Farmer Lee Jones (left) with Jamie Simpson (right)
Image by Diana DeLucia.
I met Jamie Simpson for the first time at The Chef’s Garden in Ohio in late 2017. It was an absolute pleasure to discover such a passionate young man who has followed his instincts and dreams. I have worked with many great chefs but this young man stands out from the crowd in one particular fashion - he is truly living his dream without worry of the day to day challenges of a restaurant model. His passion for his craft paired with the freedom he has been given at The Chef’s Garden has allowed him to create culinary visions on a daily basis to his heart’s desire. He has given the culinary industry much inspiration. ~ Diana DeLucia
GK: Where are you originally from, Jamie?
Charleston, South Carolina.
GK: Where did your culinary career begin?
When I was 20, I began working at the Charleston Place Hotel, which was managed by the Orient Express company. It’s right in the heart of Charleston. It houses beautiful restaurants and beautiful amenities. It was a 400 room hotel. In my time at Orient Express I was privileged to travel to six or seven of their properties around the world.
GK: How did you find the Chef’s Garden and Farmer Lee Jones?
I met Farmer Lee at The Charleston Food and Wine Festival, but I never realized the reach that he had. When I began traveling, I started to see more and more of The Chef’s Garden produce. I was lucky enough to spend some time working with Joel Robuchon, and when I saw that The Chef’s Garden produce was placed on a pedestal with its own space, I was magnetized. I called Farmer Lee to see if there was an opportunity to come and see the farm, and as a result, I spent two weeks there and had the kitchen to myself at nights, during the day I’d go and work in the fields. The effort that they had made for me was special, and I fell in love. I went back to Charleston and stayed there for another few years, and then one day I decided to call Farmer Lee back - as the farm was always on my mind. Farmer said “I have a project for you if you’re interested in it, it’s a four-month deal, it will help us get set up for the Roots Conference.
GK: Tell us about the Roots Conference.
The Roots Conference is an annual gathering that brings together luminaries throughout the culinary world. Writers, speakers, advocates, and most importantly, Chefs, gather here at The Culinary Vegetable Institute at The Chef’s Garden annually to hear a curated selection of the most forward thinking and like minds. Our topics can range from labor laws to design ideas to water in Africa. Every year is different. 2012 was the first Roots Conference, we had about 120 people, I didn’t know anyone, and I was in way over my head,I didn’t know how to organize a conference, but it was a plunge into a different world, and I loved it, and I still love it.
GK: When did you get offered the full-time position?
After the second of my four month Roots Assignment, Farmer offered me a full-time position. What has kept me here is the connection to where our food comes from. Knowing every single person involved in the product that we serve is amazing. Having the ability to sort of stop amid the noise and haste of the standard restaurant models and be able to focus on a single
product, technique, presentation, or flavor profile. That’s been a huge and valuable opportunity for everyone that enters this kitchen.
GK: Tell us about your relationship with Farmer Lee.
He’s like a dad. After that first visit all those years ago, the farm never left my mind or my heart. When I returned, I ended up staying with Lee and Mary, in their house for 18 months. Our early morning cups of coffee; he’ll probably tell you the same if you ask him, were some of the most fundamental, shape-shifting conversations of my life. Farmer Lee is a thinker. He’s a big picture painter. He’s an artist. The conversations that we had, back and forth, is what this place has become. It’s a mutual chef and farmer relationship. “Where are we in the season right now?” That kind of conversation comes from Farmer, and that’ll allow us to understand what direction the menus are going. It keeps things genuine.
GK: There’s a lot of planning here for each day as well as future planning. Tell us about that.
Imagine an old homestead. Imagine what you had to do in your house, with your family, to preserve your way through the year. If you’re going to produce everything off your land, not only survive but to do it deliciously, it’seven more work. Anybody can throw some turnips in a pressure cooker, it’s the art and craft of cooking that keeps people coming back for more.
GK: How do you encourage learning?
Everybody is encouraged and empowered to find new flavors and textures and new species of plants that are available or lend themselves to the culinary applications. We’ll explore them if it makes sense, then that becomes dialogue for the sales and marketing team. Then we may ask “Who wants this?” We’ve had people who travel, explorers who’d travel the world looking for rare and unique and exotic forms of produce. A lot of what we find are things that lend themselves to a particular region. We can create tropical environments and grow in greenhouses.
GK: Is the farm all year round?
Yes. It’s amazing.
GK: Does it snow here?
Yes. But Farmer Lee will say “It’s all about Mother Nature’s balance, painful but oh so helpful. It helps with the drainage of water for the following summer, it helps kill off plant diseases in the soil and helps reduce insect populations, these are all natures way of maintaining the proper balance.”
GK: How many varieties of product are grown here?
There are approximately 600 varieties of vegetables here.
GK: What drives the farm?
