Chef of the Week: Graham Green, Chef Proprietor of Chives Catering

How long have you worked for Chives Catering?
I’ve been here for ten years – I’m co-owner with my wife. Before that, I had a restaurant in Canberra, Australia for 20 years. Prior to that I worked around Canberra and Melbourne for 15 years.

Where did your passion for cooking come from and where did you learn your skills?
My passion comes from my mother. She was a good cook who loved feeding the family on the bounty of Australia. She and my Dad emigrated after the war and had endured the hardship that was wartime Britain. My skills have been acquired over a lifetime, but I did a four-year apprenticeship after high school.

What do you enjoy most about being a chef?
I enjoy the never-ending joy in learning, discovering and cooking food. I also enjoy the brilliant community I am a part of, it’s a real family.

Name three ingredients you couldn’t cook without
Great stock, really good salt/pepper and spices.

Which piece of kitchen equipment couldn’t you live without? 
My knives are always in my hands and are the most essential thing I have but as for other equipment, it’s between my blast chiller and my Robot-Coupe.

What food trends are you spotting at the moment?
Trends as such are a fashion orientation. For example, dressing sauces have changed so much – splashing is very big, as is smearing, lines and dots. I also think there is a return to flavours that have history and resonance with people, their culture and upbringing.

What do you think is a common mistake that lets chefs down?
We all make mistakes in life, no one is above them, but tasting your food as you go is so important, no matter how often you’ve made something. And don’t be complacent. If it’s not 100%, you’re not only letting yourself down but your customers.

What is your favourite time of year for food, and why?
Being Aussie, it’s got to be summer for the outside living, barbecues, alfresco dining and the abundance of produce – it goes on. But then there’s winter with the game, open-fire cooking inside, stews and slow cooking.

How do you come up with new dishes? 
TV and books of course (I have a massive library), brainstorming with my wife after being given a brief by a client, travelling and just being open-minded as everyone has a little something to give.

Who was your greatest influence?
An Australian chef named Cheong Leiw was my first great influence as a young chef closely followed by Marco Pierre White. Cheong was the fusion of Asian and European cuisines and Marco was for the drive, ambition, attitude and passion.

Tell us three chefs you admire
I admire every chef out there who’s trying to do their own food, restaurant or just making a mark because that’s a hard, scary thing and it takes grit.

Which of your dishes are you most proud of?
That’s something that changes from week to week, year to year. We do pop-ups on a regular basis and through them I try new things and research old recipes and generally try new things. When that happens, it’s such a joy because things like cucumber jelly with seared sea bass appear.

What is your favourite cookbook?
I have a large library of books that I refer to constantly and when a new one comes along it lives with me for weeks, but a constant return for me, just for the pleasure of reading and viewing is Quay by Peter Gilmore. For reference, I use Stephanie Alexander’s Cooks Companion.

Who do you think are the chefs to watch over the next few months?
I use Instagram a lot for food viewing, news and just wonderful pictures so this list is ever growing. A great visual favourite making waves both in the US and Asia is Yan Bernard Lejard. He has grown and developed in an amazing way over the last few years. Kurt Neumann in Canberra is doing great things, then there’s Jason Howard who has gone from London to the Caribbean, Nate Green in Hong Kong, Peter Gilmore and Keat Lee in Australia, they are all chefs to watch.

What’s been your favourite new restaurant opening of the last year?
It’s not easy to keep up with new restaurant openings from where we are in the country but there are a couple of places locally that we haven’t checked out yet and will do when time permits, including One Pound Lane in Canterbury. On a bigger scale, Somni in the US looks amazing.

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