The WAGFG caught up with 2017 Young Chef of the Year Winner Chris Malone to see what he’s been up to since his win.
Chris, it’s been a year and half since your big win as Young Chef of the Year at the 2017 WAGFG Awards. Has winning the award helped your career in any way?
Winning Young Chef of the Year helped my career by getting my name out there within the restaurant community and by introducing networking opportunities to purveyors and other chefs and restaurateurs throughout WA.
Last year you headed to New York to work at Eleven Madison Park. Tell us about the experience you had there?
My experience working at EMP far exceeded my expectations, it was the hardest thing I’ve done and pushed me beyond my limits physically and mentally.
The kitchen itself is so beautiful, everything is clean, open and polished with copper pots everywhere and the giant Molteni stove/centrepiece is any cooks dream.
The standard that we had to maintain and attention to detail was insane, even down to uniform presentation, cleanliness and how we organised ourselves. If you dropped a tray on the floor or made a mistake you’d get sent home on the spot, if you forgot to shave that morning you’d get sent out of the kitchen to buy a razor and go and shave before let back in, it didn’t matter how in the shit you were.
I really did love it there though, I started there as a commis (as everyone does) and worked my way through nearly every station in the kitchen finishing on the meat line. I made so many life long friends, worked in such a beautiful kitchen put out some of the best food in the world along side some of the best cooks in the world.
What were some of the biggest learnings from your experience in the kitchen?
I think my biggest learnings from my time there is that “you need to slow down to speed up” in life and the kitchen.
We had a pre service meeting everyday where this “be a better version of yourself every day” was said regularly. We were on such a strict work time frame there and everything was made fresh, and thrown out every day, so every minute counts. Slowing down and spending an extra minute or two to correctly do something is much better than rushing it, and it not passing tasting with the chef and having to re-make it right before dinner service. And I feel like I can put that into life just as well, I’m only 23, I can take step back and focus more on all the little things, and enjoy myself and my youth a bit more.
What are some of the biggest differences in the service culture in comparison to Australia and what can we learn from NYC or vice versa?
I think we could learn a lot from each other service wise, even though service across the board in NYC and Australia is pretty good, in America they expect at least a 20% tip on top of your bill. Whereas over here you only really tip if your overall experience was pretty exceptional.
In America being a server is a profession not just a way to pay your uni debt too, so there’s a lot more skill, experience and dedication. I think Australia is on the right path though and is definitely upping its game service-wise and becoming more professional. Restaurants here are better than ever.
What was it like to be a temporary New York resident? And tell us about the food! Favourite restaurants and bar haunts?
Living in New York was amazing, there’s pretty much everything you could want always within a four block radius. I really loved the speakeasy/hidden bar scene, there are so many cool underground spots all over the city. I started living in Flushing, Queens when I first moved over there, then spent eight months in the east village, then my last four was in Bushwick, Brooklyn. I went to probably 15 different barbers while I was there, I didn’t care how much they stuffed up my hair or how little English they spoke I just wanted to experience it all. I had a fixie over there too so I pretty much just cycled everywhere, saw all the different suburbs and how diverse each one is and all the different cultures throughout.
I ate out and drank so much over there! Pretty much any opportunity to go out I would. I usually wouldn’t have time to eat at work so on my days off I made the most of the city and the food. I never cooked at home in the time I was there too. I had way too many favourites to pick a few, I never really went to the same place twice and everything is just so good.
The best dining experience and food I had over there was at Eleven Madison park though. I got to take my mum and brother, they really went above and beyond for us so it really was so special to experience it, and with family. The place is just magical, it blew my mind.
What does 2019 have in store for you?
2019 for me has started off really chilled. I did a lot of travel in January, back and forth from NYC and just spending time with friends over there before I had to leave, now currently back home in Perth for a bit catching up on sleep and seeing friends and family before my next venture.
Before I finished up at EMP I was offered a position at the restaurant they’re opening in London. So I’ll be moving there in May and will be going as junior sous, part of the sous chef opening team. They’re currently renovating the kitchen/restaurant so it should be pretty incredible and a similar setup to EMP, I’m really looking forward to going over and seeing how the rest of 2019 plays out.