To the farm, the driving philosophy is that “every part of the plant’s life offers something new and unique to the plate.” You’ll probably hear Farmer say that. Every single plant. It’s just a matter of application. Some things don’t lend themselves as easily to a plate, but with the right application, they’re amazing. You see it with turnips, beets, carrots and parsnips, even rutabaga flowers. Brussel sprouts and broccoli make flowers and really cool seeds. Carrots were a spice and an herb for 5,000 years! For 300 years we’ve been eating the root as a civilization. When was the last time you had carrot herb? Or carrot spice?
GK: Sounds like a lot of historical research is happening here.
Oh, yeah! It’s what this place is. It’s a delicate and delicious balance between preserving traditions even beyond what we know as tradition.
GK: It’s like going back in time before 1953 before they brought in all the pesticides. You’re adventurous and an artist, you’re going back to the study of food and product. I think Chefs find their roots when they visit the farm.
Yes, we have an average of 600 visiting chefs a year that come through. It’s become this bucket list destination for people to see. That’s powerful.
GK: Pertaining specifically to the Private Golf and Resort Industry, I am discovering a stronger interest in the culinary side of the club. Health and Wellness are becoming big terms at Private Clubs and Resorts nowadays, and they are starting to think about where they can source the best product for their members; people like yourselves are very influential.
Thank you. We are continually working with many new approaches and technologies; this allows us to grow and develop and hopefully, we can make big strides in the way people view and eat food.
~by Diana DeLucia
Tomato Salad with tomato sorbet, fried green tomato and campari tomato filled with tomato cherry gazpacho. Recipe by Jamie Simpson, The Chef's Garden. Image by Diana DeLucia.
GK: How did you become involved in the Wine and Champagne business?
It was quite an extraordinary change of life that took me from a high school science master on Queensland’s Gold Coast fifteen years ago to the privilege of ultimately bringing the title of International Wine Communicator of the Year to Australia for the first time. At the age of 26, I had a growing ambition to write about wine, to tell the stories of the remarkable people and places that create this amazing beverage. And so, I set about writing my first wine book. I had a great concept; I knew there was an interested audience, so all I had to do was find a publisher. I proudly sent my pitch to every worthy publisher I could find, eager to launch a career as a wine writer!
The response was unanimously deflating: ‘If you’re not a celebrity or an established author, we’re not interested.’ My writing career was doomed before it even began, but then I put my mind to forging another way. I laid out my first book on a borrowed desktop computer in my back room late at night. And before I knew it, I’d spent $5,000 on printing, and I was a self-published author! It was to be the first of thirteen wine books that I would self-publish, and it’s only been in the past three years that I’ve made the switch to working with a big publisher to open up international distribution opportunities.
GK: Where did your vision to create the Champagne Guide originate?
My interest in champagne was sparked during a family holiday visit to the region in 2010 and the realization that there was a need for an up-to-date guide in English. My favorite English champagne writers were retiring, and I wished that I could find up-to-date reviews in print. My first Champagne Guide was a succinct (176 page) book, but it created a much bigger stir than I ever expected. Within months of its publication, I was flying to London to be awarded International Champagne Writer of the Year in The Louis Roederer International Wine Writers’ Awards 2011.
Six years on, I am currently releasing the fifth edition of The Champagne Guide. I’m frequently asked why I write more about champagne than anything else. It goes without saying that I love the wine, the place, and its people. I am thrilled by the challenge of unraveling what is probably the most complex wine style in the world, and I love the chase of discovering the real story behind the wines of its most guarded brands. Of all the world’s most famous and celebrated wines, less is written about champagne than any other. There is no beverage that speaks of celebration more universally than champagne, traversing cultures and languages to toast everything from christenings to coronations. Of Europe’s most highly prized benchmarks, none is more readily available and more affordable across the globe than champagne. There is much to celebrate, much that champagne’s eager drinkers are thirsty to learn, and I count it a great privilege to bring the real stories of this enchanting place to the world, but there’s a more important reason. Wine is about connecting people, about bringing people together and building relationships. And champagne does that better than any other wine.
GK: Tell us about the research you had to accomplish to produce the Champagne Guide.
There is something of a ‘thrill of the chase’ in researching champagne quite unlike any other wine. For me, the key to communicating with champagne is to unearth and demystify the people, the places and the processes that define every cuvée as unique. To understand the soils, the slopes, the climate, the grapes, the wine making, the aging and the personalities of each of the characters who craft every detail of this long and convoluted process. The challenge and the chase come because volunteering these details is not traditionally the way of the Champenoise. Every year I fight my way through the froth and bubble of the most over marketed wine region in the world. These are a guarded folk, and their promotions and communication have long circled around glamorous estates, illustrious histories, elaborate packaging, fabricated prestige, gushing rhetoric, stratospheric pricing, flirtations with royalty, sightings with supermodels, or websites with more animated glitz that you can point a cursor at!
