Life as a chef!

I am a chef of nearly 20 years experience.

When young kids ask me if they should take up cooking as a profession, I honestly and whole heartedly tell them “don’t do it, there is a better way to earn a living”

Before I go on, I must explain something first.

For me, cooking was and still is a vey strong passion.  I love every thing about my job, about my passion.  It has taken me to so many countries that I would never have thought of visiting.  I have seen places that has opened my eyes and mind.  It has broaden my outlook on life and has strongly moulded me into the person I am today and I am proud of the person I have become because of these experiences, a hard worker, appreciative of the small things and knows the values of opportunities, no matter how minuscule they are.  I have met people who I now call a friend and I have learnt from these people, good and bad and I believe that it is through meeting people in general that life’s mysteries unfolds itself and becomes a little less overwhelming, a little less a mystifying, a little less frightening and becomes a lot more enjoyable and I wake up every day a little more inquisitive about what life lessons I will.

Seriously, thats what cooking has done for me.  I left Australia for my first long stay abroad young and innocent.  I was a little naive and thought England was something out of “a little house on the prairie”, a back yard country with rolling green hills filled with people with funny accents.  When I arrived I was, as you can imagine, in a huge culture shock.  It was the most exciting, fast paced, bright lit city or place I had ever seen.  Sydney was the only other big city I had been to prior to this stage of my young life but this place, England was something else.

Once over the initial shock, it fueled my curiosity on many things and I mean many things, lets face it, I was very young, in a foreign but English speaking country, what would you expect a young man traveling with like minded young mates be doing, especially without adult supervision?

But I digress so back to my point; I have been cooking for almost over 20 years.

In that time, I lived the life of your typical, old fashioned kitchen up bringing.

Manual labour that consisted of fifty plus hours a week (if I was lucky) but usually it would be around sixty plus with most weeks being a six day week.  My days off would be on the opposite sides of those six day weeks meaning, I worked twelve days straight, back to back shifts.  Back then the shifts were called splits, which meant you could have a break in between two shifts in a one day, but there was so much work to do and in the fear of letting any one down and especially your team, you worked through your split, for no extra pay of course.  I did it because of the “passion” and as I have mentioned, because you didn’t want to let the team or the “line” down.  We were “line” chefs, which had many meanings but for me trying to make a mark in my career at the time, I had envisaged the “line” as  a heavy rope which was hot and cumbersome to hold, slippery at times and got heavier as time went on in the shift, with all the chefs holding their part of the rope, keeping it suspend for the whole shift.  No matter how hot, how uncomfortable you get, whether you cut your little pinky nail clean off, didn’t order your foi gras or forgot your sauce and burnt it on the stove, regardless of how bad your day was or if you broke up with your girlfriend or if the chef just gave you an absolute bullocking in front of the other chefs, you still had to be present and hold your end of that heavy rope because you know that if you failed or gave up, that rope would fall to the ground and every one on the line would fail.  You held that line up from seven in the morning when you get in until one in the morning when you just finished scrubbing the burners which cooked over three hundred meals for the day

A French chef shouting French abuse in one ear, another chef calling out orders in the other, docket machines printing out a train of dockets one after the other whilst trying to plate up and look over five or more things cooking away in the oven or the targa top, sweating in fourty plus degree cooking lines, other chefs calling you away on dockets, burning your self everyone time you  open the deck oven whilst trying to nurse the cut that should have been stitched up from the night before.  Kitchen hands not giving you the pans fast enough which causes you to misfire a call away docket, a wait staff dropping the meal or worse yet, sending you the wrong order and not realising it until it was fired, cooked and on the pass.  Your saute section missing a call which makes you re-fire that docket and placing the docket behind it late, putting the grill section out and now chef is red in face shouting French abuse once again in your one ear and grill chef ready to stab you in the face.

You do all this hung over at the beginning of he day because you drank so hard the night before either in celebration of another service survived or to try and forget about all the bad things your body and mind encountered.  You’re light headed all day and caffeined up to stay awake, your back aches so much that parts of your limbs are numb and you have pins and needles on the tips of your fingers all day, every day. Your knees and hips, well by the end of the shift it would feel like how I would imagine a ninety year old, ex grid iron player’s knees would feel like, creaky, crunchy and doesn’t seem to fully straighten up any more for some reason.  Your feet hurt so much that it feels like its burning most of the time and when you peel your socks off at the end of the day, sometimes a nice long strand of moist skin comes off with your socks.  Your arms are full of spot burns that people mistake you for a drug addict and so many cuts up your arms and fingers that strangers ask you if you are ok because they think you’re trying to injure your self.  Alcohol seems to take the edge off and theres not a night when alcohol soon becomes your sleeping pill, an agent that makes you forget and gives you no recollection of the night before and allows you to come back the next day.

At the end of it, I was lucky in many ways, hard work it seems, paid off.  I have been fortunate enough to land a few jobs which taught me more about my field and more about how to run a business.  It has taught me to engage people in a professional manner, and as time has gone by, I believe I have become a good mentor, trainer and manager.  Hard work, dedication, drive, commitment and passion has rewarded me with a good position.

Now come my point to all this ranting and raving.

Then on the other hand, a person goes on a reality cooking show, spend six months on the air after that, the cook book deal, the sponsorship, the TV shows, the restaurants.  Good on them, well done, happy for you, I truly am, if you’re lucky enough to one of those people, take it and run, I would!

What I am worried about is the day and age we are living in.  In this monkey see, monkey do world, young people of today see these things happening before their eyes and think that this is reality.

Cooking is hard enough and I thought my tougher days were over but I find myself working harder.  No chef is worth anything with out a great team behind him or her.  Without a team, that chef’s vision doesn’t hit the plate there fore close your restaurant doors.

