What was your first job?
I had a paper run when I was 11.
What is your guiltiest food pleasure?
Reeses Peanut Butter Cups, although they really are almost unbearably sweet.
What’s the best restaurant meal you’ve ever had?
Peter Gordon took me to Tetsuya in Sydney back in 2000 and it remains the standout experience for me.
If you weren’t in kitchens, what would you do?
I think I would run a bric-a-brac shop. I love finding pre-loved treasures.
What is your biggest regret?
Oooooooooooh, I couldn’t possibly say.
Pet hate in the kitchen?
Chefs who taste with a manky spoon retrieved from their back pocket without even bothering to wash in between tastings followed by those who constantly touch their hair and face whilst working. The joy of the open kitchen.
What’s the oddest thing a customer has said to you?
"I am a chef and I can tell you that this salmon has not been smoked." This was five minutes after I fed him hot smoked salmon that had just come out of the smoker. What can you say?
What’s the dish you wish you’d thought of?
Tete de veaux.
Describe your cooking style in three words
Simple, flavourful, light.
Most overrated food?
Kidneys. Foul tasting things.
Restaurant dictator for a day – what would you ban?
Mobile bloody phones!
What’s the worst review you’ve ever had?
I think it has to be from back in my days at the Providores. Shortly after we opened Terry Durrack visited. He then wrote a review saying that fusion cuisine, the style of food Peter and I cooked, ought not to be graced with the term cuisine. Brutal.
If you could cook for anyone in the world who would you pick, and why?
It would have to be my morfar (maternal grandfather) and my Uncle Jens, both great cooks and lovers of food, who passed away before I opened The Modern Pantry.
Which single item of kitchen equipment could you not live without?
My Miele dishwasher. It gets trashed on a daily basis.
What do you cook at home on your days off?
Very simple food actually – steamed or raw vegetables with a piece of fish or meat or on their own. I use a lot of fresh turmeric, fennel seeds, garam masala and curry leaves.
What’s your earliest food memory?
Other than gulping down Weetabix before school in a bid to eat them when they were no longer too crunchy nor too soggy, Marmite and butter on Huntly and Palmers Cream Crackers, eating slabs of Colby cheese, and fighting with my brother over the top milk it would have to be eating new potatoes dug freshly from the garden by my morfar and served steamed and slathered in butter.
What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever been given?
Believe in yourself.
What’s the closest you’ve ever come to death?
I was bowled over by a massive wave whilst climbing rocks at a West Coast beach in New Zealand when I was a teenager and very nearly dragged out in the rip tide. It was terrifying.
Where do you go when you want to let your hair down?
Tipple of choice?
Our virgin coconut oil washed gin served as a martini. We use East London Liquor Company’s dry gin. It is a revelation.
What would you choose to eat for your last meal?
A meal cooked by Ravinder Bhogal. I would be happy with whatever she chose to serve me. Her food is both delicious and inspiring in equal measures.