These trite campaigns do little to communicate what makes a house style or a particular cuvée unique. My readers don’t have time or finances to taste every champagne to decide what they’ll drink, so it is my responsibility to communicate what every cuvée tastes, smells and feels like so they can quickly decide if might suit their taste and prove worthy of their investment. It has taken years and countless visits to build relationships with the key houses and growers and for them to build the confidence to confide in me the real stories of their vineyards, their cuveries, and their cellars, to unlock the minute details that make their cuvées unique. And over the seven years since this has been my focus, it’s been encouraging to see the region beginning to open up. Back labels, web sites, and brochures are much more informative now than they have ever been, as houses appreciate
that an ever more educated world of champagne lovers is thirsty to lap up this detail.
GK: You are promoting Tasmania, how does Tasmania fit into your story?
I have long loved Tasmanian sparkling, though I haven’t lived there since I was four years old, I was born in Australia’s little, southerly island state, I’ve returned there in recent times to film harvest for a television series, and I’ve watched its wine industry come of age in recent years. After champagne became a special focus, I was approached by James Halliday to write the sparkling reviews for his Australian Wine Companion, the most important annual Australian wine guide. In recent years, I have also published my own Australian Sparkling Report, a comprehensive review of 500 Australian sparkling wines of all kinds, free to download at www.tysonstelzer.com/articles.
Across my tastings year after year, Tasmania confidently reaffirms its place as Australia’s sparkling capital. Australia’s isolated, cool, southerly island state is privileged to a marginal and challenging climate well suited to premium sparkling growing. Its significance at the pinnacle of Australian sparkling cannot be overstated. Most parts of mainland Australia are warmer and sunnier than northern Europe and consequently not well suited to producing great white or rosé sparkling wines. Climate change is only serving to exacerbate this situation. Tasmania ascends to ever greater sparkling heights with each passing year. In Australian capital city wine show history, no sparkling wine has ever eclipsed all still and fortified wines to win champion wine of show. Until now. Over the past two years, Tasmanian sparklings have been awarded the highest recognition in top Australian wine shows not once but four times, winning the trophies for the Best Wine of Show in The National Wine Show in Canberra, The Sydney Royal Wine Show, The Royal Queensland Wine Show and The National Cool Climate Wine Show. Tasmanian sparkling has finally come of age, and in the wake of such tremendous domestic success, it’s time for Australia to unveil its finest fizz on the world stage. This is the reason that I am traveling to New York this month to not only launch the new edition of The Champagne Guide but to showcase an invitation- only selection of my favorite Tasmanian sparkling producers, both the famous names and the smallest boutiques.
For more information about Tyson Stelzer please visit his website at www.winepress.com.au
~ by Diana DeLucia
REDVANLY is a modern athletic wear line designed specifically for athletes, with the vision to create product enhancing efficiency and complement passionate performance. Images courtesy REDVANLY.
GK: What is your core focus?
Our job is to nurture consumers athletic nature, honor their core commitment to sports, secure their passion for high-level performance, and design unparalleled product aimed to enhance personal discovery with ultra-comfortable pieces that are created to compete.
GK: How have you achieved your captive audience?
We started very small and have grown the business through green grass and through our online store. Each year we have increased the business and the collection. Our first collection was a total of nine styles, and in a few months we will release our largest collection which will be well over 100. Although that is still not a large line by any means, we are proud of our growth and the response to the products.
GK: Tell us about your new golf short.
We are coming out with an elastic based pull-on golf short for the 2018 Spring / Summer season. It is going to look just like a golf short the only difference is it will come in S-XL, and the waistband will be 100% elastic. You will be able to pull it on and then button up and throw a belt on. It will be the most comfortable short to swing in. When you think about it, golf is the only sport in which men do not compete in elastic. I always thought to myself how great it would be to play golf in gym shorts. We are making that happen except they won’t look anything like gym shorts!
GK: Do you consider a chef be athletic, and the environmental component to be similar to athletic wear you have chosen for tennis and golf?
I believe many chefs would appreciate a lot of our products because of our material. Chefs have to stay fresh and comfortable in extremely hot environments and would appreciate how our fabric wicks as much as anybody.
GK: Have you ever tested your fabric in a steaming hot kitchen?
Yes! We have done some testing with chefs in that environment for Golf Kitchen, and I think by having done so it has given us more of an understanding on how much our products can handle by putting them to the ultimate test. We are always researching and testing unique performance fabrics, and I like the idea of doing some kitchen testing each time we release a new fabric.
~ by Leo Bushey
For more information about REDVANLY go to www.redvanly.com
Middleton Made Knives. Image by Diana DeLucia.
I had a wonderful time interviewing this young and talented Bladesmith, Quintin Middleton of Middleton Knives deep from the
heart of South Carolina where his passion for knives is turning up the heat. ~ Leo Bushey
GK: Quintin, would you like share with us who you are and how you were inspired to make beautifully handcrafted precision blades for the definitive chefs?
I am the maker and owner of Middleton Made Knives. My knife passion started as a young boy. I wanted to make swords. My fantasy sword was Conan the Barbarian’s sword, that’s where it all started. Anytime I would watch a fantasy film; my imagination would just run wild. I wanted to be Conan, Luke Skywalker, He-Man, or any Samurai or Knight in the movies. The medieval era is what I wanted to reenact. Fast forward a few more years; I began working in a local mall selling knives, cigars, and memorabilia swords. One day, Jason Knight came in to buy a sword, and he told me that he made knives for a living. I asked him, “Can you teach me how to make knives?” After this, he became my mentor. He primarily makes Bowie knives, fighter knives, and hunting knives. He was one of the judges on the TV show "Forged in Fire."
