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…
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.
A highlight of the national finalists produce tour through NSW this year was having the opportunity to cook for the fisher community of Wallis Lake at a pop up restaurant at the Forster Tuncurry race track. The young chefs chose from that morning’s catch thanks to the Wallis Lake Fisherman’s Co-Op. Below is the recipe for the Wallis Lake Bonito the team of young chef Zack Furst; young waiter Morgan Golledge & young restaurateur Dave Parker put together for the dinner. Morgan recommends matching, ‘I would go an Italian white blend like Occhipinti Bianco. Something with texture but still great acidity and slight oxidative nuttiness. If you can get your hands on that it’s a winner otherwise Brash Higgins Zibbibo or anything premium with skin contact, depth and driving acid’.
Ingredients – serves 4
1 x whole bonito – you can ask your fish monger to gut & scale if you prefer
1 x cucumber
1 bunch tarragon
2 x garlic cloves
50mls olive oil
200ml sweet chardonnay vinegar
Flaked salt to taste
For the Bonito
* Wash and gut bonito
* Fillet bonito, then remove ribs and then slice down the spine separating the top fillet and belly.
* Finally carve out the pin bones wipe dry and sit in a stainless steel deep tray.
For the Finishing Salad
* With 50g shallots slice super fine and place in steel bowl. * Then julienne the cucumber * Fold through shallots and dress with a small amount of olive oil and salt
For the warm pickle
* Slice 50g of the shallots and the 2 garlic cloves thinly, * Place in a medium size pot and cover with sweet Chardonnay vinegar and 100mls of water. * Bring to a slow simmer, add tarragon, olive oil and allow to steep for 45 minutes. * Season with salt and a small amount of sugar.
* Bring the warm pickle to a simmer then pour over bonito. * Allow the bonito to steep for 20 minutes. * Remove fillets onto paper towel. * Finally place fillets neatly in the centre of desired dish * Then cover fish in the fresh finishing salad * Add some flaked salt and serve with lemon slices.
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?
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.
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.
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?
Don’t spend too much money on the fit out or be smart about the choices you make and consider every purchase.
Stay off Gumtree for important equipment purchases.
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…
it’s been a big year so far. We’ve created new initiatives – Appetite for Young Swines; held cook off’s & wait offs; took this years alumni on a produce tour and last month we celebrated Australia’s innovative fresh produce – our young talent – at our awards night in Sydney. The young chefs, waiters and restaurateurs that have been involved in the program this year in addition to the crowning of the Australian Young Restaurateur; Waiter and Chef 2016 at a star studded event on the 08 August 2016. We, as a program strive to inspire, nurture and celebrate young passionate hospitality professionals. As an industry, we need to support and embrace the next generation no only in our restaurants and bars but also in our conversations and thinking so that the industry can continue to thrive. Every single professional who entered the program deserves to be congratulated for challenging themselves, being open to learning different ways of doing things as well as their own passion and commitment to their careers. We take our hats off to all of our national finalists and to the those that were awarded;
L-R: Electrolux Australian Young Waiter Andrew Day; Electrolux Australian Restaurateur Cameron Cansdell; Electrolux Australian Young Chef Aaron Ward
The winner’s for each category;
Electrolux Australian Young Waiter of the Year 2016
People’s Choice: Andrew Day
Highly Commended: Natasha Janetzki
Australian Young Waiter: Andrew Day
Electrolux Australian Young Restaurateur of the Year 2016
Australian Young Restaurateur : Cameron Cansdell
Electrolux Australian Young Chef of the Year 2016
People’s Choice: Zackary Furst
Highly Commended: Zackary Furst
Runner Up: Troy Crisante
Australian Young Chef: Aaron Ward
It’s definitely a journey
it’s not only waiting tables….. waiters need to be skilled in many different areas, from talking knowledgeably about the menu and recommending wines, to making sure the customers needs and requests are catered for all with grace, poise and a bit of theatre. This also is part of our judging process where our waiters spent two full days with the judging panel taking part in many different aspects of what it takes to be a waiters. We provide a myriad of experiences, the ability to learn, be tested and show their skills.
Wayne from JOTO shared his knowledge of squid in a masterclass about the different flavour profiles, textures and how they are caught. Beverage legends and judges Nick Hildebrandt & Simon Denton took the waiters through an interactive food and beverage masterclass where a discussion was had on the best matches. There was one-on-one interviews with judges Lisa van Haandel & Sam Christie to find out more about their careers, philosophies and future goals. Oh and the quiz like paper testing them on their service; food and beverage knowledge and practices. This was all before being put to their paces at a pop-up lunch for 100 guests where all their knowledge and service know how was put to the test! “It’s an absolutely amazing program – being surrounded by all these professionals who are at such a high level, it has really helped me to affirm why I do what I do, and why I love what I do. Learning from the judges with all that combined knowledge – whether or not you win, it’s incredibly energising to go back into the industry knowing there’s that kind of support,” Andrew Day on winning and being involved in the program.
The restaurateurs had a LOT of questions put to them about their business; their vision and their roles within their business before sitting down individually with the judging panel of Lucy Allon; Christine Manfield; Peter Sullivan and Marilyn Annecchini in one-on-one interviews. The young restaurateur judges noted that “All three finalists were very strong contenders. All of them are dynamic and focused, and leading great teams and businesses. They can all be very proud of what they have achieved and should be congratulated for the role they are each playing in the industry. We look forward to seeing this year’s Young Restaurateur winner and finalists continuing to be inspiring role models for young people in the hospitality industry.”
