Interview with Chef Rod

From working at Jacques Reymond Restaurant, Oakridge Winery and Stones of the Yarra Valley, he has spent his years working in a wide spectrum of elite kitchens in all facets; savoury, sweet and bakery.

Last week, we sat down with the wonderful Chef Rod in Melbourne to chat about how he is going in lockdown and how he has pivoted in his daily life as a Private Chef!

From working at Jacques Reymond Restaurant, Oakridge Winery, and Stones of the Yarra Valley, he has spent his years working in a wide spectrum of elite kitchens in all facets; savory, sweet, and bakery. Check out our chat below.

Tell me about your history of being a Chef before starting with Intertain? 
I've been in the hospitality game for about 20 years. My background has always been around food and big events – I have a Middle Eastern background, and cooking has been an important part of my whole life, especially growing up. When I started to learn to cook, I was around 15 years old. I decided to take home-economics (the subject) at school, just to learn some basics.  It was pretty basic stuff – Cauliflower with cheese or Bolognese – and that went really well, I was really enjoying it.

I loved it so much, it eventually led me into doing a course in my later years of high school – Certificate Two in Kitchen Operating. My teacher at TAFE, Gina, competed in the Culinary Olympics in Germany, so she knew her stuff. She would tell her story and show us how to cook things like Ratatouille. And from there, I just knew this was it. This is exactly what I want to do. This feels right, this feels great.

I went straight into an apprenticeship, it's just been non-stop since I was young – but I love it. I've just been spending the better part of twenty years just cooking, serving, learning, baking, and pastry making.

What are your favourite aspects of being a private Chef? 
My first Intertain gig was a trial dinner for the team. While I was chopping and prepping, I just realized – there's so much freedom right now. 

There’s no one standing next to you to tell you what to do or how to prepare things. I had the freedom to just be autonomous. All of a sudden, you've got the tools in the kit, and you're not governed by anything other than yourself. That's very exciting for the right person. 

Having that time to yourself is invaluable. I had so much anxiety at the start (with being a Private Chef) because it feels like you have to be somewhere doing something at hundred miles an hour, but you don't. It’s like restaurants have conditioned you to go, go, go all the time. To be able to step back and be able to breathe for a moment is a beautiful thing. 

I spent the week of my first Intertain client dinner prepping for around three to four hours. I felt good. I was relaxed.  I did however feel stressed leading up to it, just because of that anxiety – worrying that I had missed something, or that I hadn’t done enough to prep. That stress is that Just a part of a Chef's life, I think.

Since then, I’ve done countless Intertain dinners. I've started to discover that I don't need to stress, I can just go at my own pace, plan out my week, prep my things, store what I need to, and I've got all my time back and that is the beautiful thing about being a private Chef.

What ingredient are you excited to work with for the rest of 2020?
Flour! I feel like it is one of the up and coming ingredients for me this year. The different types of flours are really important to me too – different types of spelt, wheat, and rye are all going to be super interesting for this year.

What about COVID? How do you think it will affect the hospitality industry? 
I feel a lot of people are fighting back at the moment with COVID. Playing the blame game – but we’re all in the same boat. It’s affecting every industry. 

It’s easier to live in negativity than to see the silver linings of the COVID crisis, in terms of shedding some light on some negative aspects of the industry and the growth it has forced. Like pivoting to add online systems, or working from home. I choose to focus on these aspects; there's enough negativity in the world in regards to COVID.

I also think COVID will shed light on the importance of service and the idea of an experience. People will want an experience when they go out to eat after COVID, especially in Victoria. Of course, people will be excited about great food and drinks – obviously, they’re super important too, but if you don’t have the heart and soul, the experience isn’t there. I think COVID will change the way we think about food, service, and the experience of dining out in Australia and on a global scale, for sure. 

Thanks so much for chatting with us, Rod! For more information about Rod and the wonderful work that he does at Intertain, check out his Chef Biography here

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