GK: How did you get into making knives for culinarians?
After several years of making hunting knives and swords I had a dream. God told me to make chef knives. From hearing that voice, I decided to make a list of every top chef in Charleston. I called every last one of them and asked them if they would be interested in purchasing my knives, every last one of them turned me down. Craig Deihl, the Executive Chef of Cypress, was the one that gave me an opportunity. He didn’t buy anything because truthfully my knives were based and shaped by hunting knives. They were thick and really heavy. He gave me his input on what a professional chef would want in the kitchen. After that advice, I made him a knife and tested it for a few weeks. He gave me more insights and advice, and from that information, I created what he desired. I’ve been making knives for 15 years now, and I’ve been making chef knives for seven.
GK: Where has your market grown? Who are some of the chefs that use your knives?
My knives have been sold all across the USA, from South Carolina, California, Hawaii, to Australia. I’ve been featured in Ebony magazine, Vogue Italy and mentioned in GQ magazine. Sean Brock and Emeril Lagasse are famed keepers of my custom pieces, and the list just goes on and on.
GK: What is the process of forging a knife?
After I discover whether my client wants a stainless steel knife, high carbon steel knife, or a Damascus knife I then forge the sheet, cut the excess material away, and grind the profile of the knife. Once I have the template, I fire it in a kiln. If it’s stainless steel, I will heat it to 1,920 °F, and if it’s high carbon, I will bring it to 1,500 °F.
GK: Wow. That’s pretty hot. How long does it stay in the kiln? Do you hit it with a hammer?
Yes. That’s when I’m forging. Heat treating, that’s another process. Forging is when you have a smaller piece of steel, and you’re
trying to stretch it and pull it to the width and the size that you need. It’s similar to making pizza dough, for example, when I’m kneading the dough to form a ball, I stretch it out with a hammer by repetitive hard strikes to the correct width for the pizza I am
making. That’s exactly what I am doing with steel except with blacksmith tools and at a very high temperature.
GK: Do you buy American Steel?
I have a supplier in New Jersey. Once I receive the steel, I’ll either forge it, or I will do a process called stock removal. From there, I would take it to heat treating, which is when the knife is heated to the critical temperature of 1,920 °F or 1,500 °F. After that, it begins changing the crystal structure inside the steel making it much harder, and it creates a stronger edge. After it's removed from the kiln, I dip it in oil, which shocks it and cools it quickly so that the knife will be hard, but very brittle, it’s almost like glass. If I were to take that knife and hit it against a table, it would probably snap in half at this stage of the process. The next step is called tempering. Tempering is a cooling method of taking the stress out of the steel. I’m baking it at a lower temperature, around 200 °F or 400 °F, for an hour or two to relieve the stress in the steel. Now I have a knife that is tough and has a high wear resistance. I can take that knife and put it in a vise, and bend it at a 90-degree angle
without it breaking, making it very durable.
GK: Have you passed all the quality specifications for your knives?
Yes, certain groups in the knife world test your knives. I am a member of the ABS, American Bladesmith's Society and I’ve passed all cut and bend tests.
GK: Tell us about your handles.
I use a lot of wood, especially maple burl which is the knot or the growth that comes off the side of the tree, the big knot part. I have a friend who customizes the block method for me. He’ll either dye it or stabilize it. I then take each block of wood and hold it up to God to see which one speaks to me. Each knife has its own personality. Another type of wood I use is Dymalux or Dymondwood. It’s veneered birch that’s compressed together like plywood. It's kept under high pressure with resin and glue,
so it's a really tough material. They use it making archery and gun stocks.
GK: Absolutely. I’m looking at them right now. They’re just fascinating. Tell us about the swirls and spirals on the blade. Is that a certain technique you do to develop that?
That is called Damascus steel. It’s a layering technique to create different patterns in the steel. You start off with two different types of steel, one that has chromium, another that has a higher carbon content, and you will mix those two together. That’s how you achieve the contrast between dark and light. The steel that has more chromium or nickel will stay light, and the steel that has the higher carbon content will turn dark.
GK: Is this a Japanese method of how they make their knives?
GK: They say that the Japanese method of forging steel is impeccable.
GK: Can you talk about your oyster knife a little bit?
When I came up with the idea for the oyster knife, (the brew shucker), it was Christmas time. My family was all around shucking oysters. They would use screwdrivers; some would have butter knives, they all had different gadgets to pop oysters. My uncles, who would be drinking beer, were opening their bottles on the picnic table to remove their caps. A vision came to me, and I thought, “why not create a knife that could shuck oysters and open beer bottles?.”
GK: What kind of price range can chefs or knife enthusiasts expect?
