What or who inspired you to become a chef?
I was drawn to kitchen life from a very early age as I discovered my mother’s cookery books and from the age of nine, the ritual of Sunday baking was born. I just loved the process of reading through the pages choosing the recipes, getting the ingredients and finally, on Sunday a full-on day of weighing, mixing, stirring, baking and finally eating. So, when asked at school, age 14 about our career plans, I knew I was going to catering school.
What drives you to continuously create new recipes and new combinations?
Like all industries, cooking is continuously evolving, moving forward, bending to the trends from consumers, and then bending those trends further. Then there are the lobby groups, vocal on global food supply, (or lack of) overfishing, carbon footprint and the list goes on and on …..so staying on top of the game means you must have a passion to deliver food that somehow encompasses all of the above while staying true to your personal style of cooking. I just love the process of thinking out a menu or a dish, trying it out, adjusting it and then when it’s delivered, hopefully it’s just what the customer was expecting or not expecting, blowing their mind.
Is your cooking influenced by the countries you have worked in?
I would say that instinctively, it is heavily influenced by where I have been but equally by where I would like to go. Most of the times when writing a menu, I let my mind wander and reach back into memories of foods I enjoyed and combinations that work. At the end of the day you are looking to create an experience not just a plate of food. The ingredients, style of cooking and seasonings need to be in harmony with the ambiance the food is served, the season
and your perceived ex pression of what the customer is expecting. All this comes into play to ensure that the menu and the food ultimately deliver on several levels and you just hope that when the customer reads the menu and is sitting in the restaurant he looks up and intuitively gets it.
What’s the strangest thing you’ve eaten and the strangest food request you have had to deliver on?
Possibly the strangest (in taste) had to be chitterlings –in a restaurant that promotes snout to tail dining – basically a dish made with the pig’s intestines. I’ll just say this one is not for the faint hearted. Possibly the strangest request is being asked to conjure a dish with camel. Given I had never tried or tasted it, thankfully it proved to be a successful first try!
You must have kitchen gadget?
Your best cooking tip?
To get a nice crust on steak or fish always start with a smoking hot pan and make sure the fish or steak has been patted dry.
A childhood meal you still recreate or enjoy?
The great Maltese seasonal dish of steamed artichokes with olives, new potatoes, tuna, capers, garlic and tomatoes with a great olive oil, I just find that this dish takes me back to fond childhood memories of my mother’s cooking.
Perfect dinner party menu?
Simple quality tapas and meze style foods that require minimal last minute cooking and fussing giving you more time to entertain, eat, drink, relax and enjoy the company you are with. That’s what it’s all about really.
Unfortunately I have a sweet tooth so show me a pudding and I’ll show you an empty plate.