When I was 11 years old I followed my mum to work and stepped into my first commercial kitchen: an army mess in Trentham, New Zealand. It was huge!
The massive knives and fire and noise blew me away. From that day on all I wanted to do was be in that kitchen, or any kitchen, where there was chaos, structure, excitement… and those smells!
The next important moment in my relationship with food was cooking for the first time. I was 12 years old, awkward, lonely and living in a council estate with not much to my name. But I had a purpose – to satisfy others with food.
I found a recipe for a dish called Beggars Chicken, a Chinese speciality that requires the chicken to be cooked in a salt crust with soy and a rainbow of spices. The recipe looked complicated but I didn’t care, it gave me a sense of purpose that I found comforting. My family thought I was mental.
Hours later, the final result was a hard clay parcel that opened to fill the house with the most delicious aroma. Everyone was instantly happy and hungry and the satisfied looks on my family’s faces when they ate the soft, sweet, salty chicken filled my heart with joy. That feeling has never left me.
Since then my career has been full and rewarding, it has delivered me much pleasure and bucketloads of stress. Recently, I was asked to be part of the Dark MOFO Winter Feast, a hedonistic dining experience run in conjunction with MOMA and the City of Hobart Council. I dropped everything to do it, as I knew it would be another one of those unforgettable moments. I was overjoyed when the final line up for the feast was announced: Duncan Welgemoed, Alex Herbert and myself.
We are three very different chefs with three very different stories, but share a trifecta of passions: love of nature, food and satisfying others. After thirty years of cooking I still feel I have purpose and the unquenchable desire to satisfy others with my food.