The top price ranges from $240-$440 for an eight-inch chef knife. We have a three-knife Echo set for around $500. The full price list can be found on my website at: www.middletonmadeknives.com
GK: What can our readers expect from Middleton Made Knives in 2018?
I’ll be creating my own signature style of pocketknives, and I also have some other ideas in the kiln!
GK: Tell us about the pocket knives.
One of the pocket knives I have called Ajaani which is a Nigerian name which means the man that survives the struggle. It’s an
old-type of gentleman’s knife. I’ve seen a lot of tactical knives, and a lot of really tough, heavy knives. This one will be a dress-up knife that you can take to special occasions when you don’t want to have your heavy tactical knives in your jacket pocket or your pants! It will be light and will not weigh you down.
~ by Leo Bushey
Sebastian Motoasca, Pastry Chef at Boca West Country Club, Boca Raton, Florida, USA. Image courtesy Boca West.
On a recent trip to Boca West Country Club last October, Darlene Wright, (who has been the personal assistant of now retired and beloved General Manager Jay DiPietro for over 20 years), told me about Sebastian, his Romanian roots and how talented he is with pastries and desserts. Once I met Sebastian, I saw his talent and had to talk to him. ~ Diana DeLucia
GK: What brought you from Romania to the USA?
Before I came to America, I lived in Romania, and worked in a bakery making bread and croissants. I was learning from my cousin, and after that I went to school in Romania to learn the baking trade. In 2001, I had a desire to visit the United States, and started working for Carnival Cruise Lines. I learned a lot about pastries and desserts while working for Carnival. In 2005 I left Carnival, and I started working at the Polo Club in Florida. I enjoyed working at the Polo Club making pastries, and in 2007 I came to Boca West.
GK: How did you get the position at Boca West?
When I was working at the Polo Club of Boca Raton, I had some friends who were working at Boca West Country Club. I came
to see Chef Roger Brock, and after one season I moved over here permanently. Boca West has a unique glue about it that keeps everyone together. I love the management, and I love the chef and the team. There is so much activity here, especially in the dining scene. They give me the freedom to create whatever I want, and I have a lot of ideas running through my head! I learn every day I am here, and I like to find new beautiful ways to present my pastries, cakes, and desserts for the members and guests. I love testing new products, and am always looking for something new. I look for different shapes and different colors.
GK: Tell us about Norman Love.
Norman Love is the founder of the renowned Norman Love Confections. We have Norman Love chocolates in our boutique. I was fortunate to visit Norman Loves factory, and I took some classes there, and especially enjoyed creating the chocolate towers and small desserts. It was a fantastic challenge to be there, and it was great to meet Chef Love.
GK: What is your favorite pastry?
My favorite pastry, and surprisingly I personally am not a big fan of chocolate; rather I like everything that is made with fresh fruit. I like pies, mousses with fresh peaches, strawberries, and mango; we do a lot of different mousse flavors here. Everything I do here is made from scratch. I like to use the best quality ingredients and whatever is natural. You will not find a lot of artificial ingredients in my desserts.
GK: What do the members say about your pastries and desserts?
When we create many of our buffets, the members often tell me how much they love my pastries, and they can’t believe some of the desserts I create as they have never experienced anything like them before. I have been to so many places, and I don’t see as many beautiful creations like what we do here at Boca West.
GK: Do you play golf?
The first time I played golf was at Madden’s on Gull Lake in Minnesota. I was working at an event there. They had three or four golf courses at that time and I fell in love with golf. I have not played at Boca West, I wanted to play this summer but had missed
the classes. I want to learn so I can compete in the staff tournament we have here every year.
GK: Tell us what your plans are in the future.
My dream is to continually improve and find as many new things as I can to present to our members. I want to continue to create new designs; I love the beauty I can create with pastry and dessert. I strive for perfection in everything I do. I have been
working in pastry since I was 14 and I never get tired of it; I am 36 now. In the future, I would love to have my own store!
GK: Tell us about your love of fishing and why your nickname is Seabass.
In Romania, as a child, we went fishing a lot, and when I came to the USA, everything was so different. I like fishing, and sea
bass is my favorite fish. They probably combined that with my name Sebastian, Chef calls me Seabass all the time [laughs]. I
like fly fishing too, but in Florida, there is not very much of that going on. Here I love to fish in the ocean, sometimes I take a boat
out, and sometimes I fish from the pier. We catch bluefish, mackerel, dolphin fish (Mahi-mahi), king fish, and red snapper.For me however, sea bass is the most beautiful fish and very tasty.
~ by Diana DeLucia
Profiteroles, recipe by Sebastian Motoasca. Image by Diana Delucia.
Warwick Hilli, Executive Chef with former Sous Chef Simon Bulger, Kingston Heath Golf Club, Melbourne, Victoria, Australia. Image courtesy Kingston Heath Golf Club.
Warwick is one of the few chefs I have worked with that didn’t have a family figure that influenced his culinary passion. He discovered it by chance at a class in high school. He worked very hard at a young age, and it is no surprise that he runs the prestigious Kingston Heath Golf Club kitchen. ~ Diana DeLucia
GK: Tell us about your passion for food.