Young wanna be chefs coming out of cooking school have now got a notion of “I’ll cook for a little while, then I’ll get my own cooking show, become famous, earn ridiculous amounts of money and retire at twenty five” or  they have a notion that this industry is easy, I mean, look at these house wives, they weren’t even professionally trained and they’re filthy rich!

More and more I see things changing.  People entering the industry don’t have that commitment any more, they don’t want to do the hard yards, the long hours and time away from the social lives.  Shifts are getting shorter and that passion doesn’t seem to exist any more.  I used to be surrounded by curious minds and people who practice religiously to try and perfect their art, but instead, Google is teaching them how to cook and that’s also sad for many reasons because for one, cook books are fast becoming a thing of the past.  I remember waking up with cook books all over my bed, having fallen asleep reading and being taken away by the food photography, feeding my inspiration, fueling my drive to learn and my eagerness to get back into the kitchen.

There is no discipline anymore, you just can’t discipline people these days because you have to be careful in the workplace because there are more rules to protect workers in the workforce now.  Shouting orders at a chef may be interpreted as bullying.  You cut your self not with a knife but a paper cut, you get the rest of the day.  Any more than a certain amount of hours and you must take a break with every shift consisting of eight hours like clock work.  Sickies are easy and there is no ownership any more, “who cares if I let the team down today, I’ll still have a job tomorrow!” and no one pays attention to the people who want to make a mark on their careers and are left holding of that person’s end of the “line” up and their own.

Technology, the age we live in!  People expect to be super chefs now! Today! Right this minute!

People don’t expect to work hard any more and common sense just simply does not exist, it hardly exists and you just have to look at some one for one second to figure that out by one second of observation on how they hold them selves.  Just like Google which gives you the answers instantaneously, people have an expectation that to become a good chef, they truly believe it happens over night, and just like reality cooking shows, you wont need to spend countless hours on a bench or hot cook’s line to become a successful chef

In closing I’ll exemplify my point.

A young student straight out of college successfully applied for eight weeks work experience at one of the kitchen I managed in the past.  After the first week, he came up to me and asked I we could speak in private in which we did and he proceeded to to say that he would like to resign from his work experience and finish early.  When asked why, he simply and calmly said, “because I am going to get job like yours”.  “Like mine I replied?”  I thought he must have meant like a cooking and when I asked for clarification he said “no, like a head chef”.  A kid, straight out of cooking college!

Usually I would let things go, observe and learn but too many times recently I have observed these things far too often.

Is this the trend?  Is this what technology is doing to us, making us lazy? Or is it reality TV shows? or is it something else?

What do you think?  Am I over exaggerating?

I hope that one day I will find a diamond in the rough.  A young kid, eager to learn at no expense and have no expectations, a blank canvass.  Young, enthusiastic people who harness the opportunity to further their learning and to have that genuine passion for cooking.  I hope that these young people still exist.  For these people, I suggest you follow your dreams.  Find some one who will mentor you and teach you and you will do well.

In the mean time, if you ask me “would I become a chef if I had the chance all over again?” I would say no, not in this day and age.

Producer Profile – Tobalong Tomatoes

Sumptuous Magazine

Producer Profile

Food Safari – Filipino Food

Food Safari – Filipino Food

Smoked Salmon, Parmesan Filo Wafers

Photo by Joanna Sellick

Photo by Joanna Sellick

Not many words to say here really!

In Adelaide, summer is in full flight and eating gets a little harder!

No one wants “difficult” especially when it’s hot out, people just want “easy” and this recipe is simple, tasty and appetising on a hot Australian summer day.

The use of the filo here is add texture and flavour of parmesan wafers, slightly cramelised and crispy with a slight salty flavour.  The honey counter balances the salt nicely and the cucumber cleans the palate so you can experience the next mouthful cleanly.

This filo wafer can also be used on cheese boards, just add an extra layer or two.  If you change the filo to puff pastry, cut it in long strips and twist it for bread sticks and eat it it with Parma ham and rock melon for a nice summer snack.

Smoked Salmon, Parmesan Filo, Cucumber & Cress Salad, Yoghurt Dressing

Serves 6

720gr Smoked Salmon

15 Sheets of Filo Pastry

150gr Melted Butter

150gr Parmesan Cheese

1tspn Aniseed – toasted on dry pan, slightly ground

1tsp Fennel Seeds – toasted on dry pan, slightly ground

1tsp Cumin Seed – toasted on dry pan, slightly ground

250ml Greek Yoghurt

100ml Creme Fraiche

1tbsp Honey

250gr Watercress – washed, long stems picked off

1 Cucumber

EVOO (Extra Virgin Olive Oil)


For the filo wafers

  1. Turn the oven on at 180 degrees Celsius
  2. On a clean bench, spread out the one layer of filo pastry
  3. Brush the pastry completely with melted butter using a pastry brush
  4. Micro plane the parmesan cheese until a thin layer completely covers the surface of the filo
  5. Place another layer of filo on top of this, comepltely covering the first layer
  6. Repeat this process on the new layer of filo
  7. On the top of the third layer, brush with melted butter until completely covered, then sprinkle a little of each of the aniseed, fennel seed and cumin seed, evenly
  8. Place on a buttered roasting pan and bake for 8-10 minutes or until golden brown and crispy.  It should come out in sheets, break it into smaller wafers ready for service

For the Dressing

  1. Place the yogurt, creme fraiche and honey in a bowl and mix well with a rubber spatula
  2. Taste for balance and see if needs extra honey.  Should be honey sweet, no sweeter!

