Arman Uz incorporates his Turkish background into the menu at Flanagans, Thirroul.
Tell us about your background as a chef.
I started my career in 1991 working in a busy tourist town called Cappadocia in Central Turkey. I worked under many of Turkey's top chefs before moving to Australia in 2004, where my career has included head chef at Cargo's Restaurant in Kiama and Efendy in Balmain. I started with Flanagans Dining in September 2012.
Describe your best moment in the kitchen.
In 1992 when I was working as an apprentice and not very far into my career as a chef, the head chef walked out of the restaurant I was working at. I was offered his position on the spot and had to cook for over 50 guests that night.
What was your worst moment as a chef?
My worst moment was probably not long after I arrived in Australia. I was working at a restaurant and I hadn't clipped a mixer in properly. Batter splattered all over me, my co-worker and all over the kitchen.
What is your favourite meal to make at home?
My wife is the head chef at home.
Why is locally-sourced produce so important to you?
It means that vegetables are picked at their peak as less time is spent in transit, and seafood is as its very freshest and less time is spent between the ocean and plate.
What are your tops tips for cooking fish?
Start with freshest fish you can source. The other important thing is to not over-cook the fish and don't over-power the fish with lots of flavours.
If you could change anything about being a chef, what would it be?
If it was possible I would change the long hours that chefs work - 16 to 17 hours at a time. We come home smelling of smoke, onions, fish and the like, and dream of amuse-bouche and new menus, it's hard to switch off. It's not as glamorous as the TV shows, it's hard work.
What influences and inspires your menu?
I draw inspiration from my childhood and the street foods that I ate growing up. Today I try to create similar flavours using local produce. To give an example, kokorech is a very well-known street food in Turkey. It is made using lamb's intestines, at Flanagans I have created a dish using octopus and spices, my new version of kokorech and it has been very popular. Another fond memory I have from my childhood is eating small, whole fish. I've incorporated this into my menus at Flanagans at times, including using whole John Dory, Leather Jacket, Garfish and Coral Cod.
What's the best advice you would give to aspiring chefs?
The advice I would give is to expect to work hard and to have to put in long hours. It's not just a job, it becomes a lifestyle.
What is your favourite ingredient to work with and why?
My favourite ingredients are spices. They are so versatile and can lift the flavour of any produce. I also enjoy using micro herbs, we grow these fresh in our gardens.
Why did you want to become a chef?
Some people eat to live and some people live to eat. I'm from the second group, I love food and I love to cook and create.
A serving of bonito on Thirroul Beach
• 4 bonito fillets
• Cress mix
• Persian pinenuts
• Olive oil
• White balsamic vinegar
• 500ml white balsamic vinegar
• 500ml extra virgin olive oil
• 50g Greek oregano
• 50g smoked paprika
• 25g ground cumin
• 4 Tasmanian garlic cloves
1. Put bonito fillet skin side down on your chopping board. Using a sharp knife, cut down both sides of the backbone, discarding bones and leaving two smaller fillets.
2. Cut each piece into two, so you end up with four pieces of bonito; repeat this for each fillet.
3. Mix all the ingredients for the marinade, pour over bonito pieces and rest for 24 hours in fridge.
4. Using a hot, non-stick pan grill bonito pieces, skin side down for about two minutes, until skin is crispy. Quickly flip over and cook other side for 10 seconds, then remove from pan.
5. Mix cress and pinenuts and dress with white balsamic and olive oil.
6. Serve grilled bonito pieces with dressed cress mix and pinenuts.