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.
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.
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.
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.
young fisher, 18 year old Jack Freeman
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.
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.
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….Sydney with Aaron Ward, sous chef at sixpenny, Stanmore.
Favourite places for breakfast and brunch?
Four ate Five in Surry Hills. It’s a busy little cafe on Crown Street. The salmon bagel is delicious and something I usually order. St Jude in Redfern is just around the corner from my house so it’s easy for a quick breakfast, the avocado smash with poached eggs is something light and delicious. Bourke St Bakery, Surry Hills – again just around the corner, if you miss the lines of the early morning rush it’s a great place to get a pastry or a tart.
Favourite restaurants in your home state for special occasions?
LuMi in Pyrmont. I love spending a Sunday night at LuMi, watching the sun set over the harbour is magic. The food is always delicious and the staff are amazing. Ester in Chippendale. If I ever have a Sunday day off I love going to Ester for lunch, I can sit there all afternoon with a couple of wines and graze on the food they cook. It really is delicious. LP’s Quality Meats in Chippendale. I usually go to LP’s with a few friends, this way we get to try more of the food. I have never walked out of LP’s hungry as there’s always dishes on the menu I want to eat.
Best bars to head to after work and on your days off?
Shady Pines in Darlinghurst. Walking downstairs into Shady Pines is like walking into another world. I go here for a few late night drinks, their style there is nowhere like it in Sydney. The Dolphin Hotel in Surry hills. After the new refurbish of the Dolphin I have been a few times already, it’s a good place for a beer or a wine and some delicious Italian food. Salisbury Hotel in Stanmore. This is the local pub near Sixpenny, so we will usually head down the road for a beer after work.
Where do you go for fresh, seasonal produce and market bargains?
I go to the Flemington Markets in Sydney every week for our fruit and vegetables. It is a good way to see what produce is coming in to season and what is at its peak. Also it is good way to meet the producers and the farmers that grow the fruits and vegetables and get an insider’s view on how they are produced and where they come from.
Where have you had the best interstate dining experiences?
I visited the Hunter Valley a few weeks ago and dined at Muse Restaurant, it was one of the best experiences I have had. The dining room is beautiful and the food is just as good. The staff made me feel welcome as if I was part of their family. To have a restaurant like Muse only 2 hours outside of Sydney the valley is a must visit.
These days it’s not enough for young chefs to just be designing delectable dishes on a daily basis they’re putting their talents into other avenues specifically the tools of their trades… We’ve seen chefs input into the designing of kitchens in new venues, choosing the crockery and tableware to the music that’s played during service. Some chefs are taking it even one step further in their quest for total creative control and making their own plates and knives. Mal Meiers is one such chef and is making his own plates for his food & wine pop-ups and charity dinners. The results are fairly spectacular… But we’ll let you be the judge!
What inspired you to start making your own plates?
Initially I started making plates because I wanted to be able to create the plate I put a dish I created on.
How did you get involved with the pottery communities in Melbourne and Sydney?
I started by searching for wheel throwing courses in my local area, which lead me to do a six week course at Northcote pottery. I discovered the space was set up perfectly to practice after the initial course.
After relocating to Sydney I again searched and came across Claypool, an amazing group of experienced ceramicists in Botany. A handful of potters decided to create a space that would act as a community of like-minded creative people as much as a space due to the lack of one in Sydney.
A lot of chefs are turning their hands to creating & producing ‘tools of their trade’ why do you think this is? What are the benefits?
I think that as a chef because it allows you the opportunity to have multiple passions due to the multitude of artisan paths within a career. For some chefs it may be gardening, bread, making knives or making plates.
I think the benefits are you can have more creative freedom in some aspects, for me with my plates, I can create something for myself no one else will have. Or it allows me create something for a specific purpose like my Food + Wine pop-ups and Beyondblue charity dinners.
Where are you using the plates?
Towards the end of 2016 I made plates to use at Food for Thought, the two charity dinners I organised that took place in November 2016 to raise funds for beyondblue, (Mal raised over $19,000 for beyondblue in 2016). I also use the plates for my business the Food + Wine pop up which takes up 3-4 week residences in various locations.
Do you have a signature style?
Style? I would say more of a quirk. Yes I like making organic shaped plates so I shape my plates around different fruits and vegetables. You can take the chef out of the kitchen but not the kitchen out of the chef!
Any monumental disasters from when you started out?
Biggest disaster would probably be when I had a glaze that shrunk at a different rate to the clay I was using for a particular effect and I had to make about 120 avocado ramekins for my friends at Persillade in Melbourne to give them the 20 they wanted.
Living back in Sydney, you’ve been visiting Claypool to make your plates? What do they do and how did you get involved?
It’s just an amazing environment they are very helpful, supportive. As a business it’s more of a community. Everything is there and you meet a wide variety of potters all with different styles and everyone is open to sharing.
Any plans to take bespoke orders or are you more interested in producing for yourself?
To be honest I’m still figuring it out, I’ve only been doing a couple of years. It’s also a labour of love and I’m currently committing most of my time to Bennelong and Food for Thought besides I am so busy at the moment, I wouldn’t be have the time to fulfill orders anyway.
Interested in spinning the wheel? Mal recommends the following;
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.
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.
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…