Chefs are doing more than cooking »
Some are designing kitchens, knives, grills and making plates
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Chefs have long been the master of the kitchen and all that entails but they're now developing their own skills in making the very implements of the trade. From designing knives and master kitchens to cutlery and crockery, many are adding a new dimension to their skillsets, and unique items to their restaurants.
Appetite for Excellence is a national hospitality awards program that recognises and awards the next generation of industry-leading talented chefs, waiter and restaurateurs. This story was first published on their site:
These days it’s not enough for young chefs to just be designing delectable dishes on a daily basis. They’re putting their talents into other avenues, specifically the tools of their trades
We’ve seen chefs' input into the designing of kitchens in new venues, choosing the crockery, tableware and the music that’s played during service. Some chefs are taking it even one step further in their quest for total creative control and making their own plates and knives. Mal Meiers is one such chef and is making his own plates for his food and wine pop-ups and charity dinners. The results are fairly spectacular… But we’ll let you be the judge!
What inspired you to start making your own plates?
Initially I started making plates because I wanted to be able to create the plate I put a dish I created on.
How did you get involved with the pottery communities in Melbourne and Sydney?
I started by searching for wheel throwing courses in my local area, which lead me to do a six week course at Northcote pottery. I discovered the space was set up perfectly to practice after the initial course.
After relocating to Sydney I again searched and came across Claypool, an amazing group of experienced ceramicists in Botany. A handful of potters decided to create a space that would act as a community of like-minded creative people as much as a space due to the lack of one in Sydney.
A lot of chefs are turning their hands to creating and producing ‘tools of their trade’, why do you think this is? What are the benefits?
I think that as a chef because it allows you the opportunity to have multiple passions due to the multitude of artisan paths within a career. For some chefs it may be gardening, bread, making knives or making plates.
I think the benefits are you can have more creative freedom in some aspects, for me with my plates, I can create something for myself no one else will have. Or it allows me create something for a specific purpose like my Food + Wine pop-ups and Beyondblue charity dinners.
Where are you using the plates?
Towards the end of 2016 I made plates to use at Food for Thought, the two charity dinners I organised that took place in November 2016 to raise funds for beyondblue, (Mal raised over $19,000 for beyondblue in 2016). I also use the plates for my business the Food + Wine pop up which takes up 3-4 week residences in various locations.
Do you have a signature style?
Style? I would say more of a quirk. Yes I like making organic shaped plates so I shape my plates around different fruits and vegetables. You can take the chef out of the kitchen but not the kitchen out of the chef!
Any monumental disasters from when you started out?
Biggest disaster would probably be when I had a glaze that shrunk at a different rate to the clay I was using for a particular effect and I had to make about 120 avocado ramekins for my friends at Persillade in Melbourne to give them the 20 they wanted.
Living back in Sydney, you’ve been visiting Claypool to make your plates? What do they do and how did you get involved?
It’s just an amazing environment; they are very helpful, supportive. As a business it’s more of a community. Everything is there and you meet a wide variety of potters all with different styles and everyone is open to sharing.
Any plans to take bespoke orders or are you more interested in producing for yourself?
To be honest I’m still figuring it out, I’ve only been doing it for a couple of years. It’s also a labour of love and I’m currently committing most of my time to Bennelong and Food for Thought. Besides I am so busy at the moment, I wouldn’t be have the time to fulfill orders anyway.
Interested in spinning the wheel? Mal recommends the following:
- Claypool in Sydney
- Northcote Pottery in Melbourne
- Carlton Arts Centre in Melbourne
Mal says, ‘I used to more often than not bump into Dave Verheul from Town Mouse here while expanding my glaze selection’.
We found these:
- Clayschool in Brisbane
- Adelaide Potters Club in Adelaide
- Perth Studio Potters
This story was first published online by Appetitite for Excellence and is reproduced here with their kind permission.
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