I went to Baxter Tech, an all-boys technical school, and about halfway through they changed to co-ed. Home Economics was added as a subject, and my mate and I decided we would take it as a subject, and I found that I was excellent at it. I quickly went from being the idiot who sat at the back of the class to the teacher’s pet at the front. In my junior year, I earned honors in Home Economics with a grade of 99 AA, so I thought this might be a good career choice for me.
I interned at the Pier Hotel in Frankston, Victoria and that was quite the experience. It was a fascinating place back in the 1980s, and I spent a whole week making steak sandwiches and crumbing prawns and calamari.
I didn’t cook much at home as I come from a very English upbringing, and the food was very standard fare at that time, nothing exciting. I left school in my junior year in 1985 as I decided that I wanted to pursue a culinary career. I started as an apprentice chef on Lygon Street, Carlton, Victoria at La Spaghettata Restaurant, an Italian family style restaurant, and I stayed there for two years. I learned about long hours and hard work from the very start of my career, learning how to deal with the pace and pressure which was so valuable in this business. During my four year apprenticeship, I realized that I should move around and work in different places, so I worked in three or four different establishments.
GK: Were they all in Melbourne?
Yes - Melbourne, Mornington Peninsula, and the Wineries. I had developed a reputation as a hard worker and never had to go anywhere with a resume. At the beginning of my career, my girlfriend Sarah, now my wife, and I both worked overseas for a year. She worked in Food and Beverage, and I was a cook in the kitchen in some pretty good establishments in Europe and London.
GK: Tell us about London.
Two days after we landed in London, we started working the summer season in Wales. It’s the busiest time of the year in southern Wales on the Pembrokeshire Coast. We worked at a hotel called Broad Haven, and it was funny as we traveled halfway around the world, and we get to this place, and it’s full of Aussie and Kiwi chefs! Everyone was doing the same thing.
I worked in Coventry in England for the Peugeot Car Company cooking for executives. One morning I delivered my resume to an agency and got a phone call back that morning because the head chef at Peugeot had been playing racquetball and broke his arm in an accident. The next morning, I was cooking for all the executives at Peugeot, which was excellent because I came in with a lot of new ideas that excited them. I taught them all some Aussie words because they got quite spun out by my accent. They were enthralled by the term “snags.” What do you call it? Snags. Sausages. Snags!
GK: When did you start working in golf clubs?
When we returned from our year overseas, we relocated back to the Mornington Peninsula, Victoria and around the corner was the Peninsula Country Golf Club, a beautiful golf course that was a WOW place for me. I wanted to get a job there and submitted my resume, and about a month later, I got a job there as a casual chef. Peninsula is where the whole private golf club thing started for me, and I quickly learned that it’s a different world in the private golf clubs. I enjoyed cooking for the members of Peninsula who looked after me so well, and they instilled the real passion for working in golf clubs. There was a Welsh chef there when I started, and his food was fantastic. I learned so much from him, and Ron Davies and I went from casual chef to sous chef to head chef at Peninsula over a period of ten years.
GK: How did you find your way to Kingston Heath Golf Club?
I was sad to leave the Peninsula Country Golf Club in 2009 because it was a great establishment. However, when I saw the position of Head Chef advertised at Kingston Heath, I knew that it might be a good career move for me. I was also hoping to work again with Andrea Watson, who had also worked at Peninsula Golf Club and had moved to Kingston Heath a few years earlier. I had great respect for her work ethic, and we worked together so well. At my interview at Kingston Heath, I met Andrea and the new General Manager Gregg Chapple. After a second interview, I was offered the position as Head Chef.
GK: What do you like about working in the private club business?
Private golf clubs give you a sense of belonging. Everyone looks after you, and I feel like I owe the members a ton! I’m dedicated both to the members and my kitchen team every day at Kingston. I mean, look at the golf club now. Why wouldn’t you want to work here? It’s beautiful.
GK: Tell us about the Australian Masters.
Three months after I started here, we hosted the 2009 Australian Masters, and Tiger Woods was headlining, and it was just absolutely crazy. We had a brand new clubhouse that was still being built four days before the tournament started, and I was taking the plastic off the new deep fryers in the satellite kitchen! When the previous head chef left, there was a significant turnover of staff, and there were only two staff members here when I joined, so I had to find new staff quickly.
GK: How did the tournament go? It sounds like you had a very tough situation to handle.
The tournament was fantastic and was such great fun. All the stars and planets lined up, the club opened, everything worked, and it was immaculate. There were crowds everywhere. At one point, I was standing in the player’s lounge, and there was Tiger Woods. [laughter] I’m thinking, “Yeah, this is amazing.”
Kingston Heath also hosted the 2012 Australian Masters with Adam Scott for whom I was honored to cook. The following year, it was great watching Adam go on to win The Masters at Augusta National in the USA. We are all so proud of Adam in Australia.
