Top chef returns to where it started

Michael Cole

Michael Cole

By David Schout

Walking back through the William Angliss doors, things felt decidedly familiar for top Victorian chef Michael Cole.

It had been around 13 years since he trained at the LaTrobe St institute, and the nostalgia took hold.

“It’s a bit of a trip down memory lane,” he said. “It feels like a lifetime ago. But it’s interesting to see the students now and reminisce.”

Mr Cole’s return to the Angliss kitchen in September was twofold – to both work with current students on two “Great Chefs” dinners, but also to train for January’s Bocuse d’Or in France, more commonly known as the culinary equivalent of the Olympic Games. 

After winning his way through Australian and Asia-Pacific qualification last year, the 34-year-old booked a ticket to Lyon for what is regarded as one of the world’s most prestigious cooking competitions.

“It all started here,” he said, casting his mind back to the start of his now-storied career.

“When I was a first year apprentice I did my first culinary competition in the building upstairs. I got the taste for it and got addicted to the adrenaline of it I guess.”

Despite his rise through the ranks, Mr Cole was happy to return to William Angliss for Great Chefs, a program that provides cookery and hospitality students the chance to work with some of Australia’s most recognised chefs.

The dinners (and lunches) are open to the public, who can experience high-end menus with the help of next-generation chefs.

“I got asked to do this dinner and thought it would be a nice way to give back to the school,” he said.

Mr Cole – head chef at Georgie Bass Cafe & Cookery at The Flinders Hotel on the Mornington Peninsula – admitted to being slightly nervous before meeting the students.

“You don’t know how they’re going to take it and how enthusiastic they’re going to be. And I really want to give them something they remember and enjoy.”

The head chef wrote the menu for a four-course dinner with matching wines, adding that “the whole idea is to put a lot of techniques in that the students probably wouldn’t have seen before”.

These included Foie Gras (duck liver), Ora King salmon and a creative spin on a chicken dish for the main.

Mr Cole’s aim was to show students that a fairly standard, even “boring” ingredient such as chicken could be used creatively.

For dessert they used liquid nitrogen for a meringue with “lots of different movements on the plate”, including orange, lemon, chocolate and ouzo.

He said he enjoyed cooking in the Angliss kitchen, and is using it as one of several training bases for the gastronomic Olympics.

“We’re in full swing. It’s a massive schedule. Almost every hour of the day is almost scheduled to something Bocuse d’Or.”

At the time of speaking with CBD News, Mr Cole said the criteria for the competition was yet to be released. 

“They hold off launching the criteria so that creativity is really stretched and challenged. They want to see the chefs under pressure, without preconceived ideas. So you need all the cards up your sleeve so when they release it, you can go bang. I’m just trying to find all my tricks and signatures, so that when they release it I can just get straight into it.”

Since travelling to the event as an interested 25-year-old onlooker (and as the solitary Aussie in the crowd) the event was always in the back of his mind.

Now it’s at the forefront.

“It’s going to be awesome. It was always a dream. I always said ‘I want to do that one day, I want to be up on that stage and give that a shot’.” 

If you’d like to attend one of the William Angliss Institute Great Chefs dinners or lunches, visit angliss.edu.au/greatchefs.

 

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