Clint Peloso

I was doing an arts degree at university but wasn’t enjoying it, so I picked up some kitchenhand work while I was figuring out what I wanted to do. As I got to hang out with more chefs and nestle into the industry, I really enjoyed the lifestyle and the fast pace, so I thought I’d do it properly.

My first job at age 21 was at a little French bistro in Richmond called Noir and then I went to Woodland House for a brief stint. It was long hours and quite an aggressive kitchen, so I moved to Jerry Mai’s Annam to try out something a little bit different. I learned a lot about South- East Asian flavours and cooking on the woks. It really pushed me outside my comfort zone which was the purpose.

Jerry could see my enthusiasm and willingness to learn, so she really took me under her wing and spent time helping me develop an understanding of flavours and ingredients that I hadn’t heard of at the time.

When Covid hit, I moved back to regional Victoria and stayed there [during lockdown] which was for the best because things in Melbourne were dire. I’ve moved back now everything’s opened up and am working at Bellota Wine Bar.

It’s a very small team, and I’m lucky to work under Nicky Riemer [head chef] who’s been in the industry for a very long time. She really has her stamp on the menu, but we collaborate on specials. There’s 30 years between us; she brings classic butchery techniques that have been lost in my generation of chefs and I bring in newer cooking styles.

We’ve got a roasted spatchcock with parsnip purée, charred onion and jus gras, which is a classic French dish I put on the menu. I think it’s the kind of input I bring because [I was] classically trained during my apprenticeship. I’m back to cooking more European flavours now, but knowing how to balance acidity, sweetness and savoury is useful and a credit to my time cooking South-East Asian food.

Part of the reason I took this job in the first place was because I really wanted to learn more about wine. We do a lot of wine dinners, and it’s given me the opportunity to look at the menu and be able to create food around it as opposed to expecting the sommelier or the front-of-house team to make pairings.

I’m in my late 20s and am in a senior role, but it’s nice to keep learning from other people. No matter what position you have in the kitchen, the hard work never ends and you should always be open to learning new things.