For the Cucumber

  1. Cut the ends off the cucumber the cut it in half so you end up with two even lengths
  2. Using a mandolin, slice the cucumber lengthways until you hit the seeds, then stop slicing (do not slice into the seeds, it juices out to much and does not hold it’s shape)
  3. Stack the cucumber neatly, one on top of each other as they come out of the mandolin
  4. Finely slice the cucumber across the length, ending up with match stick like batons of cucumber

Plate up

  1. You are going to layer the ingredients starting with a layer of filo wafer on the bottom
  2. Followed by a layer of slightly folded salmon (for height)
  3. Then some water cress
  4. Then a dollop of dressing
  5. Then another layer of filo wafer
  6. Another layer of salmon
  7. Then dressing and finally, the cucumber match sticks for garnish
  8. EVOO around the plate

Queenstown, New Zealand

If God created a place for all his children so that they can run, play and marvel at pure, awesome beauty, then that place would have to be Queenstown.

View from Mt Remarkables

View from Mt Remarkables

I think I am at home in the cold, surrounded by snow capped, jagged edged mountains that touch the clouds.  I think I am at home in a place surrounded by tall pine trees, so thick and dense that the colour green places my heart and mind at ease.  I think I am at home beside the wide and vast lakes that make it seem you are at sea when you look into it, with it’s dark blue clear waters that stretch on for miles, disappearing behind the mountains that frames every view of the city.

Queenstown City Centre

Queenstown City Centre

I love Vancouver, the place where I first fell in love with snow capped mountains and the deep dark waters of the lakes in and around it.  It seemed peaceful and the people seemed to be so relaxed.  The views are breath taking and I can remember thinking that I never wanted to leave the place.  Switzerland was the other place close fitting to this scenery.


Queenstown is much the same and I never thought I would say this, but I think it’s more breath taking than Vancouver!  I’m sorry BC, I still love you but man Queenstown is something else.

On the plane ride in, I was swept away by the views.  We flew in on a dreary day, over cast and from the onset, it looked dark and cold.  The plane, upon its decent felt like a feather falling from the sky, swaying from side to side, dipping, diving and suddenly dropping.  It was a plane landing where I seriously thought might not end  like traditional plane landings but we managed to land safely, some how!

As soon as you get out of the plane and onto the tar mac, you are first reminded of how cold this place is then, as soon as you look around to get your bearings, you are swept away by the beauty all around you.  The colour blue, green, white surrounds you.  And the air, it’s noticeably fresh, clean and so refreshing.

On my first day there, I checked into the Hilton Queenstown.  Right on the foot steps of the Remarkables, which are the snow capped mountains that stand as the back drop to Queenstown and one of the ski hills frequented by the ski bunnies in winter.

The Hilton is about 15 minutes drive from Queenstown city centre but don’t let that discourage you.  So long as you have a car (which is pretty cheap to hire and a necessity if you want to sight see), then every thing is quite easy to get to.

View from the room

View from the room

Hilton Queenstown is on the banks of the lake Wakatipu and it is by far one of the most beautiful hotels I have stayed in and believe me, having worked for many brands of hotels for most of my career, I’ve seen my fair share.  The location is prime, with clear views of the town from all angles.  The mountains are so close you can almost touch them and you can walk right down to the lakes edge and look into Queenstown in the distance.

The hotel is laid out much like a ski lodge.  The building is not tall, which is great because it doesn’t spoil the view and the rooms it self are fantastic.  With twin basins and deep baths in the bath rooms, right through to the open fire place.  The room I was in had double balcony’s with a flat screen TV that swings around to all angles, allowing you to watch it from bed.

The hotel’s amenities are fantastic, particularly the bar where you can enjoy your beer and meal by the huge open fire or the out door deck surrounded by the scenery or simply at the bar being entertained by the superb hospitality of the Hilton bar staff.

Completing the experience were the wonderful staff that worked there.  Every one was helpful and suggested so many activities, locations to visit and places of interest and the concierge team and Nathan in particular were truly amazing.  He organized tours and bookings and showed us places I would other wise never thought of.  In short, this hotel is by far the best I have stayed in; service was great, location amazing and the rooms were definitely five star.

Inside the room, complete with open fire

Inside the room, complete with open fire

In the five days I was In Queenstown, I enjoyed so many things that this fabulous town offered.  Firstly, to enjoy this town, you must get a car.  I got a small but new Holden Barina, great to drive and great on petrol.

There are really only two ways to go, left or right.  You sort of do a loop to Wanaka and back.  From Queenstown, I drove to Cromwell, from Cromwell to Wanaka and then from Wanaka to Arrowtown and back to Queenstown.

On this tour I stopped of at a few wineries in Gibbston Valley, one being Wild Earth.  Placed close to the rapids just outside of Cromwell, this little place is a gem.  Their pinots are amazing and I must say, one of he best I have tasted in a while.  I stopped there to also taste their intriguing food.  It is a tasting platter, complete with matching wines.  What is intriguing about this food is that everything is cooked in converted old wine barrels to give a unique flavour to the food.  Quentin, the chef and proprietor of the place, came up with this way of cooking and it was rather interesting to say the least.  I was fascinated at how they presented their food, on small slabs cut from old wine barrels and the wine flight was also served in the a small part of a wine barrel.  This food presentation was something I will definitely look into, I thought it was very clever and appealing.

Entrance to Wild Earth Winery

Entrance to Wild Earth Winery

Quentin with his barrel ovens

Quentin with his barrel ovens

Don’t worry about the wines, you get only a small taste of each wine so you won’t fly over the limit if you’re driving and the food is good, a definite lunch stop if ever you are in the area and if you’re into it, it is also where the jet boats are launched from!

