Vigour pays in restaurant world

LIDIA Sakarapani has come a long way for a twenty-two year old in the tough world of cordon bleu cuisine.

Now the owner, chef and manager of The Boxx Café on the corner of Francis and Lake Streets, Northbridge, Ms Sakarapani fast-tracked her culinary career in an unconventional way.

She began cooking during Years 10, 11 and 12 at Aranmore Catholic College through a TAFE accredited program.

Stints at Matilda Bay Restaurant, The Witches Cauldron, and Novotel Langley were followed by nine months work at Nedland’s Cafe Grecco and The Astoria in Claremont.

“I was a veteran at Haggers, working there from the time it opened right up until its closure,” Ms Sakarapani said.

“I worked at Bibendum, then moved to Sydney because I’d always wanted to work at the prestigious Banc Restaurant.

“It was a very hard kitchen to work in.

“I was the only girl out of a kitchen staff of twenty-three – needless to say I became ‘one of the boys’ and the lads had to tone down their swearing.

“I met Banc’s renowned head chef Liam Tomlin at a Master cooking class at the Parmelia Hilton.

“He’s been known to reduce kitchen staff to tears but it was always for a good reason – we had a lot of respect for him.

“Everyone in the Sydney hospitality industry wanted to work with him,” she said.

Under Mr Tomlin’s watchful eye, Ms Sakarapani gained meticulous garnishing skills.

“I was then thrown into the vegetable preparation section, which is the most demanding section of the kitchen,” she said.

“At Banc, every dish was prepared by at least six people.

“Sixteen hour days with no breaks and fifteen to twenty-five cups of coffee a day – it was good torture!”

“My husband, who is a doctor, called me up in Sydney and said: “I’ve bought you a restaurant” – I think he was missing me and wanted me to come back,” she said.

With origins in El Salvador, Ms Sakarapani was brought up in Malaysia.

“I’ve cooked Italian, French, and Greek cuisine to name a few, so I’ve certainly got a varied palate,” she said.

The Boxx Cafe specialises in Indian/Asian fusion food.

Ms Sakarapani said she had been fortunate to entice GoGo Goverdahn’s (of GoGo’s Madras Curry House) chef Radna to cook for the lunch shift.

She said she planned to open another café soon, perhaps in Claremont.

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