Q/As with Chef David

This interview was conducted keeping in mind that the students willing to pursue a career in Culinary Arts may have queries regarding the scope, the opportunities and the challenges this field offers. It is an informal interview with Australian Chef David A Brunelli who owns the restaurant, Gennarro’s Italian Restaurant in New South Wales, Sydney. He has conducted many workshops for the students of PHCA and has also welcomed PHCA’s graduates to work in his kitchen in Australia. A few of PHCA’s graduates have been doing their training (paid internship) in his restaurant in Australia.

We hope the questions the Chef has answered will give you a proper insight to this field, the challenges it has to offer along with the great opportunities that await!

How long has it been since you have started this career in the hospitality industry?
It’s been 25 years since I have started cooking. And I still have a lot to achieve.

 Are any of your family members in this field too?
Yes, my family has been in this industry since my childhood. My father is an Italian and my mother a first generation Irish woman, they both are brilliant cooks and so they decided to open a restaurant.

Who do you look up to?
It has always been my father, whom I look up to. Since my father was an Opera singer as well, he used to sing and cook in the restaurant. Every child look up to their parent, don’t they?

Did you go to any culinary school?
Yes, I did. But before joining the culinary school, I finished my high school and went to university and studied Environmental Toxicology, but since my father needed help in the restaurant so I joined him and started my training in a culinary school. In Australia, cookery is classified as trade. TAFE NSW is Australia’s largest vocational education and training provider. So, I learned my cookery skills through this training provider.

What is it like to be a chef in your family?
Since both my parents are brilliant cooks, cooking skills run in the family, it’s like I have inherited the skills. So it’s quite competitive being a chef in my family.

Is there any dish that your family loves when you cook for them?
On Sundays, we have this “Family Day” where all of our family members come for a late lunch or early dinner, where we cook like 5-15 courses. The food I cook is called ‘Ragu’ that’s basically a meat based sauce. I use pork and beef and cook it for 4-5 hours. I see my family enjoying the dish so am guessing they love it!

Is there any chef that you admire the most?
I’m not really big on “Gordon Ramsey” kind of stuff. I have my mentor Mark, Edward, who is an English Chef, I admire him the most. And then there is Anthony Bourdain, an American Celebrity Chef, I admire him because I found him very down to earth, he didn’t cut to the chase.

How often do you meet your family?
Since it’s a very demanding job, you don’t get to meet your family very often. Generally, when you have a public holiday, it’s hectic the most around that time, I am talking about 15-16 hours of duty, you can’t make it to different occasions and celebrate with your family and friends simply because it’s the time when the flow of guests are more.

What’s it like to have your own restaurant? Was it a “Dream come true” moment for you?
It’s always one’s dream to have your own business. When my father got ill, I took over my father’s restaurant. It was quite a challenging task moving from an employee to an employer. You’re basically responsible for the staff, guest, and management administration. But my wife, she is my business partner as well and she is a Nepalese. Without her I wouldn’t be able to handle it, she basically does all the management work.

What makes you happiest when at work?
When the customers and the staff are happy, if I don’t have to tell the staff that something’s not right, that’s what makes me happy.

Where did you work before?
The first place I started to work was a 5 star hotel. It’s called Grace Hotel. It’s in Sydney; I worked there for like 12 months. After that I worked in a 5 star hotel called Westin. It’s a fine dining Italian restaurant. I probably worked there for 6 months. And then a friend of mine got a job for me in an Eco Tourism Resort called Dooralong Valley Resort located in Central Coast.
I worked in Hornsby RSL Club too. It’s a club for the people who have served for the country, it’s open to the public as well. That’s where I got into the management part. I worked there for 3-4 years, that’s where I met Mark Edwards, the person who inspire me the most.
After a while I interviewed in another company called Villa Acru De Chelu, It’s a private resident for the Saudi Arabian prince. I was working for the royal people. I worked there for about 5 years.

In between I also worked for a company called ‘Chefs on the run’. Basically, they provide temporary or permanent placements of Catering and hospitality recruitment for hotels, restaurants, pubs and contract catering. This kind of job is very demanding cause everyday you could be in different place working. This was the highlight of my contracting career because it allowed me to work in 5 start restaurants to small cafés. It was probably the best experience in my career.

After that I started my own catering company called ‘Sopra Vento’ meaning Sopra is “above” and Vento is “wind”. That was a strange experience for me, because I started taking over the kitchen management in South West Italian Australian Association which is a company that contains club, hospitals, nursing homes, etc. I worked on a contract basis for like 1 year.
I once again got approached by an RSL club, that had club and a nursing home as well, where I took over the kitchen management, that’s the time when I wasn’t cooking anymore, I was basically handling the kitchen administration. Most of the latter part of my career was administrating the kitchen.

Once again I got approached by a hotel called Grand Hotel, but this time it was for my father’s restaurant to be leased inside the hotel. Finally I started Genarro’s Italian Restaurant again, but this time the restaurant is inside the hotel. We provide 3 meal courses for the hotel guest and the general public as well.

Any advice you would like to pass on to the students who are planning to work aboard?

First thing, I would like to suggest is to make your English very strong because the English spoken here and in abroad has a huge difference. English is going to be the biggest obstacle. And that’s the key to be understood and the key to understand somebody that you work for. You can be really good at work but if you have a communication gap then the hard work might not pay off.

The next biggest hurdle is to become integrated to the western culture. Many of the people think it’s very easy because you watch it in the television, but in reality it’s very difficult to live in western society. The cost of living is much more expensive, so students need to work hard and never give up.

