The chef makes his debut in Sydney's CBD at a new restaurant on York Street.
What attracted you to the role at Lot.1? It was a no brainer for me – becoming executive chef of a three level restaurant in the heart of Sydney’s CBD that is devoted to the traditional Italian style food that I grew up on was too good to pass up. This, teamed with the amazingly passionate team of people that have given me creative direction of the menu, had my fingers twitching to get into the kitchen. It’s a chance to showcase my ability to the Sydney food scene.
Can you describe what customers can expect at the new eatery? They can expect something different; something Sydney hasn’t seen before. A new social way of dining, where you have impeccable food and service, sharing style menu and the luxury of time to sit, relax and enjoy the food as if you were in your home.
How do you feel about leaving Adelaide, where you made your mark at Zucca? Zucca is still alive and kicking. I don’t view this move as leaving something behind but rather expanding into an exciting new market.
What do you enjoy about your TV work? Shooting my TV show and appearing as a guest on other shows is a dream come true for me. I get to reach an audience larger than any restaurant would allow. I am extremely passionate about sharing with people from all walks of life what food is to me and how to pick fresh ingredients and make healthy, exciting food every day in creative tasty ways.
What are the challenges of operating in front of a camera rather than in a kitchen? When I’m in my own kitchen I work at quite a fast pace; many of my dishes are second nature to me so I can go into a type of trance. When I’m in front of camera it’s all about letting the audience in on the details, helping them understand each ingredient, measurement and technique. It’s sometimes refreshing to deconstruct my recipes in this way but I do forget to look at the camera as I get swept up in the food and am constantly being told to remember where I am.
You have become strongly associated with pasta – is pasta here to stay? I think pasta is inspirational as it is a great base to work off; pasta is a very traditional form of food that is met with modern prestige. Pasta is classic, it’s comforting and delicious so I don’t think people will ever stop eating it. It is always a part of my menus along with a variety of other traditional choices so the customers have plenty to try!
How did your upbringing influence your cooking style and interests? My upbringing introduced me to my passion for food. I was taught classic recipes from my Nonna and many of my fondest childhood memories were in the kitchen or helping with my family's cheese business. No matter how much I learn in the professional culinary world, I will always draw on my Nonna’s tips and tricks to bring something different to the table.
What ambitions do you have? I have so many great things going on this year with Lot.1 Sydney opening, my TV show going live and a cookbook – I am going to continue in this direction. My ambition is to continue working hard so I can spread my passion for food in the way it speaks to me.
Who or what inspires you? Mostly I am inspired by my family. My wife and children constantly challenge me with my cooking – they are my harshest critics. My Nonna, however, is always in my heart when I cook – this is probably the strongest inspiration I have, knowing I am doing her teachings justice. I also gain inspiration from customers; the challenge of presenting a meal that will impress them whilst taking them down memory lane always drives me to create and push my dishes to the next level.
Which chefs are you excited by? Chefs that I admire are apprentices: watching them go through the hard yards and learning to eventually (and hopefully) be known for what they do inspires me and always brings me back to my roots. Teaching them my secrets and watching them develop new and exciting ideas is very satisfying.
Where do you want to eat? It’s difficult to say, but I can’t steer away from my favourite place… home.