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?
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Thanks Lizzy, it was my first interveiw!Delete
Great interview! I just love cauliflower in curries - the way they soak up all the flavour is divine.ReplyDelete
It is the best, isn't it? A real flavour bomb :)Delete
Dear Intolerant Chef,ReplyDelete
I take my hat off to chefs because it can sometimes be a labour of love as I understand hours can be long during busy periods, what with ungrateful customers at times. But when it is good, I think it is one of the most satisfying careers that one can have.
Why thanks Chopinand, it is a hard and often thankless career. We don't all get the recognition of Heston or Gordon Ramsey!Delete
That comment you said to your mother is so, 'Out of the Mouths of Babes'. Wouldn't it be wonderful to be a stay-at-home mum and do nothing! For that I would need to be transfered to Singapore, have my husband work at Macquarie Bank and have the bank pay for my three maids (just like a certain someone who's just returned from her three years of 'nothingness' there and is now in my neck of the woods. I love Bathers Pavilion. What a great restaurant in a setting that can't be beaten. She is fortunate to be working there. xxReplyDelete
Where can I sign up Charlie? That sounds awesome indeed!Delete
Fabulous looking recipe - a must try! We have a Chef in town who is a Celiac. He goes out of his way to create gluten free menus - something I am so appreciative of! I also love watching anyone work at something they love - so heartwarming!ReplyDelete
How lucky Ina, that's fantastic for you! What a blessing indeed. Watching anyone so their work with love is always inspirational :)Delete
A great post & interview! :)ReplyDelete
A tasty recipe also!
Thanks so much Sophie!Delete
Oh if only being a stay at home mum involved doing nothing. Great interview and great inspiration featured here for anyone wanting to become a chef.ReplyDelete
I know, it's certainly keeps you on your toes! Thanks Sherilyn :)Delete
This sounds like a really versatile recipe that you could make to please so many! And lovely interview too! :DReplyDelete
Thanks so much Lorraine! It was my first interview, but hopefully not my last! :)Delete
Loved this post!!! Love eavesdropping on this conversation, thanks :) I love being a dietitian because it helps people gain control and understanding over such an important aspect in their lives - food & eating! Whether for weight loss, weight gain, overall improving their health or other issues. Makes me so happy when I can improve their lives. Great recipe here too. yum - perfect for winter!ReplyDelete
That's so wonderful Heidi, you are obviously passionate about your profession. I wish I lived close enough to come to you- the dietitian I once went to didn't listen to me at all, and neither my health or weight improved over a course of 6 months (and I didn't cheat at all!!!)Delete
oh what a shame!!! It can be tough, often you do need to move around and try different professionals to find someone you click with. But having said that I do really believe in specialising in private practice. I refer on any severe intolerances, etc as I know that in order to do a good job I'd need to live and breathe that area (and I don't I'm much more focussed on weight loss and overeating/emotional eating issues). So I hope you got someone who knew what they were doing!Delete
Great interview and even though I've not actually worked as a chef professionally since having kids, I do still think of it as my career. And as much as I love being at home with the kids I do miss the rush of service! xxReplyDelete
I think the dinner rush around my kitchen table is waaaay more work than when I work in the commercial kitchen Emma! Will you go back to it when the kiddies are older, do you think?Delete
It's so good to see yet another award recognising the talented - and often unsung - chefs in this country.ReplyDelete
Nice curry, too.
Thankyou Amanda! There are lot of us 'Ordinary Chefs' out there than just the 'Celebrity Chefs' that everyone knows about :)Delete
Delicious! Good for Sonja, and you too Becca, because you're both wonderful chefs! :)ReplyDelete
Happy Easter to you and your lovely family, darling friend!
Why thanks and Same to you sweetie! I hope you have a wonderful weekend, and I looove your chocolate creations as well.Delete
It's such a tough gig I think you guys have. It's amazing the amount of hours you put in! RESPECT!ReplyDelete
Thanks Msihua, the hours are certainly hard to juggle at times, and wolfing down meals at all odd moments too :)Delete
wow that is so nice, i don't know how you do it! i love to cook but not sure i would cope on a bigger scale.ReplyDelete
Hey Muppy! It's certainly different to cooking at home, that's why I find my blog so relaxing- even though it's still about food!Delete
Great interview! Hey, I didn't know you were a chef actually. And I can tell that it's more than just a "job" to you because I don't think I've come across a chef that's as PASSIONATE as you. It's amazing to hear how you genuinely love to feed and nourish and share. I'd love to eat at your restaurant and meet you one day! Keep it up, The Intolerant Chef. You're nothing short of inspiring =)ReplyDelete
Thanks Winston! When I set one up, I will send you an invitation for sure!!Delete
Excellent interview, I really learned a lot about what it's like to be a chef :) I have a job that pays the bills, lol. My real passions are food and music, which I do on the side. The job's not so bad though, I have lots of friends working with me!ReplyDelete
Having good friends as workmates is such a blessing Jasmyne, lucky you indeed! Enjoy your leisure activities too, they help get through even the worst work day :)Delete
In German we have "Beruf" (job) on the one hand, and "Berufung" (the profession you feel you are called for to do) on the other hand. I'm so happy that for you, both things converge! I always wanted a job that I feel I can authentically value because it gives something back to the people. With being a chef, I totally see you do this all the time.ReplyDelete