12/12/2007 - 22:00

Senior quartet underpins success

12/12/2007 - 22:00

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Sometimes celebrities are quite surprising in what they will and will not eat, according to the man in charge of the Perth Concert Hall kitchen, where meals are prepared for big-name musicians performing in Perth.

Senior quartet underpins success

Sometimes celebrities are quite surprising in what they will and will not eat, according to the man in charge of the Perth Concert Hall kitchen, where meals are prepared for big-name musicians performing in Perth.

Michael Fitzgerald has been the Concert Hall’s executive chef for eight years and, as well as managing big corporate functions and the venue’s cafe, he is responsible for the “back stage food list”.

“Sometimes the people you think will be difficult are not and the ones you think will be good are not,” Mr Fitzgerald says.

An excellent guest, he says, was Canadian songstress KD Lang.

“She was great. She sat and ate with all her crew,” he remembers. “Many of them eat on their own.”

One of the more unpleasant experiences, however, involved hand-written notes from a star, whose name he declined to reveal publicly.

“There was a pear with a note attached to it that said ‘dear chef, I am not a happy pear today. I could not be eaten because I am too firm’,” he recalls.

For Mr Fitzgerald, who also manages Ogden IFC’s kitchens at His Majesty’s Theatre, Government House, Playhouse Theatre and Subiaco Arts Centre, life is varied and fun.

“I don’t think I would ever go back to working in a restaurant,” he says.

“You do something different here every day. We do cocktail parties, buffet, a la carte and the backstage catering.”

The Perth Concert Hall recently won a Gold Plate Award for best venue caterer in the first year that the venue has fielded an entry.

Mr Fitzgerald is pleased that his team has been recognised for producing outstanding food and service, and has started using the award to try and lure chefs.

He says this year has been the worst in his near-30 years in the industry to try and get staff.

And when he does find them, the demands are getting higher, with many younger chefs wanting benefits such as free parking.

“You wake up wondering if everyone will be there today,” Mr Fitzgerald says.

“I’m doing a lot more hands-on work than I would normally do and that means I’m putting other projects on the backburner, like researching new products and writing new menus.”

Mr Fitzgerald says the shortage of casual chefs is alleviated to some degree by a strong senior team of four chefs – Tatum Walsh, David Sanson, Neil Mansfield and Joe David.

Another noticeable trend has been soaring food costs.

“You used to look at your pricing every 18 months or so; now you have to do it every six months,” he says.

“For example, asparagus three months ago was $14.50 a kilo; now it is $16.50/kg. We have to be more clever with what we are doing and try to bulk buy where we can.”

For instance, rather than buying a lamb rack, the kitchen saves $10/kg buying lamb necks, which the chefs then marinate and prepare.

Mr Fitzgerald is in the midst of the busy corporate Christmas season and says customers have largely accepted that rising product costs will have implications for the cost of their meal.

STANDING BY BUSINESS. TRUSTED BY BUSINESS.

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