Fresh from cooking up a lunchtime feast for hungry St Michael’s students and staff, the adventurous 30-year-old Head Chef at Dolly’s Café has taken some time out of his busy schedule to answer 18 questions.

St Michael's Grammar School

The culinary whizz discusses some of the secrets to his cooking, food representations and life outside of the kitchen. You’ll often find him pumping out spinach and ricotta rolls and tubs of gnocchi (to name a few) with a steely resolve that allows him to produce flavoursome meals that are worth ordering every time.

Starting his career straight out of high school, he’s worked at Vue De Monde alongside Shannon Bennett, Gingerboy, Ezard and Attica. Although work was difficult at times, the learning experiences were invaluable. Now he’s been at St Michael’s since March this year, and thoroughly enjoying the work-life balance and creative flexibility the School provides.

What did you have for dinner last night?

I had a chicken dosa with curry.

What place do you venture most to eat on days off?

It’s a guilty pleasure, but I love going to burger restaurants. I also really like Spud Bar, and I feel terrible going there because I can do it all myself! But it is really comforting food.

Favourite ingredient to work with?

When I trained in Asian food, everything’s seasoned with a balance of sweet, salty and sour, tamarind, ginger, fish sauce and lime juice. I really love fish sauce at the moment; it’s like using MSG without the MSG. It’s like the ultimate ‘Umami booster’, so I’ve been told.

If you won $5000 how would you spend it?

I’d probably buy a new kite surf, new harness, and a banjo.

What’s the first word that comes to your mind when you hear ‘foodie’?

I’m thinking of some food blogger now

It’s your last weekend on earth, what city are you eating in?

Tokyo or Melbourne!

If you weren’t a chef what would you be doing for a living?

Probably a photographer or a psychologist.

What did you want to be when you were growing up?

Palaeontologist

Most exotic vacation destination?

I walked Pumas for a month in Bolivia. I worked in an animal shelter, and we had five Pumas that had to be fed every day and taken for walks.

If you left Melbourne to work elsewhere where would you go?

I was close to living in Germany, but I would love to live in Italy as well.

The person you would most like to cook for?

I was discussing this with someone the other night – there’s a lot of ego in cooking. There are many chefs, while they say they’re cooking for everyone, they’re really cooking for themselves; they’re cooking for validation or cooking to prove a point. I certainly went through that phase when I was younger. But the person I would most like to cook for is my Grandad; he passed away when I was quite young.

Why?

It would be great to be able to show him where I am now and what I can do now – that would be quite nice.

Favourite TV series?

Okay, I don’t own a TV, but I do love Game of Thrones. Also, The Walking Dead.

What do you eat most at Dolly’s Café?

Probably toasties, and I quite like the spinach and ricotta rolls.

What’s the secret to your French Onion Soup?

There’s no secret, I’ve never made it before my time at St Michael’s. I Googled the recipe, got a rough idea of what I needed to do. So I guess the secret is 10 years of culinary experience! Okay okay, the real secret is getting the right amount of caramelisation on the onions.

What food represents you as a person?

I’m all about saucy, over the top food – lots going on, full of flavour.

What inspires your cooking?

At the moment I’m inspired by things I haven’t done before – I’m inspired by learning. Every time I do something now, I’m doing something I’ve never done before. I’m trying to learn about new techniques – right now I’m thinking of new things I can dehydrate!

How do you find working with children?

I haven’t had that much interaction with kids in previous jobs, but it’s nice here, occasionally integrating with the cooking class and having them cook meals that I can serve at School events.

And schools?

I was previously working in boarding schools in the UK, So when I came back to Australia around Christmas time, school work or corporate work was exactly what I was looking for – something that gave me a bit of work life balance. It also had to be an opportunity that would still allow me to be a bit more creative. I really enjoy working in schools, I don’t know why; it’s still really bizarre. I never imagined a job like this was even possible.

Samantha Yan
Marketing and Communications Coordinator