Cameron Cansdell says “This program is all about the participation, and it’s given us an incredible foundation for our future,” he added “and to win – I’m thrilled. It’s a dream that’s come into reality.”
Since pressing submit on their application back in April, the Young Chef national finalists have cooked their way through 3 rounds of judging; spending a total of 8 hours in the kitchen cooking (this doesn’t include prep time or the interviews with the judging panel) with industry heavyweights Dave Pynt; Peter Gilmore; Mark Best; Guy Grossi; Bethany Finn; Duncan Welgemoed, Luke Mangan; Lyndey Milan; & Troy Rhoades-Brown looking over their shoulders; asking questions as they prep; cook and plate up and what their food philosophies are. Pretty nerve wracking indeed. Aaron Ward said of his award “It was absolutely nerve-wracking until that final moment of accepting the award! But the highlight of the program has definitely been bonding with everyone [the participants] as a team, over the same passion of what we do every day.”
But it hasn’t all been serious business – there have been laughs along the way – heading out on the produce tour was a highlight and we were very lucky to have such a great group of young people on-board the bus.
There were a lot of laughs which we would love to share with you however you know they do say what goes on tour stays on tour… However here are some funny anecdotes and be sure to stay tuned as we will be sharing the team stories of their producer visits with you in the coming months!
‘Where’s Dave?’ after leaving without one of the guys
‘It’s not the ghosts you should be scared of’ says the bartender after hearing the group talk about the possibility of the old hotel being haunted!
‘hows that rice pudding coming along’ that never seemed to cook no matter how long it was on the bbq for…
Hunt + Gather Dinner
The Hunt + Gather Dinner was held the night before the awards night. Guests were welcomed to the Electrolux Showcase where each table had their own waiter & chef team; their own menu created with inspiration from the produce tour and their own individual experience. It was like the young chef and waiter national finalists had invited their guests into their own home for an exclusive dinner party. The national finalists did an amazing job and a great night was had by all!
We look forward to sharing our stories; recipes; tips and the best places to dine out in Australia over the coming months. You can keep up to date with all of the exciting things we have in store for 2017 and beyond by following our social channels Facebook and Instagram and here on our blog.
A special thanks to all of our sponsors and event partners for their continued support – Electrolux; Sanpellegrino; Virgin Australia; FRDC; Porkstar; Vics Meats; Fraser & Hughes; JOTO; Murdoch Produce; Endeavour Beer and Wine Australia. Looking forward to another great Appetite for Excellence for 2017!
What does the word hospitality mean to you and how has it changed since you started?
Hospitality means generosity of spirit and connection. I think the industry has changed with social media and all the online influences but the essence remains the same – put the customer first and try to connect with them. The great waiters and restaurateurs are the ones who can adjust quickly to different types of people and situations. People have different expectations and the best ones are those who have a clear vision for the product but are fluid enough to meet the demands of a varied customer base.
The expectations are higher than 20 years ago because people are more informed and the shrinking of the world means it’s very competitive. You’re now being benchmarked against what people have seen across the country and around the world. And that those expectations are higher, is a good thing.
The cost of opening now is much higher than it was 20 years ago but the profitability hasn’t increased in sync. But there’s a lot less formality than there was so you can bring your own ideas to a restaurant which in turn means more variety, which is a good thing.
Did you have a mentor?
There were people in the industry that we looked up to such as [fellow judge] Peter Doyle and Maurice Terzini. We looked at their passion and what they had achieved. Unfortunately, we didn’t have a business mentor which we really should have. I think this is really crucial. And it’s one piece of advice that I’d give to anyone starting out: find someone they trust and who has expertise in business to give them an outside opinion. Sometimes you get so caught up in business that you can’t see the forest for the trees. And you need someone to point that out to you. Whether that’s the way you’re running the business or the profitability.
And I also think, in relation to hospitality, the big thing is never judge a customer. Treat everyone the same; each person deserves the same level of respect.
What was the goal when you opened and is it different now?
The goal for the first restaurant was just to have a decent living and do what we loved to do. Then when opportunities present themselves, you can take them if you’re in the space to be able to take advantage of them. But you’ve got to nurture your team to get them working happily and in tune with the business so that you can trust them to go out and replicate your vision in a new venture. And to put their spin on it as well.
The excitement and challenge of opening a restaurant is great. There’s a lot of stress but there’s a buzz that’s hard to replicate. And if it’s a high profile location, there’s a lot of attention and it’s such a social business that it adds to that pressure. And if you handle pressure the right way, it can be a really positive and motivating thing.
Do you have a piece of advice for current restaurateurs starting out? Did you have a piece of advice that you’ve carried through?
The simplest thing is treat your staff the way you would expect to be treated. It’s a big responsibility being accountable for staff and their wages and everything else. If you can, use the “self-rule” (treat them as you would like to be treated) and be really honest and communicate with them. When people are managed properly, they’ll be very loyal and they’ll return the investment in spades. And if you invest in people and take the time to manage them properly, your business will be more stable.