UNLIKE many of his peers, who shy away from cooking competitions and food promotions, Oceanus executive chef Andrew Mann is a keen participant in extracurricular activities.
Such opportunities provide a chance to learn, Mr Mann says, as well as helping to forge good supplier relationships.
Mr Mann, who won the Catering Institute of Australia’s Chef of the Year award this year, has been entering competitions since his early cooking days. His flair for competitions may win him the honour of competing in Germany later this year, should he be selected in the Australian culinary team to compete at the Culinary Olympics.
“Martin Carlin was a TAFE lecturer and he convinced me to compete in the Salon Culinnaire competition. Now I’ve done five years of them and every year I’ve got a gold medal,” Mr Mann says.
“The competitions have really taught me the most about cooking because it is so demanding and you can’t cover yourself because you are being judged by the best three people in the country. They know what you are going to do before you do.”
Mr Mann believes his competition work and volunteer promotional work advances his skills in the kitchen.
“I do a lot of work with Meat and Livestock Australia. I do a lot of promotions with them and it keeps you thinking,” he says.
“Graham (from Meat and Livestock Australia) is a butcher and he knows everything about meat. We’ve got beef belly on the menu at the moment and you won’t find that on another menu in Perth, but the meat is a beautiful cut of meat.
“It’s sensational to use and I learnt that from Graham.”
Mr Mann is a Hospitality Group Training apprentice graduate and has worked at Indiana Tea House and Araluen Estate, and was the first head chef at Mead’s Fish House.
His first career goal was to be a hotel chef, but after an 18-month stint at The Sebel Perth decided privately run restaurant kitchens were more his cup of tea.
“I didn’t enjoy the hotel thing. It wasn’t busy enough,” he says.
“I have a lot more control here.
“When I was at the hotel it was more about room service and if someone called in at 6.30 wanting a roast meal then that is what you would cook. It is not about creating food, it is cooking to order, and I didn’t like that.”
Mr Mann left The Sebel when he was the successful applicant for the executive chef’s position at the (then) new beachfront restaurant, Oceanus, about two and a half years ago.
And while he has ambitions to one day have his own restaurant, the seaside kitchen provides a good challenge as well as an opportunity to be creative.
“Every chef wants to own their own place but I couldn’t afford to do that. There is no point doing something half-heartedly,” Mr Mann says. “I couldn’t open a cafe and have a garden salad as a mains.”
Mr Mann next week will host the restaurant’s first cooking class and he has high hopes the format will be a success.
“This is a proper sit down five-course meal with wine but people can come and learn how it’s all done,” he says. “They get to use different cuts of meats and it’s something that may interest the locals.
“There are only 25 places and it’s really trying to provide a bit more education so that when they come in and read our menu they know more about it. I’d like to say we would do them once a month or bi-monthly but it depends on how successful the first one is.”
Mr Mann says he is keen to write menus that promote WA produce.
“We promote WA products where we can.
“There are some things that we can’t do because we have to bring it in, but where we can we promote it.
“On the menu this month is Shark Bay whiting, Exmouth jumbo tiger prawns, Mount Barker fillet of beef, and Geraldton dhufish.”
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