Food cooked from the barrels with matching Wild Earth Wines

Food cooked from the barrels with matching Wild Earth Wines

From there I headed to Wanaka, with the weather getting better and better as the day went on.  I was lucky to have picked an awesome sunny day to visit Wanaka and it was the type of day you can sit by this beautiful lake, soak in the rays and enjoy the scenery.  More lakes and snow capped mountains fill the scenery.

Whilst I was in Wanaka, I decided to have an organic smoothie at Soul Food, located on the main street of Wanaka city centre.  Paul is the owner of this place and it’s nice to see so many varieties of organic food being sold and prepared at such a beautiful and engaging shop.  Visit him, his smoothies are great and drink it under the shade in the little veggie garden he has out the back!

Wanaka on a gorgeous day

Wanaka on a gorgeous day

Just outside of Wanaka, go to a place called Have a Shot.  This place was a highlight for me.  I love guns, especially rifles and for around $75 you get to hit golf balls at a range, shoot a bow and arrow, shoot a .22cal rifle but the most exciting of all, the clay pigeon shooting.  I looked forward to clay pigeon shooting and as it turned out, it truly was great fun. I’ve shot guns before but this time I enjoyed shooting them at a moving target.  I enjoyed it so much that I just had to go again.  I am convinced that I’m addicted; I think I might take it on as sport!

Shooting clay pigeons at Have a Shot

Shooting clay pigeons at Have a Shot

The drive from Wanaka to Arrowtown is amazing.  You come from high up the mountains, slowly winding your way down into Arrowtown.  The view opens it self up more and more as you descend down, with each turn giving you a new perspective of the valley below.  The road is meanders down the hill, turning into some very tight corners forcing you to really take it slow, which is great because you get to enjoy the views.

View coming down the mountains into Arrowtown

View coming down the mountains into Arrowtown

Arrowtown is a small little town, about 15 minutes away from Queenstown.  I was instantly drawn to this little town.

Surrounded by trees, its made up of a small main street no longer than a couple of hundred meters long and both sides of the road lined with small little shops in buildings that were probably the original buildings built so many years ago.  It wasn’t snowing when I was there, but I could imagine that this place would be a carbon copy of little towns you would normally find in the Swiss Alps, it just had that look and feel about it.

The houses beyond the main street were so beautiful, made of wooden slats and a lot of them lined with picket fences.  I loved this little town, because it seemed so peaceful, a type of place you can easily let go and forget the hustle and bustle of the big cities.  If there is any one in Arrowtown looking for an experienced chef, please consider this as my application, I would move there at a drop of a hat!

Main street of Arrowtown

Main street of Arrowtown

Tree lined street in the suburbs of Arrowtown

Tree lined street in the suburbs of Arrowtown


Now for the best bits, the food.

Queenstown offers so many choices from fine dining right through to tasty, no fuss meals.  I decided to have a taste of both worlds.

Ferg Burger

Ferg Burger staff

Ferg Burger staff

An institution in Queenstown.  You know you are in the right place because it is constantly packed, so much so, there were people lined up outside waiting, just to get a burger.  I was excited, anticipation was high after seeing the line up and the buzz outside this place.  This must the place where so many people have told me about “the” most amazing burger and if you know me, I love a good burger, ribs or hot dogs.

The menu is quite big and the there is something for every one, ranging from the moderately hungry right through to the very hungry.  The burgers are pretty big and very tasty.  A nice, chutney type sauce in the burger and the meat patties are quite tasty.  Ferg Burgers are good but I am sorry to say, I’m still in search for “the” great burger, nevertheless, these burgers did the job and I can’t help but think that the hype has built this burger bigger than what it actually is.

The Famous Ferg Burger

The Famous Ferg Burger

Flame Bar and Grill Restaurant

Flames Bar & Grill

Flame Bar & Grill

I must have walked past this place a million times trying to find it.  I could smell the goodness before I even saw the place.  Again, this place is packed, how ever you can book here and I suggest you do before you just walk in because chances are, they would be full.

This restaurant is right down my alley.  It had all of my food vices in one place from burgers, flame grilled sticky pork ribs, chicken wings and even grilled fish.  I ordered the pork ribs, one whole slab please! And I tell you, THE best ribs I’ve had for a long time.  They were tender, juicy, sticky, smokey and very very tasty indeed!  They didn’t last too long, it was devoured with in minutes.  I was full but just on flavour alone, I think I could have done another slab, EASILY but I didn’t in the risk of being judged by the people that packed the restaurant.  Highly recommend this place and on my way out, I found out you can get a combo meal consisting of ribs, grilled steak, sausage and chicken wings! OMG – true awesomeness on one plate!

The most incredible slab of ribs I have ever tasted!

The most incredible slab of ribs I have ever tasted!


Saffron is a restaurant in Arrowtown.  This restaurant is beautiful and the type of place I could see myself comfortably enjoying a meal in the middle of winter.  It has that cosy feel about it, with a open fire place in the middle of the room and warm yellow lights that illuminate the wood and stone that make up the structure of the entire restaurant.

The food was presented well and punched big, bold flavours.  The plates were so colourful and the smells that came out of the kitchen were delectable.

The flavours seemed to be influenced by Thai cuisine and the menu certainly read that way.  I started with a crispy whitebait with lemon and ailoi which was tasty and well seasoned.  That was followed up with a crispy pork and squid salad with a tangy lime and soy dressing which was really big on flavours but tasted rather nice and for mains I had the braised beef in wanton with crispy ribs, served with a type of Thai influenced curry sauce.  It was a strange combination of flavours and textures but it was still a nice meal.

Saffron is a lovely restaurant and the service staff were very attentive and were very good.  They knew their product well and we were served professionally, fitting of that type of “higher end” restaurant.  I had higher expectations of the food and was really excited to dine there but although it was an ok experience, it certainly doesn’t make it in my top ten restaurants.

