Can you tell us about your current role?
I am currently Executive Chef of Putia Restaurant and Clapham Junction. Putia Restaurant is open for breakfast and lunch as well as catering and events, Clapham Junction is a wine bar opening in the evenings. I obviously oversee.
What has been some of the highlights of this position?
The obvious highlight would be getting to work alongside Chef Dominique Rizzo, who is incredibly knowledgeable, experienced and has more energy to burn than any chef half her age. Her work ethic is truly awe inspiring and many young chefs could take a feather out of her cap with how to handle and approach the hospitality industry.
Can you tell us a bit about your career before this current position?
I studied at Christina Martin school of food and wine in Durban, South Africa, working with the likes of Ainsley Harriott etc along the way. As soon as I had qualified I moved to Cape town, the food capital of Africa, were I worked under Chef Philip Alcock, who had previously worked with Albert Roux, Marco Pierre White and as Head Chef under Raymond Blanc. I then did a a stage at Belmont Le Manior aux Quat'Sasisons in the UK, under Raymond Blanc and his head chef, Gary Jones. While there I met many young and hungry chefs who became friends and who would later become award winning chefs in their own capacity. Most notably for me was Robin Gill, currently of The Dairy, Sorella and Counter Culture. I was lucky enough to be asked to open the Diamond Club with Robin at the Emirates football stadium still under the guidance of Raymond Blanc. On returning to South Africa, I worked at a few top restaurants before opening my own place, Southpole, which soon expanded to Southpole eatery, Southpole pizzeria, and Southpole bar. Along with my business partner we were able to make a success of all the venues and shortly after the Soccer World Cup in 2010, we decided to sell as I was burnt out, looking for inspiration and I wanted to travel more as I felt I had spent all my time in a kitchen. I was approached by the multi award winning Etihad Airways, to be part of a new Inflight Chef program for first class. I was young, single and ready to experience the world. So we sold up, I packed a suitcase and moved to Abu dhabi. I worked for Etihad as a First Class in Flight Chef, serving many celebrities and dignitaries,( including royalty, sports star, actors etc ), traveling, tasting and sight seeing over 45 destinations around the globe. However the most important and influential thing that happened to me during my time there was, I was lucky enough to meet the love of my life, and now thankfully my beautiful wife, Rhea.vWe were approached to move to Fiji and work as a couple on a resort on a small island, Malolo, which in the Fijian culture means " where the sun goes to rest ". So not for the first time in my life and probably no the last, we decided to throw caution to the wind and flew down to Fiji via Australia to have a look. Well we fell in love with it and the people, we left 4 and a half years later, married with two amazing little boys.
While in Fiji, Malolo Island Resort, won many awards but the biggest and our last was the most rewarding, the Conde Nast traveler award for Number One Resort in Australia and the South Pacific.
What do you see as the biggest challenges facing the industry at the moment?
Over the last few years mental health has certainly become a huge issue with chefs. I think the pressure, the long hours, the constant scrutiny and the ridiculous macho bravado with the fear of seeming weak or incompetent are certainly leading factors to the high suicide rate amongst chefs. People need to know thats its ok to ask for help and its important to seek help.
Another issue is that a lot of the young chefs that are entering the industry are just not up to scratch regarding skill, desire or work ethic. In our fast paced and modern age, everything is handed out or given to quickly.
What do you see as a possible solution to the growing shortage of chefs?
Get chefs back into the communities and interacting. Get people off of facebook/instagram/multi media and get them into their local eatery. More human interaction, a more family environment.