Executive chef, Torquay Resort
From high school I wanted to be a chef – Peter Russell-Clarke was on TV and he looked like he had a lot of fun. Mum was a very good cook. Her mum would make scones every day in a small town in WA, and all the brothers and sisters turned up for afternoon tea.
I grew up in Hobart, left school after year 10, put on my brother’s suit and went looking for a job. Three chefs had taken over an old butcher shop on my paper round and were doing pre-prepared meals for people to take home for dinner. I washed dishes for nothing for a week, then they took me on as a kitchen hand.
A while later a waiter said to me: “Michael, the best thing you can do is finish your apprenticeship, get an airline ticket, and go and learn how to cook.” I spent five years in London over two stints.
Moving to Torquay four years ago, it struck me that you just don’t get the producers in the city that you get here. We hang all our own beef, get a lot of local fish, source garlic. In the city you’re always looking for chefs. Here I’ve got the best team I’ve ever had. Because they love it.
Signature dish: Our aged Kennedy Creek rump steak is hung for five weeks and garnished with silverbeet, baby king brown mushrooms and Alsace bacon, brought together with a rich red wine sauce. If you’re going to order a steak, it should be a good one. Torquay is such a fresh, by-the-sea place, and we need to bring that out in the dining room. Even serving an aged rump steak, it needs to be fresh and lively.
Favourite local ingredient: Olives and olive oil from Manzanillo in Drysdale. They do them naturally, no scary products, and marinate them in their own extra virgin olive oil.