Looking back English-born chef Jeremy Strode, finds it hard to believe he’s been cooking for more than 20 years. For him, the time’s passed quickly. The eldest of three kids, he started cooking out of necessity because his mother worked such long hours at local West Hampshire hotels. Jeremy did an apprenticeship with the hotel chain, Trust House Forte, and "was out of college by the time I was 17 years-old. Very quick."
Of his early mentors, Jeremy says the stand out was Bernard Gaune, the chef at London's Hyatt Carlton Towers who trained people like Marco Pierre White and other, now senior, chefs. Jeremy worked with Bernard for three years and was up for promotion to sous chef but decided that hotels "have a different cooking culture to restaurants." At Twenty-four he wanted to work in a restaurant kitchen and joined Michel Roux at the Waterside Inn at Bray for what turned out to be a life changing experience.
Jeremy found the restaurant’s sense of family, the discipline and care that went into everything from attention to detail, to choice of produce, a revelation. It was like coming home. So when Michel asked him to go to London to work as sous chef at his brother, Albert's restaurant, Le Gavroche, it was a promotion Jeremy didn’t want, but couldn’t refuse. In London Jeremy learnt an enormous amount from Albert, whom he describes as "a great all-round cook”.
As a reward for Jeremy’s hard work, Albert organised a job for him in France, where he worked in Roger Verge's restaurants l'Amandier and the then three star, Moulin de Mougins alongside chefs from around the world.
Back in London, Jeremy had the courage to knock on the door of legendary chef Pierre Koffman and was still working with Pierre when he was invited to set up the newly renovated Belvedere in Holland Park.
The restaurant quickly got rave reviews for it’s food, but financial mismanagement by the owners put the eatery into receivership and Jeremy felt it was time for another big move forward. Jeremy arrived in Melbourne in 1992 and spent his first six months as a chef at Browns with Greg Brown who’d also trained with the Roux in England. He was then approached by Donlevy Fitzpatrick to create the George Cafe in St Kilda, which then became The Adelphi. There, in a difficult basement space, Jeremy developed a cult following.
After leaving Adelphi and touring Australia and New Zealand, Jeremy helmed his own restaurants Pomme and Langton’s before the opportunity to take the reins at MG Garage brought him to Sydney in 2002. Bistrode opened soon after in a century-old heritage-listed Surry Hills butcher’s shop in 2005 and received Best Bistro in the 2007 SMH Good Food Guide along with a chef’s hat in 2007, ’08, ’09 and ’10.
When an opportunity to work with Merivale presented itself Jeremy says he “jumped at the chance”. The result is the highly successful collaboration Bistrode CBD. We caught up with Jeremy at Merivale’s York 75 taking a break from supervising the kitchen there by watching Everton vs Manchester.
So who’s winning? Everton. -Umps are killing us.
What’s your food philosophy? To use as much local produce as possible. And never using any seafood that’s endangered or in short supply. I have also have thing for secondary cuts of meat and offal. Each dish should leave the main product as its showcase, with a minimum amount of other ingredients to enhance it.
That answer sounded like had it memorized. No, it’s just that I get asked that question a lot.
So what inspires you to cook? Food, produce, what you put in your body.
What’s important to you in the kitchen? Organisation. Cleanliness. In that order.
If you could be one ingredient, what would it be? A fresh, flat, leaf of parsley.
Really. Parsley. If I ended up in my kitchen, sure.
What do you love most about being a chef? The Sydney food scene is so diverse at the moment, so I love being involved in such an exciting industry. Loving that the Australian community appreciates food and the standards are incredible.
What is you most favourite ingredient that you like to cook with at home, that you can’t cook in the restaurant? Sushi with the kids at home.
Fondest memory of your cooking career? Ohhh!
Ohhh? Sorry, Everton got another goal. What was the question?
Fondest memory. Opening my first restaurant …..Pomme. Absolutely pumping, so exciting, most of it was actually a blur. Terrence Comrade from London came to visit. Amazing.
What do you find the biggest challenge in your kitchen? Maintaining a strong team.
Favourite comfort food? Anything Chinese.
You're stranded on a desert island. What five foods would you want with you? Flat leaf parsley, dry aged beef, fresh seafood –no need to bring, catch my own -live olive oil, garlic.
Cooking is mostly learned in a kitchen from masters or family. Who’d you learn from? Masters – Michelle Roux and Pierre Koffmann.
What do you consider to be your best creations and what are the classics that you like to put on the menu? I think my best is Lamb ‘Hearts & Minds’ and classic that is always on the menu, Wagyu Corned Beef.
Where do you go when you want to eat at a restaurant? Chinatown
You and Dan Hong. What do you want people to experience when dining at your restaurant? Relax, receive great food and service
If you weren't a chef, or in the food business, what would you be? Sportsman, any kind. A runner maybe –I’d like to be fitter.