Relish on Addison owner and chef Tom Laws talks to KATE WALSH.
Tell us about your background as a chef.
Started apprenticeship in French restaurant in Tarmore, finished at the Gold Coast and moved to London at 21 and spent five years in hotels and restaurants through Europe. Relocated back to Sydney and was sous chef at the Renaissance and Bathers Pavilion Balmoral. Seachange to Shellharbour in 2002 and opened Relish on Addison.
What drove you to become a chef?
Pleasing people with food and a love of ingredients and cooking.
What was the first dish you ever cooked perfectly?
As a first-year apprentice working in a French restaurant, gnocchi a la parisienne. A French-style gnocchi which is made from a pate a choux, a dough using flour and water together with eggs, truffle and fresh herbs. I was thrown onto the hot section in the absence of a senior apprentice. So many elements of the dish could have gone wrong but I managed to pull it off. It still appears on Relish menus to this day.
What is your favourite dish that has ever been on your menu?
A recent dish that stands out is pan-roasted murray cod, salsify, poached oysters and verjuice buerre blanc.
What are the benefits of tasting plates over a single meal?
Customers are able to experience a variety of dishes when they can't decide on a single item, also great for sharing.
What are the most important things you teach your apprentice chefs?
How to be responsible for themselves and how to work together as a team, to use a variety of cooking techniques. How to be clean, organised and efficient. Have respect for good produce and balance of flavours.
Do you think people have become more interested in seeking out good food?
Yes. Over the years customers have become more knowledgeable of good food, cooking techniques and services. People have become more interested in food and dining out. The media has been a huge influence with the popularity of celebrity chefs.
How do you relax after a hectic day or night in the kitchen?
Beer, football and (television series) Breaking Bad.
What is the best meal you have ever prepared for someone? The worst?
The best is a selection of Australian seafood for the English in-laws during summer and the worst . . . mistakes don't leave the kitchen.
Which chef do you admire most? Why?
Matthew Kemp, owner and chef of the former Balzac and Montpellier in Sydney for his twist on classic techniques.
What are your main influences when putting together a menu?
Customers, seasons and trying out new ideas. Working with front of house, trying out new ideas as daily specials, getting customer feedback, and working closely with suppliers to get the best seasonal produce and price. Eating out in Sydney and locally and reading magazines such as Gourmet and looking at food trends.
What are the most important tools in a chef's kit?
Burn cream, Band-Aids, Panadol and caffeine.
Relish on Addison: 4/6 Addison Street, Shellharbour.