16/03/2004 - 21:00


16/03/2004 - 21:00


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Why would one of Perth’s top chefs apply for the shortest of short-term jobs? Julie-anne Sprague finds the answers.


Why would one of Perth’s top chefs apply for the shortest of short-term jobs? Julie-anne Sprague finds the answers.


RENOWNED Perth chef Iain Lawless has taken the cake for short-term assignments with his decision to apply for the head chef’s role on reality TV restaurant Room Nineteen.

A few weeks helping a couple of inexperienced people create a profitable restaurant sounds like an absurd proposition.

But it was that absurdity that attracted Mr Lawless to the project.

The restaurant is operated by Ash Huish and Amanda Thomas, who are contestants on Channel Seven’s My Restaurant Rules TV show.

Its opening night is Monday March 22 and Mr Lawless has engineered a menu that includes his new boss’ requirement for a chocolate fondue that will get a test run at a special launch party tomorrow night.

“They [Ash and Amanda] are pretty good. They are letting me do what I do. They wanted more seafood and, you won’t believe this, but Ash wanted chocolate fondue,” Mr Lawless says. 

“What I’ve done is make the fondue, but I’ve made it cool. I’ve got these wooden bowls and a mini chocolate fondue with a tealight that melts it. On a glass dish is strawberries and chocolate and honeycomb, but it is decent local strawberries, and honeycomb and Turkish delight that we make here.”

Mr Lawless recently returned from Melbourne where he was working at the five-star Heritage and Country Golf Club, a Sebel property.

“There was nowhere really in Perth that I could go. I wanted to do this [Room Nineteen] because I wanted to get some exposure and at the same time there are not too many people who can come in and do this, and I want to do it. I can only do the best I can,” Mr Lawless says.

Before working in Melbourne Mr Lawless was the executive chef at Oriel Brasserie and Café, but left to travel the globe on a culinary sojourn.

“I went on a cooking pilgrimage,” he says.

“I just wanted to get some inspiration. I worked all over the place and learned some things.”

Bangkok was a highlight of his trip. While in the Thai capital he worked at Perth-based Tom Lapping’s Kuppa Restaurant. He also spent time in Britain.

Mr Lawless will be a familiar name to Claremont diners. He was the former partner in Lawless and Chapman, which he operated with fellow chef Bruce Chapman. After about 18 months the restaurant folded.

Mr Chapman’s parents operate the popular Star Bistro on the same site.

For now Mr Lawless is very much in the thick of things as he prepares for a launch party tomorrow evening and the official opening of Room Nineteen this Monday.

Along with the chocolate fondue Mr Huish also wanted Mr Lawless to put a house favourite on the menu.

“Ash also wanted surf and turf [steak with prawns on top]. I wondered how I could do that and do it so it’s cool.”

Mr Lawless says a simple sirloin steak on a lemon mash with crayfish was the result, but it’ll still be known as surf and turf.

“I’m milking it for what its worth,” he says.

“We’re not doing risotto and pasta because everyone around us has that. I’m using local produce and doing some good dishes. I’ve got Kervella goats cheese panacotta and I’ve got some good oyster dishes.

“We’re making our own jus, aioli, ice cream. We are doing almost everything here and most of our produce is from WA. I’ve got red wine vinegar from Margaret River, olive oil from Margaret River and most of our products, at least 80 or 90 per cent, come from WA.”

Mr Lawless says that, although he only took on the job a few weeks ago, the task has not been too overwhelming.

“It was a matter of working out what Ash and Amanda wanted and then what local people wanted and what I thought would sell,” he says.

“I want to make it appealing to people and to create talking points.

“I’ve got some good chefs in the kitchen. You should have seen the people who turned up wanting jobs. But we got some good people in.”

Mr Lawless is only contracted on a casual basis because Ms Thomas and Mr Huish need to win the Channel Seven My Restaurant Rules contest in order to keep the restaurant.

Details are sketchy but Gusto understands the winner will be decided by public vote. And Room Nineteen will be up against competitors in Queensland, New South Wales, Victoria, and South Australia.

Room Nineteen will open for lunch and dinner from Monday March 22, however from March 29 its regular trading hours will apply, which are Wednesday to Sunday lunch and dinner.

The restaurant is at 19 Lake Street Northbridge.



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