Times are a’changing within the Rockpool family. In recent months and in fact, years, a few of our treasured long term staff have moved on – some take a break from the industry, others take up fresh challenges and a handful take the leap and launch into their own businesses. That, as they say, is life in the fast lane. The moving on of integral and often executive staff does, however, pave the way for the next generation to step up. The unsung heroes of the kitchen – the sous chefs – some of the hardest working individuals in any restaurant. We are proud to have some unashamedly great talent handling the kitchen reins at the seven restaurants within the Rockpool Group – and thought it was time we introduced them to you properly. In part one of our introductions, we bring you Phil, Ben and Dan.
Head Chef, Rockpool on George
Described by Neil Perry as one of Australia’s best chefs, Phil Wood, 31, is Head Chef of Rockpool Group mother ship, Rockpool on George. Heading a team of 15+ chefs at this multi-award winning institution, Phil has learnt his craft working in the kitchens of Thomas Keller’s The French Laundry and Tetsuya’s. In 2007, his skills earned him the celebrated Josephine Pignolet Award, which acknowledges the talent of young chefs and aims to inspire them to greater heights. A star in the making, Phil’s creativity, leadership and unwavering dedication to quality has made him one of the country’s most exciting chefs and one to watch. Phil oversaw the return to Rockpool on George’s hatted glory when the restaurant received 3 hats in the Sydney Morning Herald’s Good Food Guide last year, after a long absence.
Culinary heroes? Thomas Keller, Neil Perry and Tetsuya Wakuda
Best meal ever eaten? Urasawa, Los Angeles
What inspires you? All the chefs I work with
What produce are you working with currently that rocks your boat? Hand dived sea urchin and local abalone
What dish on your menu is your current favourite? Cuttlefish with Gaian poultry duck prosciutto, ink, crispy chicken skin, carrot leather and furikake
An amazing place you’ve been recently that blew your mind? Clovelly Beach, Sydney – the best place to swim
What are you looking forward to? Holidays…
Head Chef, Spice Temple Melbourne
32 year old Ben Pollard has been a talented fixture in the kitchens of many Rockpool restaurants since his career commenced in 1997. He started cooking in his hometown of Byron Bay, working for two years with ex-Rockpool Chef Tippy Heng before heading to Rockpool himself where he spent three years as an apprentice. Overseas travel lured Ben to a private resort in the Caribbean where he worked as a Sous Chef for two years with a handful of other ex-Rockpool staff, before moving to NYC to work as a private chef for a year, eventually returning to Sydney and Rockpool on George as Sous Chef. When Rockpool Bar & Grill Melbourne opened its doors in late 2006, Ben was appointed Sous Chef, a position he held for the past four years. Ben jumped kitchens in 2010 to become Spice Temple Melbourne’s inaugural Head Chef.
Culinary heroes? Thomas Keller, Neil Perry, Fuschia Dunlop, David Thompson
Best meal ever eaten? Pier was great back in the day, some great desserts by Katrina Kanetani. WD50 in NYC was a big eye opener, awesome
What inspires you? Beautiful fresh produce, the great stories behind dishes and passionate apprentices!
What produce are you working with currently that rocks your boat? Organic red jalapenos, fresh bamboo shoots, young ginger
What dish on your menu is your current favourite? Stir fried prawns with salted duck egg and four chillies brined, dried, fermented and pickled. I love the chillies – they all have such a unique flavour
An amazing place you’ve been recently that blew your mind? I absolutely love going up to the hills near Lake Eildon, North of Melbourne on my bike…the air is so fresh in the morning up there and seeing the regrowth from the fires from a few years ago is incredible. There are some great little places for lunch too, serving local produce and also some great farmers markets happening
What are you looking forward to? Weekends with my little boys
Head Chef, Rockpool Bar & Grill Perth
32 year old Dan Masters started his career in food at the young age of 15, commencing an apprenticeship in Forster on the mid-North coast of NSW. He joined Rockpool’s Bistro Mars in 1998 under the guidance of Neil and after two years left to finish his apprenticeship at Sydney’s Banc. These were Dan’s formative years where his love of food was consolidated and he made the decision to forge a career in cooking and restaurants. Overseas travel lured Dan to many corners of the globe including the Caribbean, Singapore and London where he spent a year working at the famous Le Gavroche. In 2008, Dan spent 12 months in the kitchen of Thomas Keller’s legendary Napa Valley restaurant, The French Laundry before returning to Sydney to take up the position of Senior Sous Chef at Rockpool on George. Six months prior to the opening of Rockpool Bar & Grill Perth, Dan moved to sister restaurant, Rockpool Bar & Grill Sydney to start training for his role as Head Chef. Dan shares the same food philosophy as Neil Perry in which excellent produce is cooked simply. He is also passionate about sustainability and hopes the trend to respect and nurture our food supplies continues. Dan is addicted to golf.
Who are your culinary heroes? Thomas Keller, Neil Perry, Yoshihiro Murata
Best meal ever eaten? Urusawa, Los Angeles
What inspires you? Like-minded professionals, beautiful produce and cutting fish
What produce are you working with currently that rocks your boat? Genoa figs from down south, Yellow Neck clams from Mark Eather, soooooooooooooo sweet
What dish on your menu is your current favourite? Pulled Jarrahdene pork pie with chipotle sauce
An amazing place you’ve been recently that blew your mind? – Urasawa again
What are you looking forward to? My daughter gracing this world. (Dan’s first child is due in July)
Still to come…Andy Evans, Corey Costelloe, Brendan Sheldrick and Will Cowan-Lunn…