17/08/2004 - 22:00

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17/08/2004 - 22:00

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The kitchens at the PCEC will be bustling with activity ahead of the opening night party on August 26. Julie-anne Sprague spoke to executive chef Adrian Tobin.

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The kitchens at the PCEC will be bustling with activity ahead of the opening night party on August 26. Julie-anne Sprague spoke to executive chef Adrian Tobin.

 

Being asked to peel 8,000 prawns may not sound like a dream job for most of us.

But then again, chefs aren’t like most of us.

Prawn peeling is an example of the type of task chefs from all over the world have been lining up to do in the kitchens at the Perth Convention and Exhibition Centre.

Why? For starters the kitchens are state-of-the-art facilities that offer the opportunity to prepare five-star food to thousands of people, all at the one time.

According to PCEC executive chef Adrian Tobin, it’s also about working alongside some of the world’s best cooking talent.

Mr Tobin quit his job as executive chef at the WA Turf Club more than two years ago and could have opened his own restaurant if the idea appealed.

But he’s wanted the PCEC job for quite some time – for a similar reason to that of an apprentice chef who starts a shift knowing there are 8,000 prawns to peel.

“I’ve wanted this job for two years and it’s not because it’s the biggest kitchen, but because of the skill around you,” Mr Tobin says.

“The executive sous chef, Cost Simatos, was the executive chef of the Hilton in Kuwait. He wanted to come here. My position was advertised internationally and I’m told there was a fair bit of interest. I went through a number of interviews before getting the job.

“We’ve got a specialist cold larder chef, Eric Barre, and that’s all he does and what he wants to make a career out of. He has come from Sydney to do this.

“We’ve had people drop down several notches just to get in the door and be on this kitchen team.”

Mr Tobin says his team of chefs has come from fine dining or five-star hotel backgrounds, and their focus was on producing fresh, high-quality food.

“We’ve been directed to run a five-star convention centre, and in all fairness the centres in Australia are doing great work, they’re doing a really good job with food.”

But unlike most function venues in WA, Mr Tobin’s team will cook for thousands of people almost every day of the week.

Next week, at the PCEC’s opening night party, 2,300 guests will be treated to food prepared by his team of chefs.

“We’ve got to do five-star food to three times the amount of people and know that every person gets a quality meal. It’s easy to serve lots of people, but to do it to high quality, that’s not so easy,” Mr Tobin says.

“If we have 1,800 people in the ballroom we expect that if you serve two people or 1,800 people the meal is the same, and the menu has been written to reflect that.

“But it also reflects restaurant style food in a function environment.

“We cook everything fresh and we cook it, plate it and serve it. We have hot boxes and state-of-the-art technology.

“Some of the machines you need a pilot’s licence to work, but they are brilliant. We have about 250 programs for the oven that we set.

“If we are cooking for a function in the ballroom we have a main kitchen at the back and two satellite kitchens.

“They are independent of each other and they’re set up for cooking [not just reheating], and the ovens are set up and programmed for what we are doing.

“So we know how long all this will take. We have walkie talkies and when it’s time to cook everyone goes at the same time. It gets plated at the same time and it gets taken out from the separate areas at the same time.”

Mr Tobin says that operating like a regular fine-dining restaurant will ensure the meals are of a high standard, serving them to 2,000 or more people is merely a matter of good organisation.

“Everything is fresh, we don’t use boosters in the stock, and we use fresh bones,” he says.

“We do our own pastry, our own sauces, everything.”

 

PCEC FOOD FACTS 

  • 40 chefs, 8 kitchens, 6 kiosks.
  • 750 menus prepared – cooked, presented, costed, and photographed.
  • 1,000 litres of stock has been cooked in kettles in one week, producing 200L of jus.
  • $30,000 worth of food has been ordered to serve the 250,000 people expected to walk through in the PCEC first week of opening.
  • For its opening night party on August 26 the food orders include: 250kg of salmon; 2,000 marron; 6,000 oysters; 8,000 prawns. 

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