We are lucky to have some incredibly skilled chefs in our kitchen team and we thought we’d start introducing you to a few of them on From Farm to Fork, starting with our new sous chef Billy Palmer who has a colourful culinary background; from the Caribbean, to travelling and cooking in Africa, to his recent stint at the 7 star Burj Al Arab in Dubai.
Tell us about your experience before landing the sous chef gig at MCEC?
Before making the move to Melbourne I was working in Dubai as chef de partie in the Al Mahara seafood restaurant at the Burj Al Arab, which is the world’s only 7 star hotel. And prior to that I spent some time in Bermuda working as sous chef at the Fairmont Southhampton, a Spanish tapas style restaurant. While in Bermuda I also worked as sous chef in the Jasmine Lounge restaurant, running the kitchen there with a team of 16 chefs under me, and I spent some time as as demi chef de partie in the Entre Nous international buffet at the Novotel World Trade Centre in Dubai.
What do you love about the culinary scene in Melbourne?
I’m from Queensland originally and I saw moving to Melbourne as an opportunity to work in the food capital of Australia. The culinary landscape is continually changing and there is so much variety.
How does the MCEC kitchen differ to other kitchens you’ve worked in around the world?
Everything you need is here in our kitchen; all the equipment, tools, fresh produce, and being able to work with what’s in season. It’s the most well equipped and one of the largest kitchens I’ve ever worked in.
Do you have a favourite restaurant in Melbourne? Any recommendations?
I really like The Millswyn in South Yarra, a modern brassiere across from the Royal Botanic Gardens. The executive chef there has a huge amount of passion for what they do and the approach they take to handpicking ingredients. I recommend the scallop entree and suckling pig for the main, both terrific.
What do you enjoy eating when you’re not cooking?
I enjoy African food like ugali, which is a wheat and mash stew, and roast meat dishes like nyama choma. I had the opportunity to travel around Africa and occasionally squeeze in some cooking for a few days with the Fairmont Hotel group (where I worked in Bermuda). One month of travelling, a couple days cooking with the Nairobi Hotel Kenya, it was a great experience.
Who do you most like to cook for?
My family and friends.
Whose cooking style and what chefs do you admire most?
Not necessarily famous or celebrity chefs, but it is the peers I work with every day in the kitchen and throughout my travels who continue to inspire me.
Any particular events being held at MCEC that you are looking forward to cooking for?
We have a plated dinner for 1200 people in the coming months so in our Sauce section we’ll be cooking our Gippsland braised lamb neck, with dauphinoise potatoes, green peas, baby vegetables and citrus gremolata, plus roasted barramundi with Asian greens and shitake mushroom spring roll, with a soy ginger dressing.
Most memorable cooking or career moment?
While working in the Caribbean I was awarded ‘Best Chef of Bermuda 2009’ out of 1200 chefs. This was definitely a memorable moment in my career and one I’m very proud of.
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