April 3, 2012
Proud To Be A Chef
When I was very,very young, I stared adoringly up at my mother and pronounced "When I grow up, I want to be a Nothing - just like you!"
I was lucky enough to have a Stay-At-Home-Mum and apparently this hurt her dignity immensely, although she understood the love and the sentiments behind it.
Not all of us are able to love what we do. A career can spiral down to just a job that pays the bills, and certainly not one to inspire pride and self-satisfaction.
Although I love being a proud Mummy and wife, I must also state that
I am very proud and happy to be a Chef.
Its a very rewarding and fulfilling career.
I love to nourish and feed people, I enjoy the challenge and skills involved, I like multi-tasking, and I love food! Win-Win!
The lovely people at Fonterra Foodservice know how much hard work it takes to be a chef (the long and unsociable hours, tired legs the burns and cuts) and came up with the Proud To Be A Chef competition, a way of publicly recognising and rewarding the vital contribution that chefs make to the food service industry. This competition allows apprentice chefs from across Australia and New Zealand to participate in hands on mentoring and inspirational masterclasses, as well as the chance to mix with industry leaders and talk about exciting career development opportunities.
This year the lucky winner was Sonja Dawson, from the Bathers Pavilion. Sonja was nice enough to give me an interview about her experience, as well as sharing a yummy Potato and Cauliflower Curry that is gluten and lactose free as well.
Would you like to eavesdrop on our conversation?
*Why did you choose cheffing as a career?
Sonja claims this as a Happy Accident, and one that legitimises her thinking of food all the time. She likes being challenged and the tangible evidence you see of your professional progress in cooking on each plate.
*What advice would you give to someone contemplating a career as a chef?
Just go ahead and do it. There aren't any shortcuts or real secrets, just hard work. Be humble and realise that you don't know anything- even if you think you do!
*What makes you Proud To Be A Chef?
Making people happy. That might be corny, but it's truly the way Sonja feels. She says that the Hospitality industry is all about people- making them happy and giving them a great experience even if just for a couple of hours and sharing something great. It could well be the highlight of their day or week. Food is just the commodity chefs use.
*How do you feel to have won the Fonterra Foodservices Proud To Be A Chef competition?
Thrilled! Still completely unreal!
Sonja says she can pick no single thing as a highlight of the competition, although she found the actual competitive experience invaluable as well as a lesson in time management skills. She enjoyed meeting the other contestants, and having fun hanging out together and sharing the beautiful meals they got to eat.
*Where to from here?
Sonja is looking forward to spending about 6 weeks in New York where she has already got some exciting kitchen and pastry experiences lined up to expand her horizons.
*What is you attitude to Food InTolerances, and how do you approach these issues with customers in your kitchen?
Sonja feels that eating, and feeding someone is a very personal thing and she takes this very seriously. This industry is about people- and she feels that being accommodating and modifying shouldn't be hard or a chore, as after all it could easily be you or someone you love who has these issues.
This is a recipe Sonja says she makes quite often at home and one she discovered after playing around with different spice blends. It's Gluten Free, Lactose Free and yummy with no heat, just a hint of warm spices and scent of the exotic!
Potato and Cauliflower Curry (serves 4)
1 large brown onion, diced
1 tsp garlic, crushed
1 tsp ginger, crushed
1 tbsp cumin seed, whole
1 tbsp coriander seed, whole
1/2 tbsp ground turmeric
(the quantities of these spices are mainly a guideline, the important
thing is to have twice as much cumin and coriander as turmeric)
6-8 kipfler potatoes (or other waxy potato)
1 whole cauliflower, cut into florets
1/2 head savoy cabbage, chopped very finely (chiffonade)
zest and juice of 1 lemon
juice of 2 limes
400mL chicken stock
salt and pepper
pinch of saffron
coriander leaf to garnish
Blanch the potatoes until just cooked, cut into pieces and set aside
Sweat the onion, garlic and ginger in a large pot over a low heat in a
generous amount of vegetable oil until soft and translucent
Meanwhile, dry fry (toast) the cumin and coriander, then pound in a
mortar and pestle.
Add cumin, coriander, lemon zest and turmeric to onion mix and fry off briefly.
Crank up the heat and add the potatoes and fry, achieving a nice, even
Add the cauliflower, cabbage, chicken stock and saffron and season
generously with salt and pepper. Cover with a lid and bring to the
Once curry has come to the boil, remove from the heat, check the
seasoning and give a good stir.
Finish with the lemon and lime juices, garnish with fresh coriander leaf.
Serve with rice (I like basmati) and tuck in!
So My Dear Readers, what is your choice of career, and how does it make you feel proud to do what you do?