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Our June Chef of the Month is Adam McNeil, head chef at John Smith Cafe, Waterloo.
This quirky corner café has a buzz of creativity hidden inside. Its team is nothing but impressive; skills that you wouldn’t even associate with the culinary industry are being used to provide the perfect platform for a perfect dish.From carpentering their own décor to hand crafting their benches they’ve taken a truly hands on approach to bringing the John Smith’s experience to life. And it doesn’t end there; they smoke their own trout, roast their own coffee beans and produce their own granola. And the food; it’s mouth-watering.
1. Your restaurant/business:
John Smith Cafe, Waterloo.
2. Describe your kitchens:
It’s small and we use this as an advantage. The café culture of our business means there’s a constant stream of customers throughout the day.
This means were constantly prepping, and delivering. We don’t have space to store things so we’re making things fresh all the time which only increases the quality of our food.
3. Favourite Chef item and why:
The Montreal Cool Vent Chef Jacket in black. It’s comfortable and convenient.
4. First job:
5. Your cookbook:
My cookbook currently takes the form of an Instagram page. I use images as a reference for all the new dishes I create.
I get a lot of ideas and inspiration from photos of other dishes.
I’ve gone from pretending I’m a qualified chef just to get a job and experience to actually being qualified and running my own place; I think that’s probably an achievement. It certainly feels like an achievement when customers are lining up to taste our food.
7. Your inspiration to become a chef:
I started cooking at 16 because my family owned a roadhouse so inevitably I grew up on roadhouse food; it was tasteless, bland and offensive. I wanted to explore and discover other options.
8. Your cooking style inspiration:
I’ve always been inspired by French cuisine. You can see the French style in the way I prepare and plate up food.
It’s about the combinations, proportions, how they are cooked and how they are displayed. I’ve also picked up techniques and methods from different job roles; I once worked as a fish monger so inevitably I developed my seafood cooking skills.
9. Your speciality dish:
Avocado salsa, goats cheese with chilli jam on seeded sourdough topped with a poached egg.
It doesn’t have a ‘name’ as such. When I create a dish I focus on allowing each ingredient to present its own flavour, capsicum will taste like capsicum, avocado will taste like avocado.
Naming my dishes would only devalue their ingredients.
10. Favourite food and drink combination:
Pie and beer. Simple.
11. Weirdest thing you have ever eaten:
Snakeblood Vodka in Thailand
12. Café or restaurant:
Cafés are the place of new ideas, experiments, and inspiration. The service isn’t over complicated; it’s more about the food.
I like how cafes are innovative with comfort food; ‘fine foods’ aren’t for me.
13. Favourite wine:
Muscat. I prefer dessert wines.
14. Who would you most like to cook for:
It sounds cliché but everyone is special. Whether an A-list celebrity or an everyday John Smith walks in, I don’t care, nothing changes; my dishes will always turn out the same.
15. Who would you least like to cook for:
Another chef; they’re always going to think about how they would produce the same dish differently.
I can’t blame them, it’s our job.
16. Favourite things to do outside of the kitchen:
I enjoy spear fishing. I build remote control racing boats.
I’m an outdoors kind of person but admittedly I’m a fan of video games.
17. Your latest project:
My latest project is top secret but I’ll tell you about a few things I’m involved in at the moment.
We’ve created a range of tasty granolas that we’ve been taking to markets. It’s been pretty successful.
We’re also refurbishing the community garden just outside the café; some of the things we’ve grown have been used in our dishes.
18. Who is your favourite celebrity chef:
Pierre and Ramsey, they say it how it is without the fuss.
19. Your greatest indulgence:
Cheese; particularly French cheese.
20. Your all time best culinary tip:
Own a sharp knife.
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