My favourite part of the day is throwing up the blinds and watching the lights flood into the restaurant, over the flowers at the host desk and the iconic CJ Hendry over the wall. In a few hours, this warehouse dining room will be filled with the hustle-bustle of guests settling down, bartenders stirring negronis and the warmth of the wood fire oven as chefs mill around putting the finishing touches on plates.
And this is exactly what made me ditch the books for cake exactly 10 years ago. Being a chartered accountant was a logical, steady 9 to 5 job. But the heart wants what it wants, and mine was screaming for cake. Despite my parents’ scepticism, I started a wedding cake business in Bangalore. Self-taught, part-time business, rolling into a full-fledged dispensary of wedding cakes just as I graduated from college. The business ran successfully for four years. Without formal kitchen training, I always felt unprepared for the road ahead. And that is when it was time to head to paths unknown, and it was time to move to Sydney. From my first day in Sydney, I thought I would leave in nine months as I signed up for a pastry certification at Le cordon bleu, trained under some well-known pastry chefs – the Roche brothers. Soon after pastry school, I started my first job at Restaurant Hubert and immersed myself in the Sydney hospitality scene.
Years later, it was my first time dining at Nomad, and even with my date sitting in front of me, I’m embarrassed to say I was fully focused on that spice rack that was well stacked, labelled and in order. It took me back home when Mum would ask me to reach out to her masala dabba (spice box) as we cooked our Sunday family lunch. She would teach me about the spices, the specific order they need to go in while cooking, and the key importance of layering flavour. I knew I wanted to be a part of NOMAD. Two trials later, I knew the third time had to be the charm. I started my career as a commis pastry chef and climbed up the ranks over the years. Pre-fire, post-first, Up the road and back home to 16 Foster Street. Over the years, I’ve picked up the skills that now allow me to run a kitchen, having closely learnt and worked with the best – Jacqui Challinor, Executive chef of NOMAD Group.
Today, as I stand in front of the pass to steer the crew through another busy night, I see the joy our food brings to the table, which is the most rewarding part of being a chef.