace is super relaxing. A big nod to local producers and a crafty cocktail list make it a good Sunday afternoon. For an after work beverage the best place for me is Monster. A great wine list, an extremely good negroni, and a kitchen closing at 1am means I can get a second dinner in if I want in the comfort of a fireplace and either my thoughts, good company, or choice banter from the service team.

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

Canberra’s Saturday morning farmers markets at the showground is a highlight of the city. Producers come from all over NSW and Victoria bringing great quality, fresh produce. The markets are separated into those who sell, and those who grow and sell, so if you’re mad keen on knowing the origin of your food you can ask the person selling it to you and they can tell you when they plucked it from the farm. To me that’s the best.

Also good and certainly if your stocks from Saturday run low there are the Fyshwick fresh food markets which house most of Canberra’s fruit & veg suppliers, butchers and fishmongers, so getting quality produce is always easy there. If it means I have to walk via Plonk, one of the country’s best boutique bottle shops, as I shop then so be it!

Where have you had the best interstate dining experiences?

It’s tough to choose between Cutler & Co in Melbourne and The Bridge Room in Sydney. The first time I went to Cutler & Co there were at least three dishes that made the hairs on my neck stand on end, while the service was impeccable and fit-out so comfortable and classy at the same time. I felt so looked after and just shell-shocked by how good a place they had created.

Meanwhile my first, second and third experiences at the Bridge Room took place within a fortnight. I loved it so much on my first mission (a solo birthday lunch) that I rebooked for later that week for my management team and then the week after with my family. When a venue gets everything in harmony like they do its addictive and hard to keep away!

 

Floriade 2016 runs from 17-Sept to 16-Oct 2016. You can check out the full program here

See where else our #youngexcellence alumni go to in ACTNSWNTQLDSATASVICWA