Buttermilk Chicken, Polenta Crumbed Okra with House Made Tartare Sauce

Photo by Jun Pang

Photo by Jun Pang

I have talked about “Dude Food” several times, I just have a huge fascination with it.  To me, it’s about comfort.  I love cooking and eating food that’s tasty, easy to eat and easy to recognize.

More and more people are looking for food that is “easy”.  I feel that these days, no one seems to have the patience or time for “uppity” type food in stiff restaurants.  People are looking for a place that’s comfortable, light, fun and accessible to most people.  Atmosphere plays a huge role, served by people who are knowledgeable but approachable, relaxed and easy going.  The food has got to be easy but packed full of flavour.  People have got to know it because they don’t have the patience of a long winded explanation of what they’re about to eat, they just need to be enticed quickly by recognizing it quickly on the menu or by orders being walked to tables by waiters.  Fancy food is out people, mark my words and it is also why I believe food trucks in Australia much like the food trucks in America will do so well, why you say, well for many different reasons.  The trucks are so accessible to many people, they’re cheap, fresh and they produce really tasty meals and these days, what else does one need?

There are many recipes here, from the spice mix, the okra, the chicken and tartare sauce.  Try them separately in other dishes, for example, try the spice mix with fish or baked potatoes or even on rice, paella style.  With the buttermilk chicken, try it with thin strips of beef or even fish using the same methods, it works out really well.

Buttermilk Chicken, Polenta Crumbed Okra with House Made Tartare Sauce

Serves 8

For the Cajun Mix

¼ Cup Salt

2 Tbspn Ceyenne Pepper

2 Tbspn paprika

1 Tbspn Onion Powder

1 tbspn Freshly Ground Black Pepper

1 Tbspn Freshly Ground White Pepper

1 Tbspn Garlic Powder

2 Tsp Dried Basil

1 Tsp Chilli Powder

¼ Tspn Dried Thyme

¼ Tspn Ground Mustard

1/8 Tspn Ground Cloves

For the Buttermilk Chicken

1kg chicken Wings

500ml Buttermilk

250gr Plain Flour

2litres Vegetable Oil


For the Okra

1kg Okra

200gr Plain Flour

6 Eggs

200mls Milk

200gr Plain Flour

200gr Polenta

2 litres Vegetable Oil – for frying

For the Tartare Sauce

2 Eggs

1Tspn Dijon Mustard

¼ Cup White Vinegar

600ml Vegetable Oil

1 Lemon – juiced

1tblsp Worcestershire Sauce

100gr Cornichuns – finely chopped

80gr Capers – finely chopped

I Brown Onion – roasted in skins until soft then peeled, finely chopped

5 Cloves garlic – roasted in alfoil until slightly brown and soft, finely chopped

1 Bunch Parsley – finely chopped


For the Cajun Mix

  1. Place all ingredients in a bowl and mix thoroughly

For the Buttermilk Chicken

  1. Mix 2/3 of the Cajun spice mix together with the buttermilk
  2. Place the chicken wings into the buttermilk mixture and marinate for at least 30 minutes, over night is better
  3. Once marinated, strain excess buttermilk and dust with flour
  4. Heat the oil to 180 degrees Celsius using a thermometer
  5. Deep fry the wings until golden brown and cooked through, test by cutting one open
  6. Once cooked, toss in a bowl seasoning with remaining Cajun mix

For the Okra

  1. Whisk the egg and milk to together
  2. Create a crumbing station by placing the egg and milk in one bowl – whisked together, flour in another then polenta in a another bowl.
  3. First, place the okra in the flour, roll around until well covered, dust excess
  4. Then place flour dusted okra into the egg and milk mixture, making sure it is well covered, shake off excess
  5. Finally, roll the okra in the polenta until well covered
  6. Using a thermometer, heat up the oil to 180 degrees Celsius in a large, deep sided pot
  7. Fry the okra until golden brown, strain using a slotted spoon and place onto kitchen paper to absorb excess oil

For the Tartare

  1. Place the eggs, mustard and vinegar in a food processor and turn on high for one minute
  2. Add about ¼ cup of the vegetable oil in the food processor and process on high for about 30 seconds until it is emulsified into the egg mixture
  3. Slowly “stream” the rest of the oil into the egg mixture until all the oil is emulsified into the egg
  4. It should now form a thick mayonnaise, if not add extra oil.  Thickness will depend on size of eggs etc
  5. Add the lemon juice and Worcestishire until completely mixed
  6. Add the rest of the ingredients whilst still on high
Photo by Jun Pang

Photo by Jun Pang

Chili Con Carne Mac and Cheese

Photo by Jun Pang

Photo by Jun Pang

One of my dreams is to one day own a mac and cheese food truck!

You can just about make any flavour and then toss it through macaroni and bake it.  Imagine all the things you like, then mix it in with macaroni.  For example, I love chili and chili con carne, mix it in with macaroni, put cheese on top and and bake it in the oven and you have chili mac and cheese.  You can also have it cold like a salad like they do in the Philippines.  There they have a salad with macaroni, its usually with pineapple, ham, palm seeds, cheddar cheese and coconut dressed with mayonnaise or sour cream, sounds weird but bloody tasty stuff.

Flavours are endless really, vego’s can have Napolitana sauce and cheese or use three types of cheeses and mix it with some mustard and a little cream and bake it with some nice cheddar on top.  My favourite flavour that I’ve come up with is roasted, crispy pork belly all chopped up and tossed in a dry pan to crispen up a little more, finish it some strips smokey roasted capsicums (peppers for non Aussies), roasted red onions and chipotle sauce, toss through macaroni and bake in the oven with some stinky cheese like an Epoisses or Taleggio.  Decadence with all the good things in one plate!  Served with crushed avocado on top and sour cream and boy, you’ve got a dish no one will turn their backs on.

