My interest in hospitality started when my mother took me to a restaurant when I was seven or eight. They made Caesar salad tableside and I had never seen anything like it, I was just amazed. My grandfather also owned and ran a restaurant, so I suppose it’s in my blood.
When I first came to Australia from Vancouver, Canada, I worked at Glass Brasserie, Tetsuya’s Restaurant, and Bells at Killcare. These kinds of venues didn’t really exist where I was from and they opened my eyes to how food and service should be — fun, eclectic, and exciting.
At Glass, I learned you could set a great standard while pushing big covers. The simple yet precise techniques stood out to me the most at Tetsuya’s. You can’t hide anything there — if it’s a millimetre short, it will show. At Bells with Stefano Manfredi, I again learned simplicity is always king. These roles influenced my cooking in the sense of — while it sounds very cliché — letting the ingredients speak for themselves. I learned to keep food simple, tasty, heartwarming, and honest, but to also push it visually as you need to stand out somehow.
I suppose fate led me to Andrew Becher and working across Franca and Parlar. When I came back to Australia after a two-year stint in Germany, I said to myself, ‘No more fine dining and no more working long hours’. The plan was to either join a very well-established restaurant or to try and make a name for myself.
After responding to a Seek ad, I interviewed with Andrew and General Manager Alex Cameron and I loved the vision they had — they wanted to be different and so did I. That and the challenge of starting from ground zero is what attracted me to joining their team.
Franca is a French brasserie with strong Mediterranean influences where you can have a three-course meal where sharing isn’t necessary. Parlar is much more intimate and is more on the fine-dining side of service. It’s heavily based on Catalan flavours utilising premium Australian ingredients.
Armorica is our interpretation of a grand brasserie. It’s heavily French-influenced with a large menu for sharing. The aim is for it to be an ‘everyday’ restaurant where you can have a pasta, enjoy a burger for lunch, have steak frites for dinner, or visit with a big group and have them all.
The most popular dish is the steak frites, and we pride ourselves on using five different cuts of beef. You can have a very nice, entry-level rump cap or treat yourself with a Blackmore Wagyu or a Stone Axe full-blood Wagyu that comes with your choice of béarnaise, mushroom sauce, or bone marrow butter. The crab cakes are also popular.
Head Chef Julian Smith and I are both from Canada and we love our crab cakes back home, so it only makes sense for us to serve it. But for me personally, my true favourite is foie gras. Whenever I go to France, I always overindulge on foie gras. It is just quintessential. You will never find foie gras better than in France and having it here is truly special.
I find I am influenced by so much at any given time with my cooking. An idea comes to me, and my next thought is which venue it belongs to. I don’t really force anything, everything must make sense and have purpose with the hope that it translates to our guests. If it doesn’t, it’s back to the drawing board.
I really enjoy the madness that a kitchen — or three — brings. There’s something about feeling like you’re never going to make it for service, but everything works out just fine. However, it is incredibly tough to stay in touch with the day-to-day operations across three venues.
Any chef can attest to the fact that a lot can change in an hour, which is why having not only a strong team but one you can trust is important. I am very thankful to my teams across each venue who are always eager to assist in developing new ideas to help the restaurant thrive.
We all believe we reflect each other to an extent, and we only have one goal: to do our jobs well. 2023 is very much a work-in-progress for me. My goal is to make Parlar and Armorica well-oiled machines just like their older brother Franca. I want to further nurture our teams and focus on education and growth for all members of the kitchen, plus work on revitalising our menus and pushing on for another successful year.