Scottish-born chef Raymond Capaldi is well-known to Melburnians for his stint at the Hotel Sofitel in the late '90s, where he established the Sofitel cooking academy. Since moving to London from Scotland in 1986 to work at the legendary Dorchester Hotel, this talented chef has enjoyed an outstanding career that has included executive roles at some of the premier fine-dining restaurants in the world.
His resume boasts names such as the Gleneagles Star Hotel in Scotland, the Park Lane Hotel Hong Kong, the British Embassy in Moscow, Hotel Martinez in Cannes and Sheraton Mirage in Port Douglas. Other accomplishments include being named 1992 'Scottish Chef of the Year' and achieving 3 Chef's Hats in The Age Good Food Guide.
Raymond has featured in several international magazines including Food Illustrated and appeared on British television with renowned 'bon vivant', Robert Carrier. In June, he appeared with Jamie Oliver at Melbourne's Good Food Show and he was teamed with fellow Scot Darren Simpson at this year’s Melbourne Food and Wine Delicious Double Acts.
Capaldi has been working with food scientist Dr Ron Hull on a mousse that blends the matching flavour compounds found in blue cheese and chocolate. He’s also developing a Yakult-style fermented drink made from parsnips and sheep's milk to offer diners after their mains. "It relaxes the stomach”, he says.
Part of the challenge for the contemporary chef, says Capaldi, is that today's customer has a real sweet tooth and a preference for the big chemical flavours.
"People's palates are so used to sugar," he says. "Everything has sugar in it. I certainly don't use packet custard, but if I did sprinkle it on something, people would probably go 'fantastic!' because it's even stronger and bigger than normal custard."
“Out for the big night, the customer is much more willing to experiment with sweet and creamy tastes than anything else. The dessert ingredients creep across the main courses - more chocolate in the sauces, more cream and sugar in the side dishes”.
While Ray's career includes many highlights, it is his $2 million venture, Fenix that he is most proud of, and in 2005 he opened the Maribyrnong Boathouse in Melbourne. He is also working on a book with colleague George Calombaris.