Try this out for starters and see what the fuss is all about.  I am using the chili recipe from the a previous blog to make things a little easier or if you make that chili recipe and wonder what you can do with any left overs.

If you cook up a braise dish like osso bucco or lamb shank or even a curry, try cutting the meaty bits down a little more and toss it through macaroni, add cheese that closely fits its flavour profile on top and bake it and who knows, maybe you can come up with your original mac and cheese!

Photo by Jun Pang

Photo by Jun Pang

Macaroni and Cheese

Serves 8


700gr Raw Macaroni

100gr Salt

500gr Alexandrina Cheddar Cheese – grated

1 Recipe of Chili Con Carne Recipe – previous articles



For the Macaroni

  1. Place ten litres of water to boil with the salt
  2. Once boiling, add the macaroni and cook until al dente.  This is when you bite into a pasta, it has some resistance to the teeth but no crunch
  3. Staring in a colander and run cold water through, set aside until needed


To Finish:

  1. Pre Heat the oven at 180 degrees Celsius
  2. Using a large pot, place the chili con carne sauce and heat up until simmering
  3. Add the blanched pasta and stir through for about 5 minutes
  4. Place into a baking dish
  5. Sprinkle the cheese on top until “all” the surface area is covered, this will inhibit the pasta from getting dry
  6. Bake for 10 minutes in the oven or until the cheese is golden brown
Photo by Jun Pang

Photo by Jun Pang

Chili Con Carne, Tortilla, Salsa, Guacamole

Photo by Jun Pang

Photo by Jun Pang

One of my favourite things to eat is chili!

I have grown up eating chili since I can remember.  As a kid, I remember eating our meals around a huge table which my grandmother would cook for.  I had aunts, uncles, cousins and sisters around that table, including my grandmother, who would share a chair with me.  As I ate, I remember the many condiments that accompanied every meal.  These included things like, finely chopped garlic and crushed white pepper in cane vinegar, fish sauce and chopped chili and garlic in a mixture of soy and cane vinegar all in little separate dishes for every one to share.  Amongst that were little, bright, shiny red chilies left whole.  These were for the “game” people, the slightly more chili crazy members of the family.  They would take one of these deadly, birdseye chillies and place it on the side of their plates.  They would break off a tiny bit of this deadly hot chili and add to their next mouthful of food.  I always cringed at the pain they put themselves through as they breathed in through their tightly gritted teeth then puckering their lips as they suck in air to cool their lips.  It was a slightly amusing ritual, mouthful of food followed by chili followed by their attempts to cool their lips and then a sip of ice cold water then back to the start.  They would do this over and over again with sweat beading off their foreheads and as soon as the last mouthful of food is consumed, they rush off away from the table and walk around to try and cool down.

I began eating chili by eating slightly tamer chillies than the deadly birdseye chili.  I slowly climbed up the “chili” scale, attempting the hotter chillies as time went on and my palate got used to flavour and the heat.  Now, I can eat chili just like the aunts and aunties I once watched in amazement as a child.  I love chillies in just about everything like pastas.  Some red sauces in pastas just need that heat especially in alioli sauces.  Curries must have chillies, and some refreshing tropical Asian salads must have chillies in them like a Thai Larb or Vietnamese salad with Nuoc Nam dressing.

In the Philippines, chili is a huge part of our cuisine but more as a condiment.  Mixed generally in soy and cane vinegar along with chopped garlic.  In dishes like sinigang, chillies are sometimes added half way through their cooking to impart flavours and once cooked the chillies suck in the flavours of the broth and become plump and flavoursome themselves.  The chillies are then fished out and added to fish sauce where the chillies are crushed and then used as a condiment for sinigang.  Usually we would add a few to stat with because it is a prized surprise for most Filipinos!

I love this recipe because you can control the amount of heat.  I love to use as many different chillies as I possibly can, the hotter the better.  The secret here is to make sure you saute the vegetables off well to get the natural sugars to come out.  Secondly, seal the meat “hard” on a really hot pan and thirdly, cook the chili for as long as you can, adding water to the pot if it gets too dry.  The longer you cook it the better.  And no secrets here when I say it, but make it two or three days in advance.  The longer you allow it to sit, the better the flavours get, allowing it time to develope just like you do with curries, casseroles and other braised dishes.

Enjoy this recipe and in following recipes, I will show you how to use the chili in other ways!

Photo by Jun Pang

Photo by Jun Pang

Chili Con Carne, Tortilla, Salsa, Guacamole

Serves 8

For the Con Carne

2kg Lean Beef Mince

100ml Vegetable Oil

2 Brown Onions – finely diced

1 bulb Garlic – finely chopped

5 Large Red Chillies – finely sliced

3 tblsp Ground Cumin

4 tblsp Chili Flakes

2 tblsp Chili Powder

1 tblsp Smoked Paprika

2x140gr Tomato Puree

2x800gr Tin Chopped Tomatoes

Sea Salt – to taste

Ground White Pepper – to taste

For the Salsa

4 Large Ripe Tomatoes – diced 1cm cubes

½ Red Onion – peeled & diced ½ cm cubed

1 Bunch Coriander – finely chopped

2 tblsp EVOO (Extra Virgin Olive Oil)