To be successful in private golf clubs, you have to be able to satisfy the members by giving them what they want. You can’t just give them what you want because that’s not going to work. We are predominantly here as a golf course, a daytime golf course. Many of the clientele here at Kingston Heath just play golf. We are a world-renowned Golf Club, not a country club and don’t have accommodation, tennis courts or country club amenities or ala carte restaurants. The members are not planning to eat three-course meals and play golf. The majority of our day is spent working in the Club bar kitchen, which is a fast-paced lunch service offering members freshly prepared items such as salads, sandwiches, grilled fish, burgers, and pasta. We also have a substantial influence towards healthy foods.
GK: How did the members feel when you started to make changes to the menu?
Previous chefs at Kingston Heath always did what was asked of them. One of the things mentioned during my interview was that Kingston Heath members wanted the food to reflect the same quality of the beautiful new clubhouse. I changed everything and perhaps went too hard too soon, but it was a learning curve for me. The members now view many of the new dishes as staple menu items at the club.
Slowly, we’re changing their eating habits, and it is working. Some members will come and enjoy a game of golf, and just want a sandwich, which is fine. But some will say, “Look, I’ll have that salmon steak.” It’s not a money issue, but more about what they feel like having at the time. We’ve opened their eyes to fantastic cuisine, and we have to keep it appealing and appetizing. The members will certainly tell you quickly if something is not right!
GK: Do the members communicate their appreciation of the cuisine you are producing here now?
For sure they do. Many of them are very educated, especially with the wines. We’re a great wine club well known for Shiraz. It’s amazing how many bottles of wine we go through each week. We’re not a beer and pie club. Our members know their food and their wines.
GK: You must hold some great wine dinners.
We’ve held some fantastic wine dinners with the big South Australian wineries, and I enjoy creating the menus for these events. We also do smaller Cellar lunches where the members bring their wines from their cellars, and we match the food with the wine.
Since I left Melbourne and Australia 14 years ago, the awareness of food in general in Australia has elevated. Public relations people who have visited from New York tell me that Australia is taking over from the United States in the fine dining arena. How has that affected the private golf club kitchens?
Melbourne is the capital of Australia when it comes to melting pot cultures, and the food is fantastic. That’s the beauty of Melbourne. Eventually, that filters down to private golf clubs. As an example, when I first started at Peninsula, we were committed to raising the level and interest in food. People always looked at golf kitchens and restaurants and said, “Yeah, golf clubs serve meat pies and chips.” That was the stigma, and we wanted to change that at Peninsula. We enhanced the food level to where the Peninsula became renowned for it.
In a lot of the private golf clubs in Victoria and Australia, the level is just, “WOW.” We now have the resources and the tools to do a great job. I’m lucky to work here because food and labor costs do not necessarily govern me. It’s about giving the members what they want, so we can be creative and use exotic ingredients with which you might not normally be able to work.
GK: Warwick, do you play golf?
Yes. I do play golf, and I love it. I don’t have an official handicap because I don’t post my scores. If I kept a handicap, it would probably be between 25 and 27. I have a good hole, and then I have a bad hole. I could play a lot more golf here, but my priority needs to be in the kitchen looking out for the members.
GK: How well do you work with General Manager Gregg Chapple?
Gregg is an incredible leader. While I certainly work some long hours, I guarantee you it seems like he’s always here! He certainly has a busy schedule especially because Kingston Heath is well known. He works hard and leads by example which filters down to all of us, so our team leads by example too. I’m not a religious nut, but I use the word “blessed” to explain my feeling about working here at Kingston Heath. That’s the way I see it, and I wish our staff could understand what a superb place Kingston is. Sometimes they don’t realize it until they leave and then appreciate what they had here. I always feel so lucky when I come in here, even if I’ve done a 70 hour week because of how Gregg and the club look after me so well.
GK: You have worked quite a few major tournaments, do you enjoy them?
I have been very fortunate now to be a part of three major tournaments here at KHGC.
2009 Australian Masters
2012 Australian Masters
2016 World Cup of Golf
The WCOG was by far the biggest in catering numbers for the team at KHGC. Not only did we have the Players and Members to cater for, but this time we also had the Commissioners room, and the Caddies had their catering as well, we turned the golf shop into the Caddies lounge all week. We had a massive team of chefs and support staff in various areas around the club, from wood-fired pizza on the terrace to a seafood buffet with ice carvings, to pop up cafes on the lawn.
My job that week was to oversee all areas of catering, from the menu planning, daily ordering of stock and staffing requirements. The daily cooking and serving of various buffets, a la carte, to casual terrace dining was headed up by my Sous Chef Simon Bulger and his two senior chefs Michael Scutt and Julian Grudzien, under them were teams of cooks, kitchen assistants and kitchen hands.
I can still remember the Friday morning of the Tournament we had hundreds for breakfast in four different areas, it was non stop for hours, it was only 9 am, but it felt like we had worked the whole day! Then I said to everyone "quick we need to clean down and get ready for lunch," luckily the bar kept us fuelled with excellent coffee.
