Jake Kellie served his inventive roasted aged pigeon to four top chefs, including the venerable Tetsuya Wakuda, at the S.Pellegrino Young Chef Southeast Asia Regional Final held in Singapore in October 2017. Ten chefs in their 20s competed for this title, and Kellie came up tops. The 26-year- old who will represent this region in the S.Pellegrino Young Chef 2018 grand finale in Milan, Italy, in 2018 says he wanted to serve something that would reflect his Australian identity, and tell a story. “I also wanted to incorporate unique native Australian ingredients into this dish.”
Born and bred in Central Coast in New South Wales, the highly driven chef started cooking at 16, for a small French eatery. He moved to Sydney for an apprenticeship at Aria by Matt Moran, then to Melbourne to work at the now defunct Maze (by Gordon Ramsay). He left for the UK to stage at The Fat Duck in Bray and later worked at The Ledbury in London. After his overseas experience, Kellie returned to Melbourne and took on his first head chef role at a small restaurant called Commoner. “At 23, I had the chance to create my own food, and learn how to run a business.” After that, he wanted to take a step back to learn more. So he went to work with his mentor chef Scott Pickett of Estelle, also in Melbourne.
In 2015, Kellie won the Electrolux Australian Young Chef of the Year. He also did an appearance on Masterchef Australia in 2016. “Those opened a lot of doors for me, and Scott guided me along the way,” says Kellie, whose prize for Australian Young Chef of the Year was a return flight to Italy. “In November 2016, I stopped over in Singapore and met Dave (Pynt), whom I got along with really well. During my (Europe) trip, Dave called me about a job at Burnt Ends. And I felt really humbled and privileged to come and work here.”
After accepting the role as head chef of Burnt Ends, he returned to Singapore in January 2017. “Dave is such a charismatic person. We always strive to make the business better. I really enjoy working with him. I learn from him a lot of management skills, and how to manage a team. It’s also important to have a team that wants to work for you. There’s nothing worse than having a restaurant team that doesn’t like you. So it’s been a massive learning point. Thankfully, the team here is solid and very experienced,” he shares.
As for the biggest lesson he’s learnt in his career so far, Kellie says it’s from Brett Graham of The Ledbury. “He’s very humble and self-contained, and his food philosophy is so strong. He never changes anything just because someone is doing something different. He always sticks to his guns and what he believes in. I was 19 when I was there. So it was a big stamp on my mind – just to stay true to what you want to do as a chef. And most importantly, the food has to be tasty.”
“I learn from Dave to keep going. He’s very driven to teach his staff the right way. He always says to me, ‘I want you to leave here better than I am.’ When your boss says that, it leaves you in good stead for the future.”
This story first appeared on www.thepeakmagazine.com.sg.
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