Sea Salt – to taste

Ground White Pepper – to taste


4 Avocados – peeled, slightly mashed with a fork

½ Red Onion – peeled & diced ½ cm cubed

1 Lemon – juiced

1 tsp Tabasco Sauce

Sea Salt – to taste

Ground White Pepper – to taste


For the Tortilla

16 Tortilla Wrappers

1 Cup Grated Cheddar

½ Iceberg Lettuce – finely sliced

1 Cup Sour Cream


For the Con Carne

  1. Heat up a large pot on high heat for one minute, then add a third of the vegetable oil
  2. Place half the minced meat into the pot, seal and lightly brown the meat, set aside.  Repeat with the remaining meat
  3. Heat the pot once again on high for thrity seconds and add the remaining vegetable oil
  4. Add the onions and sauté, continuously stirring for one minute then add garlic and sauté for another minute
  5. Add the chopped fresh red chillies and sauté for another minute
  6. Add the cumin and stir through then chilli flakes, chili powder and smoked paprika and stir through
  7. Add the tomato paste and cook whilst stirring for another minute, cook out the puree
  8. Add the tomatoes and bring to a boil then once at simmer, add the sealed meat and stir through
  9. Cook for one hour on really low, making sure to stir it every 5 minutes or so

10. Season to taste

For the Salsa

  1. Place tomatoes, red onions and coriander in a bowl and mix thoroughly
  2. Add EVOO and season to taste



  1. Place the avocados, lemon juice and red onion a bowl and mix through
  2. Season to taste then add the Tabasco sauce

For the Tortilla

  1. Toast the tortilla on a dry pan.  If you are doing large batches, toast then place it on plate then cover it with a towel moistened with warm towel
  2. Place con carne on the tortilla, cheese, salsa, lettuce and sour cream

Make cooking easy but tasty.  Use this recipe and I’ll show you what you can do with the let overs in the coming editions.

Photo by Jn Pang

Photo by Jn Pang

Baked Chili Beef Ribs



Photo by Jun Pang

Secondary cuts of meat are trendy these days.  Whether it be lamb, pork or beef, secondaries have come around from the past to be trendy once again.  In the past, it was almost a necessity to use secondary cuts of meat  and offal for survival.  The harsh financial times of the past forced a lot of people to be creative with cheaper cuts of meat.  Stories told by grandmothers, telling us about cooking pigs head, ox tails and trotters; ribs, shins and belly seemed so unreal when we were younger.  We could never imagine eating such things because our generation is so used to juicy, primal cuts of meat.  These days, chefs have trended towards creating dishes with secondaries more and more not to make more money (because they are cheaper) but because punters are taking to liking the wonderful creations that chefs come up with using bits of meat that would other wise be used for mince perhaps.  The cooking methods for these secondary cuts is usually long, this is to extract as much flavour from the cut and to break down the tougher muscles.  Cooking methods like braising, slow roasting, confit and these days, sous vide (where it is becoming a regular cooking method for chefs).  As a result of slow cooking, I believe that it produces a tender, tastier, juicier end product.

In America, beef short ribs have been around for years and in my eyes, they are the best at creating some pretty tasty BBQ dishes.  A dream of mine is to one day visit America’s South where barbecuing or “cook outs” (as they would call it) is an art.  So much to learn because barbecuing is not a one day, last minute event in America.  Barbecuing is whole day process, with a couple of days worth of preparation before hand.  Most BBQ enthusiast prepare their own meat, rubs and even wood chips and some even come up with their own contraption for a BBQ, now thats dedication!

As a result of their dedication to the BBQ culture, they have come up with some sensational wet and dry rubs, basting liquids, sauces and glazes.  The art of barbecuing is almost a life long passion or in some cases an obsession. If you think about it, to be really good at some thing, you have to spend a hell of a lot of time trialing, practicing and testing flavours and techniques.  The ingredients are important but also their equipment and “fuel” adds to the final product.  Gallon tanks cut in half using Argentinean wood coal chips or hickory adds smokiness and the gallon tank acts much like an oversized Webber BBQ – brilliant really!

I love using beef short ribs mainly for their flavour.  I have talked so much about them in past blogs so I won’t harp on at why I love them so much but in short they are  tasty, versatile and if prepared correctly, coupled with Australia’s love of the great outdoors and the trusty BBQ grill, I think more and more as time goes by, we will start to see more short ribs been “chucked” on the barbie – hopefully!

This recipe instructs you to bake the ribs once it has been braised but try finishing it on a charcoal BBQ or a Webber to intensify the glaze a bit more and to also get that smokey flavour.  You end up with the meat slightly crispy on some edges with intense flavours of sweet, spicy and tangy and at the “meaty” bits of the ribs, you get a super juicy, tender cut of meat with sticky, sweet, smoky, chili flavour that people will just devour, leaving them sucking the bone clean.

This will not go down as a normal backyard BBQ, it will become legendary with your mates.  Stories will be told about your BBQ’s!


Baked Chilli Beef Ribs

Serves 8


3 ½ Kg Beef Ribs – meat & rib bone weight

½ Cup Siracha Chili Sauce

½ Cup Korean Chili Paste

½ Cup Light Soy

¼ Cup Honey

½ Cup Ketcup Manis

½ Cup Shaoxing – Chinese cooking wine

1 Cup Apple Cider

¾ Cup Brown Sugar

4 tblsp Garlic – peeled & pureed

1 Onion – peeled & finely chopped

2 Litres Chicken Stock



  1. Make a marinade of Siracha chili sauce, Korean chilli paste, light soy, honey, ketcup manis, Shoaxing, apple cider, brown sugar and garlic then marinate the beef ribs over night
  2. The next day, pre heat the oven at 180 degrees Celsius
  3. Place the ribs along with the marinade into a baking tray
  4. In a pot, place onions and chicken stock into a large pot and bring to boil
  5. Cover the ribs with boiled chicken stock, then cover the baking tray with tin foil
  6. Bake at pre heated oven for 1 hour or until the meat falls off the bone
  7. Carefully place the liquid in a pot and bring it to boil then to a simmer, reduce until the consistency of warm honey
  8. Baste the ribs with reduced liquid and bake for another 5 minutes to finish


I grew up eating Filipino food and many of the dishes have created great life memories for me and Sisig is one that stands out.

