Flair for cooking crustaceans got Emmanuel Efstethiates to where he is today – executive head chef at Lagoon Restaurant.
Tell us about your background as a chef.
It all started with my parents being in the restaurant industry. I was cutting bread to serve for my dad's sandwich shop before going to school. From there I used to work in my dad's takeaway stores from age nine to 13, then my father pushed me to go to McDonald's, which taught me all about systems, management and working in a high-paced kitchen. I stayed there two years and then got a job at Lagoon as an apprentice.
The Lagoon was the turning point for my career, as there was so much international flair and talented chefs to come through the kitchen. I was like a sponge soaking up all the knowledge and expertise. I have now come full circle and am the executive head chef.
What was your favourite home-cooked dish growing up?
Barbecue whole snapper. My father cooked it very simply on the barbecue using fresh snapper we would catch together.
What is your favourite dish to cook?
A barbecue seafood medley because it's a variety of mixed seafood, from fresh water to salt water. It's a very delicate dish to cook, and has to be done just right.
How often do you experiment with new dishes?
Every day, I modify and create new dishes seasonally and for whatever is fresh and available. I like trying different cuts of meat and putting a new spin on old favourites, like our new veal oscar coming soon to the Lagoon menu. I also like our fresh local live yabbies, which we have in the tank here at Lagoon. It's always fun to use fresh, live products and that's what I love best.
Describe your perfect three-course meal.
Entree of freshly shucked Sydney rock oysters and lemon sorbet to cleanse the palate in between courses. A main of Queensland mud crab, pan fried lightly with ginger, chilli and garlic and for dessert a fresh panna cotta with vanilla bean or Baileys.
What has been the most challenging night in your time as a chef?
The opening of Seacliff Restaurant and running Lagoon at the same time. It was a challenging night, but a great success and now both restaurants are operating seamlessly.
What are the differences in catering for a function as opposed to a regular night?
A regular night is unpredictable as opposed to a function, where you know exactly how many people and what they are having.
How do you best like lobster?
Lightly grilled with olive oil, a bit of sea salt and lemon. This enhances the natural flavours of the lobster.
What other chef would you like to cook for a night with and why?
Gordon Ramsay. He's very systematic and I like how his kitchens flow.
RECIPE | Barbecue seafood medley
2 small chillies, chopped
2 cloves of garlic, crushed
1tsp soy sauce
1 cup cream
1 nip of brandy
2 king prawns, peeled and deveined
4 yabbies, cut in half and cleaned
1 Balmain bug, cut in half and cleaned
1 blue swimmer crab, cleaned
50g shallots, cut into thin strips
1. Lightly grill the bug for one-and-a-half minute in a large fry pan.
2. Add prawns, blue swimmer crab and yabbies and cook for another two and half minutes.
3. Add butter, garlic, chilli and ginger.
4. Add soy sauce and shallots.
5. Add brandy and flambe (set the dish on fire).
6. Add cream and let it reduce for two minutes on a high heat.
7. Serve with lemon wedges.
Recipe supplied by Emmanuel Efstethiates.