Why I became a Chef?

(01 /05 /2014)

I have been asked many times why I became a Chef. I still remember the day I walked out of the school grounds wondering ‘what am I going to do’? At the time I was involved in the navy cadet movement in Melbourne and as a part of this you stayed on a base over some weekends and had to spend time in the mess hall cooking. There I mastered the art of making corned beef. I really enjoyed those times but the transition into the real world would be a real eye opener. I started the journey at the Cuckoo Restaurant in the Dandenongs. It was a interesting place with a colourful array of people. It was here I was introduced to the long and gruelling hours of this industry.

I managed to secure an apprenticeship, after many weeks of pestering and almost camping out side, at the Windsor Hotel in Spring Street, Melbourne. I still recall my first task – being left in a dark corner of the kitchen with five boxes of pumpkins!  The hard skinned variety!  In hand, the bluntest knife you could imagine. My apprenticeship was hard, but it was here I had the opportunity to learn my trade under the guidance of some truly talented chefs, especially Manfred Lipold.

The Windsor Hotel was five star and attention to detail had to be exceptional. We worked in a high pressure, high quality and fast moving environment where failure wasn’t an option.   On weekend mornings, the apprentices were rostered to run the kitchen.  This meant that after long nights of service on Fridays and Saturdays we would have to front up the next morning and do the breakfast shift, where at the time we were catering for 200 guests plus room service.  You counted yourself lucky if you were the one hiding in the pastry section making mountains of strawberry or chocolate mousse!

Over the years I have worked as Head Chef and then in my own place where I feel I learnt the hardest lesson… Failure.  As you know, my own restaurant failure is the reason why I am so passionate about helping others stay in business.  If sharing my experiences with just one person makes a difference then I will have turned my failure into a success!

Over the following years I set out to understand this industry and what makes it tick and understand the difficulties it throws at us. With this knowledge I aim to make a difference to others.  So to answer the question – why did I become a chef?  I don’t know, but I believe it was fate.

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