A 17-year association between one of Perth’s best known restaurateurs and one of its top chefs looks to be paying dividends at their latest venture, the Bluewater Grill, as Julie-anne Sprague reports.
BEING a chef at Bluewater Grill certainly has its advantages, among them that the open kitchen affords the kitchen crew the same million-dollar views as those enjoyed by the customers.
The sweeping, 180-degree views of the Swan River with its city skyline backdrop, from a restaurant that doesn’t have noisy foot or street traffic, makes the Bluewater kitchen one of Perth’s best.
But to focus solely on the aesthetics is to do the culinary fare a disservice.
Bluewater Grill is operated by Brad Ford, the talented chef who spent a decade as Chris Taylor’s right-hand man at Fraser’s Restaurant.
When, in 2003, Mr Taylor and his investors won the contract to fit-out a wing of the former Heathcote psychiatric hospital, Mr Ford was seconded from his role as head chef at Fraser’s to operate the new venue.
“Chris and his partners are always looking for something different to do but they make sure they have the right venue. They got this place and Chris needed someone who he can rely on,” Mr Ford says.
For Mr Ford it meant managing more than just the kitchen.
Bluewater employs between 60 and 70 people and it’s a challenge the chef is enjoying.
“It’s just more of everything. I’ve got to step out of the kitchen and take a look at the whole picture. It’s things like making sure there’s hand paper in the toilets, and the gardens are done, and making sure the painter painted the wall that was scratched,” Mr Ford says.
“The difficult part is when the guys out the front bust their hump and make sure the service is great and we screw up in the kitchen. That’s annoying. And it’s the same the other way.”
Mr Ford won this year’s Restaurant and Caterers Industry Association chef honour award, an accolade that recognises his achievements in the industry.
Mr Ford began cooking at the age of 14 in country Victoria and learned how a kitchen operated fairly quickly.
“My first chef was an alcoholic who used to sleep when I got there. When it came to service time I would wake him up and we’d get through it. That’s probably why I learned quickly,” he says.
Mr Ford finished his apprenticeship and, at 21, got married and decided to move to Perth for a change in lifestyle.
“Australia had just won the America’s Cup and Perth was growing then,” he says.
Finding it difficult to secure a suitable job, Mr Ford ended up calling a friend of a friend, who turned out to be the food and beverage manager at the then Ansett International Hotel. Chris Taylor was the hotel’s executive chef.
“I’ve worked on and off with Chris for about 17 years now,” Mr Ford says.
“I worked with him at the Ansett Hotel for 11 months and went with him when he went to Observation City. I stayed there for about 12 to 18 months.”
Mr Ford spent time travelling Australia, during which time he managed to fit in some good produce education sessions, before moving back to Victoria.
“I worked at Port Douglas for a bit. I would drop my wife at her job and instead of driving back to where we were staying, which was 50km away, I would fish. I learnt so much about local produce by doing that. I was catching barramundi, mangrove jack and I did it for hours,” he says.
Mr Ford decided he would live in Melbourne after finishing his travel stint, but it wasn’t long before he headed to Perth.
“I went to Melbourne but ended up coming back [to Perth],” he says.
“Their attitude to food in Perth was different; I thought Perth was more adventurous. I found the Perth industry was more progressive with its food.
“In Melbourne there are a lot of restaurants and they have the population for it but in Perth we have to be more creative, flexible, and versatile, which makes it more interesting.
“I have to provide consistency but change the menu around so that if you come here again you’ll get something different but has the same quality and service.”
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