Michael Perrott has braved moth larvae and scorpions in Asia but reckons there’s nothing scarier than some English country pub food!
Michael Perrot is Executive Chef at one of Sydney’s luxury 5-star hotels, the Sydney Harbour Marriott Hotel at Circular Quay, heading up the much-loved Icons Brasserie, as well as Customs House Bar and Macquarie Lounge. In 2005 he was flown to Copenhagen for an Australian food festival, highlighting our multicultural food influences and impressing the Danes with dishes such as char-grilled crocodile and kingfish curry.
Where did you grow up?
“North Shore area of Sydney.”
When did you realise you wanted to be a chef?
“My interest in food developed at a very young age. I was fortunate enough to grow up around a family who enjoyed food, the art of food preparation and cooking. My grandparents lived in the country and as a young boy I enjoyed staying with my family on dairy and hobby farms. I remember fondly watching and helping my grandmother make many family favourite recipes and particularly enjoyed helping her make sauces, stocks and preserves. This environment enabled me to see the source of a product and watch what it could be made into. My interest in food turned into a passion when I had the opportunity to travel overseas in 1976 and be exposed to many different cultures, varieties of cuisine, flavours and presentation. This confirmed my desire to pursue a culinary career.”
Is there one dish you still struggle to get right?
“The one that sticks in my mind was the first day of my apprenticeship. I had to make passionfruit coulis. Apart from taking three times the amount of time and product to produce the coulis, when I finally got the amount that was required for the dish I then proceeded to spill it all – let’s just say the pastry chef was not happy. From this experience pastry still scares me!”
What does it take to be a successful chef?
“To be a good chef you need to be committed, passionate, professional and have a willingness to learn. Read, look, learn and continue to push yourself, as the industry is always changing and you can never learn too much.
Always remember you are part of a team. You make people happy with the food you serve. Until it reaches the table there are many people involved from the grower, supplier, chefs and waiting staff.”
Worst job you have ever had?
“I once worked in an English country pub during my backpacking days. I was astonished to see that nearly all the food went into in a deep fryer or microwave, with hardly any fresh produce in the kitchen. I only lasted four days there!”
What is your signature dish?
“Organic caramelised quail with Tasmanian puy lentils, roasted pancetta and verjuice emulsion.”
What is unique about your restaurant?
“The variety of dishes that we have on our menu and range of fresh produce we use. The open flambé kitchen where the chef prepares dishes of your liking, is also a big attraction.”
What is the chef serving in heaven?
“Premium product, sourced from the best suppliers, packed full of flavour, with brilliant committed chefs preparing it.”
What is the most bizarre dish you have ever tried?
“Small insects from street food sellers in Bangkok and China, including crickets, scorpions, moth larvae and funny little bugs.”
What is one question people are always asking you?
“’What’s you favourite food?’”
What is your biggest food indulgence?
“I love all types of olives and could eat them all day! My biggest food indulgence trip was to New York, eating in the best restaurants, food markets, speciality shops and unique hidden=away places.”
How do you have your coffee?
“Double shot latte during the day, short black at night.”
What ingredient are you obsessed with right now?
“I don’t have an ingredient that I must have all the time or use in everything, but I do always love using fresh herbs and spices.”
Which three people would you invite to a dinner party?
“Anthony Bourdain, Charlie Trotter and Barack Obama.”
What is your best tip for home cooks?
“Purchase the best ingredients that you can buy, cook from the heart, taste everything, be passionate and most of all enjoy it.”