The Canberra food scene is forever evolving and the annual Good Food Month is an opportunity to try something new.
Eight of Canberra’s restaurants made the hatted 2019 Good Food list and this year’s festival will not only celebrate our food scene and its people but is also sure to have everyone salivating at each event on offer.
Canberra’s Good Food Month kicks off on the 1st of March, and one of the events we are most looking forward to is the Young Chefs Lunch presented by Citi on March 17th.
Under the watchful eye of two hatted restaurant Aubergine’s head chef and owner, Ben Willis; four young chefs are given the opportunity to show their passion for the industry through their food.
The event consists of a sit-down 4 course lunch paired with wines. The menu is yet to be announced, with the Young Chef’s working through their dishes to ensure that they not only highlight their skills, but that the dishes are enjoyed by diners as a curated and paired menu.
Selected to participate in this year’s line-up are Sun Hwa Jang (Aubergine), Barry Burger (Pilot), Noora Heiska (XO) and Eddie Tsai (The Boathouse) who all call Canberra home.
We asked Ben about the event and his role as mentor.
How do you choose the young chefs chosen to be part of the Young Chefs lunch?
The young chefs are chosen based on reputation within the industry. They are the chefs behind the chef. The ones who are putting some great ideas forward but probably not getting recognition outside of the kitchen for it. These are the chefs who you also see potential in for them to step out and open up their own place as they’re just so dedicated to what they do and that next step wouldn’t be a surprise to those that know them or work with them. Those people stand out and in a small town, and you hear about them.
What can diners expect from the Young Chefs menu this year?
Good question as I don’t yet know. You want to give them as much time to gather ideas, test, rethink and hone their dishes so that they are comfortable and confident serving it. I ask that they don’t follow the style of the restaurant that they work in, but that they cook a dish that they would serve if they had their own restaurant. It’s a huge developmental step for a chef to put themselves up for critique.
Are the chefs working together to create dishes that harmonise or will they each be adding their own culinary style to the menu?
They’ll each bring their own style. It’s hoped that the menu will be cohesive but that’s not really the point and they don’t know each other or cook together so it is just luck if it does. I hope we see diversity in the dishes they put out as I’d like to see them take some risks and not play it safe, but push themselves creatively to step away from what is expected.
Will the chefs be using any unusual or local ingredients?
If that is in their ethos then I’m sure they will go down that path but again I give them no real instruction as I want to see what they come up with and how they think and I’m sure that’s what the guests will be looking for too.
In your role as a mentor, what is the one tip you would give to others looking at entering the industry?
It’s an awesome industry and so much opportunity to shape your career to what and how you want it to be. One tip is hard so I’ll give a few.
Find a place that offers something that you would like to learn and stick with it. Do the best you can and push yourself to continue to learn and do better every day. Take responsibility for your own education and develop skills that you aren’t getting from your employer. They have a business and you have a career to build, sometimes they don’t go hand in hand and that’s neither sides fault.
Professionalism and pride in your craft doesn’t require a level to aspire to. Some people think that you need to work in fine dining establishments to be a great chef. You can be the best pizza chef, the best burger chef, whatever it is as long as you want to be there and care about what the customers are coming to see you for and you will become well known for that. I started my career cooking deep fried food at a club but I loved it and learnt so much from it and I use some of those skills regularly in my businesses.
We’d love to know where you and the young chefs eat when you’re not working. Do like to try new places in Canberra or other cities?
The Young Chefs lunch is truly an opportunity to see future masters at work. To see their thought processes, ideas and vision on a plate. Tickets are available from the Good Food website.
Things to note
Date: Sunday 17 March
Time: 12:30pm – 3:00pm
Venue: Aubergine, 18 Barker Street, Griffith
Price: $150 + transaction fee (Ticket includes: Four course sit-down lunch with matched wines)
This event is strictly 18+