The first time I had Sisig was when I visited the Philippines as an adult.  My friend and I thought it would be a great life experience to visit the Philippines on our way to Ireland.  We spent two weeks in Manila, the capital of Philippines with my uncle and cousins.  It was then that I was introduced to Sisig and the delicacies of Filipino bar food.

I remember the night well, we were taken to a night club but to me, it looked like a huge tin shed with a bar and a dance floor.  The place was mainly outdoors and to the back of the this tin shed was what seemed to be a make shift kitchen with guys dressed in casual clothing with a tea towel in hand waiting for an order.  We sat on a one of the huge wooden communal  tables and waited to be served.

I remember it being a balmy night.  I remember thinking how far we were from the civilized world of little ol’ Adelaide, thinking how very different this “night club” was to ours at home.  I remember ordering San Miguel beer and immediately thinking how awesome this beer was and how unlucky that we didn’t have it in Adelaide.  I also remember how my cousin’s friend ordered all the food that night with caution because he knew that most of it was so different to the food we usually eat in Australia and boy, I was amazed at how fast it all came out once he ordered and I remember the smell that filled the room once the food was placed on the table.

Filipino men like to drink beer with food readily available.  When these guys get on the sauce, it seems they anchor down and do a proper job at it.  Food must be served at these sessions.  Now, I don’t know if traditionally the women cook or if it is expected they cook, but when ever I have drinks with my Filipino male friends in Australia, food just miraculously appears, discretely served by their Filipino wives.  Sisig was one of those dishes or pork in general cooked in many different ways.  What ever meat it is, it’s usually crispy, salty and served with a dipping sauce that consists of chillies, vinegar and soy or a combination of all or some of those ingredients.  Smart really (for the men who drink at these bars and for the people who own the bar) salty, sour and crispy snacks are the best if you want drink alcohol, because the flavours almost induces more drinking.

Sisig is no different.  It is made mainly from pigs head, every bit of the head from the snout to the ears, cheeks and even the brains.  It also has pig livers and if you have the luxury version, people may add pork belly to it.  Simply put, the head is boiled for a long time then char grilled until almost black, picked and chopped into a small pieces.  Chopped, grilled livers are added to it and then finished by binding it together with the pigs brain and dressed with a vinegar and soy based dressing then served on a sizzling plate and finished with a raw egg on top and  calamansi, a type of citrus used in a lot of Filipino cooking.

Sounds interesting huh?  But let me just add, I served this little beauty to 240 guests at a gala dinner not so long ago and a lot people commented positively on the dish, mind you, they didn’t know what they were eating!!  But that’s not the point, they enjoyed it because it is a tasty meal.  Crispy pork bits bound with gooey egg, cut through with the freshness of the calamansi juice.  Salty, sour, hot and tangy at the same time, perfect beer snack.  As one of the ladies at the function mentioned, it is a type of “Filipino Dude Food”, and you know what, I like that because as she mentioned that, I thought back to the first time I had sisig and that description fit perfectly well.

This is a a bit of a process but well worth the effort.  Be the first to discover this flavour, it is unique and enjoyable.  This type of food will take off, I know it.  Even though it’s classified as offal, the flavours are just too good and Aussies love a “good thing” especially if it goes well with beer. Every time I have made Sisig and served to “unsuspecting” diners, they have always come back with positive reviews.  This will be the next wave of “dude food” in Australia.

I have blogged this before, look into “Cooking Lessons” for step by step tips on this recipe.  That’s how much I love this dish, I just had to re-blog it!

Sisig – served on a hot plate with calamansi & raw egg


1 Whole Pigs Head

1 Pigs Brain – vacuumed sealed or sealed in sandwich zip lock bag

2 Onions – finely diced

1kg Pork Livers or Chicken Livers – cleaned and de-veined

8-10 Birds Eye Chilli – sliced

2 Cups Cane Vinegar

½ Cup Soy

3tblspn Sugar

2 Bay Leaves

4 Spring Onion Stems – finely sliced

1 Whole Egg


Black Pepper


  1. Boil the pigs head, the meat off of the head in water, black pepper and bay leaves until tender, approximately 1 hour
  2. Boil the livers in water for about 20 minutes along with the brains.  Strain, then set aside to cool
  3. Make the sauce by mixing the chilli, 1tablspoon f the chopped onion, vinegar and soy and seasoning with salt and black pepper, balancing with the sugar
  4. Once the meat is tender strain the meat until dry then BBQ or grill it along with the pigs head and livers. Grill them until the livers are evenly browned and the pig meat crackles on the skin side and browns lightly on the meat side.  Smokey flavour is the key with out burning
  5. Allow the mat to cool slightly so you can handle it, and pick the meat off the bone.  Leave the eye
  6. Finely chop the meat into small bits, leaving small chunks
  7. Place the chopped meat into a bowl ad add the remaining onions and mix through with your hands
  8. Do the same with the remaining chillies
  9. Add the sauce and mix through thoroughly

10. Add the brain by crumbling it into the mixture, breaking it into small pieces

11. Heat up a heavy based pan until it smokes slightly then add the pork meat mixture

12. Cook until starts to brown, stirring continuously.  Make sure you scrape the bottom of the pan every time it starts to stick, this is the flavour of the sisig

13. Once crispy, heat up a Chinese hot plate until smoking hot and add the sisig to the plate

14. Crack one egg on top and sprinkle with chopped spring onions