Let’s start at the beginning – where did your love for food stem from?
My mum was a pastry chef so I’ve been around food my whole life and pretty much grew up in the kitchen. So the love that I have for food was really engrained in me from a very young age.
After working at some notable restaurants around town (including The Fish House and Hellenika) as well as overseas, you were recently been appointed head chef of Nineteen at The Star and oversaw its highly anticipated opening. What do you love most about the venue?
Hands down, it would have to be the kitchen. It’s been a really amazing experience being granted the opportunity to help design the kitchen space. In doing so, I spent a lot of time making sure it wasn’t like a normal, sterile, hidden away space. Instead it’s front of house and is a warm, open environment, fit out with marble benches and personality. Exactly what you want when you’re spending 80-90 hours per week in the one area!
Tell us a little more about your vision for Nineteen at The Star and what diners (who are yet to experience it) can expect?
We’re a produce-driven restaurant. We fly our seafood in fresh from around Australia every day and use only the best quality produce. We also pride ourselves on the two terms –elegance and purity. The elegance is driven from our food being fresh and light, which means you can enjoy a three course meal and still feel good when you walk out. The purity stems from keeping produce at its purest form and not messing around with it or overcomplicating it too much.
With the coast’s dining scene going from strength to strength, what’s your approach to ensuring your menus are continually enticing and engaging to diners?
We’re the only restaurant on the coast that’s doing this particular style of food. We’d like to think that we’re setting the standard high and sticking to it. We have great relationships with the best suppliers to ensure that we can deliver the best quality foods available. We print our menu daily as the proteins can change due to availability, but we ensure that the integrity of the meal always stays the same.
Where do you draw inspiration for your dishes?
Simon (Gloftis) and I work very closely when it comes to thinking up new dishes. We have an idea and then we brainstorm the flavours that will work best with the dish. We then trial it, pick it apart, focus on the best elements and go from there. We come up with different dishes daily, only 20 per cent of the food we like hits the menu until we can perfect it. Some dishes we’ll make 100 times to get it just right.
What are your favourite ingredients to work with at the moment?
I’ve always loved using olive oil. We use one from ALTO Olives in Canberra, as we love to use Australian produce and it’s one of the best in the market right now. Using a great quality olive oil adds such depth and spice to a dish. I also love cooking with verjuice because it adds the perfect flavour of sweetness to food, rather than making it sour or bitter like wine can tend to do.
What are three things we’d always find in your fridge at home?
Nothing! I literally eat and live at work. If I have the day off I will spend it out or go eat at my family’s house.
Only a Gold Coast local would know … Fire Cue does a Taco Tuesday deal with the best hand-pressed tacos you can find.
Finally, what’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever received?
Not everything’s a competition. Don’t try and be better than everyone else, just be the best that you can be.
FAVOURITE WEEKEND SPOT TO:
Perk up … The Yard Cafe
Relax … Nobby Beach
Dine … Lupo in Mermaid Beach
Indulge … Hellenika