I slept at the club that week because I did not want to drive home every night, considering we were all in the kitchens at 5.30am most mornings going through till 6 pm, but it was so much fun, we saw the world’s best golfers in our club.
All the staff and management did an outstanding job that week to deliver such a high quality of food and service.
After the WCOG we settled back into looking after our members and guests, we are a small catering team of myself, Simon Bulger my Sous Chefs Sandra, Darren, Margarita, Julian, and Rick. We are all focused on giving the members and guests an exceptional level of service.
As you can see I like to promote Australian produce, we have some many interstate and overseas guests each year, so we come up with ways we can give them a taste of Australia from using native spices on meats, to wattle seed in desserts.
GK: Anything else you would like to share?
I want to thank my wife Sarah for supporting my career both now and in the past. I am often here 12 plus hours a day. We also have three beautiful children, Laura 19, Max 17 and James 11 and Sarah is a great mother to them.
I feel like it is a privilege to work here, and I am very content here. I can’t see myself working anywhere else.
Tastes of Quail, recipe by Warwick Hilli. Image by Diana DeLucia.
Recipe by Scott Pikey, Executive Chef at Mayacama Golf Club, Sonoma County, California, USA. Image by Diana DeLucia.
Slow Roasted Grapes
Chef Note: The skin can be left on or removed.
Remove all bones from the trout filet and portion to 5 ounces.
Keep refrigerated until ready to cook.
Chef Note: The butter and thyme will be used when cooking the fish.
Slow Roasted Grapes
Preheat the oven to 150° F (low fan).
Wash the grapes and place on a paper towel to dry.
Toss the grapes with grape seed oil and then place into a large sauté pan or lined baking sheet and roast for 2 hours.
Clean each head of cauliflower to ½ inch florets.
Place the cauliflower, cream, salt and curry powder into a large saucepan. Cover and bring to a simmer for 30 minutes stirring every 10 minutes.
Drain the Cauliflower and reserve the liquid.
Puree half of the cauliflower mixture into a blender slowly adding half the butter and a tablespoon of the reserved liquid until smooth.
Pass through a fine mesh Tamis.
Pour the mixture into the lined pan to cool and cover with plastic wrap with a tight seal to prevent a crust from forming.
Trim the radish tops leaving ¼ inch stem and wash until all dirt has been removed, then place the cleaned radishes in a large sauté pan. Cover with the vegetable stock and simmer on low heat for 8 minutes, add the butter and thyme and emulsify.
Cool the glazed radishes at room temperature.
Clean the outer leaves and discard.
Cut the Brussels sprouts in half and peel away the tender leaves.
Save the center Brussel sprout core for another use.
In a small sauce pot gently rewarm the cauliflower puree and keep a lid on until ready to plate.
Place two large sauté pans on high; add 3 ounces of the grapeseed oil to both.
When the oil is hot, sear the trout and cook for three minutes, add 2 Tablespoons of butter and thyme and cook two minutes.
Remove the fish from the pan and place on a paper towel.
In the other saute pan add the cauliflower, and lightly caramelize.
Remove any excess oil and add the Brussels sprout leaves, radishes 3 Tablespoons of vegetable stock and heat all the vegetables, add 2 Tablespoons butter until emulsified. Finish with the almonds, grapes and then season.
Spoon the cauliflower puree into the center of a coupe style bowl.
Add the glazed vegetables on top followed by the trout.
A classic pairing with Mt. Lassen Trout would be a lightly oaked chardonnay, or a light, lower alcohol Pinot Noir from the Sonoma Coast or Burgundy. However, the curried cauliflower throws a slight curve into the mix, and this would give me an excellent opportunity to suggest a light, unoaked chardonnay or even better an aromatic white wine like Chenin Blanc, Arneis, or Torrantes. If I wanted to go outside the box, I would also consider Grenache.
~ Jeff McCarthy, Wine Director, Mayacama Golf Club.
Mayacama Golf Club, Sonoma County, California, USA. Image courtesy Mayacama.
Recipe by Clara Lene Kelly, Mixologist, Kohanaiki, Kona, Hawaii, USA. Image by Diana DeLucia.
Fill a Boston Shaker with ice and add the white rum, orange curacao, orgeat syrup, pineapple juice and passion orange juice.
Squeeze the lime into the shaker and then drop it in. Shake, then pour all of the contents into a Mai Tai glass.
Garnish with the pineapple.
Float the dark rum.
Slap the mint sprig and place on top.
Make sure the glass is large enough to hold all of the ingredients. Garnish before adding the dark rum; Nobody likes their drink overflowed. The lime is the key ingredient! Its not a Mai Tai without it.
Kohanaiki, Kona, Hawaii, USA. Image courtesy Kohanaiki.
Recipe by Bonnie Briar Country Club, Larchmont, New York, USA, Image by Diana DeLucia.
Shake all of the ingredients in a bar shaker with ice and strain into a Double Old-fashioned glass with a large ice sphere.
Bonnie Briar Country Club, Larchmont, New York, USA. Image Courtesy Bonnie Briar Country Club.