Also, you need to have a positive attitude if you are aiming to work in the international hospitality industry. Here, work comes before anything, so you need to have that passion, sincerity and determination to pull it through the day with a smile on your face. Students need to enter with a big dream, a vision but should not close an eye to reality! Because what they do today and how they perform today will actually define and determine their tomorrows.

10 MUST HAVE QUALITIES TO BECOME A CHEF!

 

Do you aspire to become a world-renowned Chef? Even top chefs once had to learn the basics of cookery. Good food brings you the must-know skills that will take you from nervous novice to a confident cook! While they are with no doubt a few attributes that set aside the best talents from one another, there are also few similarities in these attributes that Chefs share that help them to hone and perfect their craft! Since Culinary profession is a difficult industry to get into, you will have to work on sharing some of these characteristics if you hope to find yourself atop the mass as a established top Chef!

Here, we’ve put together few key skills that everyone should possess in order to become a top Chef!

 

  1. Attentiveness to Detail

 

A chef’s job requires undivided concentration and acute sensory observation. Inattention can cause a huge difference in tasting. A pinch too much sugar or salt, a missing garnish, a steak cooked for a minute too long or a strand of hair in the salad can threaten the success of an entire dish. Whether its ordering food products or figuring out what time to cook certain items, a chef has to achieve balance between seeing the big picture and attending to details.

 

  1. Respect the Sanitation

 

As a Chef, you are working in the food industry where you make food for others to eat. It is your absolute duty to know how to keep your kitchen clean and respect any sanitary law.  You need to get all your certifications and respect them; it’s your commitment to quality.
Cleanliness is next to Godliness, and a chef should always keep that in one’s mind. Being mindful of cleanliness should be a part of work routine to a chef.

 

  1. Creativity

You need to have a flow of creativity if you want to work in the food industry. Chefs must be creative about getting the freshest ingredients and combining them in a way that each one highlights and balances the taste of the other. Creativity is what inspires a food’s presentation which is very important to a customer’s overall dining experience. A chef should always be creative enough to incorporate new food items to the food menu and revise and improve old recipes to enlighten the customer’s taste buds with new flavors. If this is applied and practiced well, you can be sure for the customers to be patronized by your restaurant. Creativity, innovation and imagination will keep customers coming back to a restaurant.

 

  1. Dynamic Decision Making

 

Kitchen can get pretty hectic at times and it is the responsibility of a chef to make a fast paced decision. A chef has to make various decisions at once in a quick and efficient manner. Because you have to work in and around the clock with no minutes to spare in the food preparation industry, problem solving must be done quickly to keep customers satisfied and for the operations to flow smoothly.

 

  1. Endurance and Stamina

 

Being a Chef is not easy and it certainly requires all kinds of strength, be it physical or mental. A chef has to work his way through long hours from the middle morning to the late hours of the night, most of the time in feet exposed to heat, grease, high pressure and odd working hours. . And this is something all aspiring chefs need to be prepared for! A chef needs stamina to remain focused and consistently produce top quality food. Every muscle aches in a chef’s body counts!

 

  1. Mulittasking

A great Chef is adept at multitasking. In the kitchen, a chef will always be working on multiple tasks at once. Be it addressing some issues of staff or working on several elements of a meal, a good chef must always be able to juggle these tasks hand in hand while maintaining their own productivity. They are the ones who are overall in charge from the initial planning process to designing menus to raw material procurement and inventory management to finally ensuring that the right order goes to the right table at the right time. And these activities should be seamless only then will it result to satisfactory service. It is the chef’s duty to keep tabs on all of it.

 

  1. Ability to lead

 

It is always the chef who is responsible for the kitchen. They have to be able to give directions to their team and maintain an amicable atmosphere in their kitchen. They need to guide, coach and monitor their juniors so that the operations run smoothly. Deflated, frustrated staffs are unable to deliver their full potential. And it comes to a great chef to inspire these staff and be able to keep every one of them working harmoniously at a fast and efficient pace. This might mean taking time to train struggling employees or helping to boost morale when times are at their most stressful.

If you seek to become a top chef, you will have to fulfill the leadership requirement. This will demand organization skills as well as you have to stay organized and work to ensure that every aspect of the kitchen is functioning with maximum efficiency. This could get stressful and trickier with added responsibilities like stock management, budgetary oversight, employee scheduling and more.

 

  1. Teamplayer

If you’re not a social person or don’t enjoy interacting with others, you better start practicing now as a great chef understands that he or she is part of a larger food preparation team and that everyone must work harmoniously to ensure the timely production of quality foods. When you are working in the kitchen, even with its apparent hierarchy of talent and renown, you have to appreciate your role in the team and realize the importance of working well with others in a team. You are never going to work alone; you will always find aides and helpers aplenty from the very first day to the last. You will have to work every day with prep cooks, chefs de partie, boulangers, potagers, sous chefs, executive chefs and more. Your ability to work with all of this added assistance can make or break your rise to top tier success.

 

  1. Business Acumen

 

A chef must have good business sense to run a profitable organization which is often developed through hands-on experience and trial and error in the kitchen. A chef should always be keen about how to make a delicious quality food considering the cost and wastage as well. As a Chef, you are also the kitchen manager: negotiating, leading and managing are imperative and necessary qualities.

 

  1. Rage for Culinary arts

 

When you’re passionate about what you do, you never have to work a day in your life. If you love food and cooking, you’ll do just fine on this checklist item. Attending a culinary school will provide you with the tools and the opportunities to convert your passion into a life career. All you need is passion to cultivate your skills and turn it into something meaningful.