CHEF TO THE STARS
AND THE FOOTY LOVER
It’s easy to see why this month’s Executive Chef, Andrew Hunt complements the visual arts experience at the National Gallery of Victoria. Like any great artist his food is shaped by the materials, techniques and experience he has gained along the way.
When we spoke to Andrew, he shared with us his favourite childhood memory that cemented his approach to cooking. “At the age of 5 I was learning how to make ‘piragi’ with my Latvian grandmother in her kitchen. The sour cream-based yeast dough can be tricky to work with. I remember concentrating so hard to get the crescent shape just right and handling the dough with tentative frustration. She let me attempt a few more with little success. She then stopped me, fluently demonstrated the technique again and commented: ‘Andrew, don’t be afraid of the food’.” These words have been burnt into Andrew’s memory and have formed his approach to cooking. ‘Gain an understanding of the ingredient and work with it with confidence!’
Armed with this advice, Andrew cut his teeth working with a plethora of the country’s most exciting chefs, who took the time to nurture his talent. Their influences taught him a variety of techniques including how to butcher a whole lamb, properly clean an artichoke and to respectfully cook fish as well learning many of their secrets, which he holds very close to his chest!
Not only has Andrew worked with some superstars in the kitchen, his culinary journey has seen him serving many of them! Pasta Alfredo from scratch was on the menu for Prince and his entourage, as well as preparing a traditional beef wellington for the then Prime Minister Julia Gillard, former Prime Minister Paul Keating and 200 political figures. Stating the latter as his most nerve-racking experience to date, he told us ‘As all chefs know, you never really know if you’ve got it right until you cut that first piece’.
As a true Melburnian Andrew’s ultimate dream is to cook for The Melbourne Football Club’s 22 team members and coach after finally winning a premiership. He passionately tells us, ‘I would take individual a la carte orders and prepare them with all the love and fanaticism I have for footy and this club!’.
When questioned about his favourite ingredients, this self-confessed carnivore, sights high-quality cuts of beef raised on various feed types and aged using different techniques high on his list. “I’m fascinated with how a creature can be treated a certain way while its alive and when butchered it can change flavour profile, texture and the way it behaves when cooking.”
Moving up the ranks Andrew’s first Head Chef role was at Melbourne venue Trunk, which he tells us was a crash course in applying what he’d learnt along the way about kitchen management, menu development and cost control. It is this knowledge that helped him on his culinary journey into the world of catering. Having been immersed in the tender process and mobilisation of RA’s culinary operations at Melbourne Museum in the capacity of Head Chef, Andrew is quick to share that it is this experience that has elevated his understanding of contract catering. With this appreciation and his past restaurant experience he tell us he can rise to the challenges and push the envelope to impress guests at the NGV.
On a final note Andrew shares how, important mentoring is to him. He now sees it as his time to nurture his team and bring out the best in them by giving them ownership of their duties and letting them develop the skills and confidence to flourish.
We can’t wait to see what creation Andrew serves up next!