’s culinary career began more by chance than anything else – when he was a 14-year old dish washer in Bel on the Green, a gourmet restaurant in his hometown of Devizes in Wiltshire, England. He found his destiny when one of the chefs roped him in to chop herbs. To cooking is a vocation with the ingredients passion, pleasure and love. Love of food, and of old traditional preparation techniques,mixed with new ideas and approaches. Following positions at Claridge’s in London and with star chefs like Peter Gordon and Emanuel Renaut, in 1999 headsfor Australia and soon becomes head chef in Vue de Monde at Shannon Bennett. Countless prizes follow – including the election of Vue de Monde as Best Restaurant of the Year in Australia, the famous French Restaurant Award by The Age Good Food Guide, and a ranking in the Top 50 of the World’s Best Restaurants. becomes one of the “Jeunes Restaurateurs d’Europe” with three chef’s hats.
We asked a few questions about the move, his career and partnership with Gaggenau…
At the beginning of the year you moved with your Tippling Club from Dempsey Hill to the central business district in the city centre. Do regular guests find their old familiar Tippling Club there? Which ideas and concepts have you kept on, and what has changed?
We have kept the concept of the dinners and cocktails, however, there’s more passion now, as I’ve finally found my dream restaurant in a perfect location. Guests were congratulatory about the move – the restaurant is more or less fully booked six days of the week. In the new central location, the Tippling Club now serves lunches from Mondays to Fridays, so we’ve become one of the district’s most sought-after restaurants for lunch dates. In my opinion though, we stand out from other restaurants with our design in the typical Tippling Club look. With the move, we discardedthe industrial charm and opted for softer finishes and fresh green shades as a homage to our old jungle surroundings.
International food critics consider your Tippling Club to be a prized insider tip for gourmets and you are regarded as a pioneer in the Asian avant-garde culinary scene. So everyone now expects you to be even more successful at the new premises. What are you aiming for?
It’s nice to receive awards, but personally, it’s something I never really think about too much. I prefer to keep both feet on the ground and work on developing my cuisine and cocktails to ensure that we stay up front. For me, it’s important to break new ground and create new taste experiences. And if we win awards in the process, then all the better!
You have been Gaggenau’s brand ambassador since 2010. How did the cooperation actually come about?
In 2010 I was asked if I’d like to be a brand ambassador. I think that Gaggenau and the Tippling Club are cut from the same cloth and pursue similar goals in all we do.We stand for quality, precision and passion. It’s quite simple really, everything we do is aimed at creating a uniquely luxurious experience.
You started washing dishes at the age of fourteen. Then you systematically planned your way to Haute Cuisine. What is harder – to arrive at the top or to stay there and continually exceed expectations?
To be totally honest – they are both hard, you spend your whole career sweating blood and getting insulted. Then when you reach the top it doesn’t get any easier, on the contrary it gets harder! Just the abuse turns to praise from your guests and peers, but I wouldn’t want it any other way!
You are considered to pay special attention to every single detail as well as being a person who is an open-minded lateral thinker. When and why did you start to develop your own style of cooking?
I started to develop my own style in about 2001, when I started work at Vue de Monde in Melbourne as head chef. This was my first time as head chef and it gave me an amazing opportunity to have total freedom to put and create whatever I wanted on a plate, the restaurant became the number one in Australia for many years and it was then that I realised my own personal style worked, now I just keep pushing my imagination to stay as original as possible and always one step ahead.
Do you remember your favourite childhood dish? What’s your personal favourite today?
It’s got to be my mum’s leek and potato soup, she used to make it for me on cold rainy days and it was always a hit with my mates who would sometimes turn up at my home, not to see me but to get some of my mum’s soup as well. But now living in Singapore its never cold anymore, so my favourite meal now is Singapore chilli crab, its so addictive and not as spicy as you would think. My favourite place to have this dish is at Long Beach, Dempsey Hill.
Like most top chefs, you are a workaholic with very little time for relaxation. What is your recipe for slowing down, recovering and refuelling new energy?
Basically fishing. Whenever I’m in a boat on the water with the fishing rod in my hand concentrating on catching fish, I’m totally relaxed, and at the end of the day in a Zen-like state, I feel totally re-energized to start the week again and let my creative juices flow freely.