Jake Kellie: “My dish shows who I am as a cook”

The young Australian representing South-East Asia in S.Pellegrino Young Chef 2018 talks to us ahead of the Grand Finale.

Jake Kellie is the 27-year-old rising star from Australia who re-located to Singapore to take up the reins as head chef at Burnt Ends restaurant.

He wowed the judges in the South East Asia local final of S.Pellegrino Young Chef 2018 with his signature dish of aged pigeon reflecting his culinary philosophy of simplicity, technique and produce.

Taking to the kitchen at just 16 years old the young chef has already garnered considerable experience in world class restaurants, including the Fat Duck and Faviken as well as winning numerous accolades. 

Will he be able to add the title of S.Pellegrino Young Chef 2018 to his achievements? We found out more from the young chef who will is being supported on his exciting culinary journey ahead by mentor chef Richard Ekkebus.

Please describe your signature dish …
My dish consists of an Australian Pigeon aged in Strawberry Gum, Native pepper berries and Hay for 8 days served with 2 elements on the plate being a paste of Riberries, Blackberries and Finger Limes and a red beetroot cooked in a wattle-seed salt crust finished with red oxalis. A consommé made from all the pigeon bones seasoned with a 8-year-old fortified wine. A little snack plate to complement the dish pigeon liver parfait tartlet and the leg of the pigeon seasoned in a salt and pepper mix. 

I chose this dish because I wanted to express who I am as a chef, to be honest about how I cook and to stay true to my roots. My dish is made up of some great native Australian ingredients being wattle seed, riberries, finger limes, strawberry gum and Pepper berries so I wanted to show case also what Australia has to offer in a sense of produce that people may be unfamiliar with. The pigeon is also a stunning product raised in the beautiful hunter valley of New South Wales area. The consommé is finished with a 8-year-old fortified wine from Beechworth which is located 3.5 hours north east of the Melbourne CBD, the produces Penny Weight Winery. This gives the consommé that beautiful nutty notes to really take it to another level. 

When I present my dish to the panel of judges in Milan I really want to make them feel like they are in Australia and feel the connection that I have and am trying to show. 

What made you become a chef?
I became a chef because I was always a hands-on person, I also loved the idea of creating. I did food tech and hospitality at high school, so I naturally fell in to it, I would always come home and trial different things and make a complete mess of the kitchen. After I finished year 11 at high school I started my apprenticeship at 16 years old and haven’t really looked back. 

Who has influenced you in your career?
I would have to say one of them being Brett Graham. When I was at The Ledbury Brett wouldn’t stop pushing the boundary with what he could do in his kitchen, his leadership was incredible, his philosophy on food really played on my mind at such a young age it has really helped me get to were I am today. Source great produce show great technique but most importantly make sure it tastes good. 

And of course, my boss Dave Pynt, after working with him for just over a year now he has installed so much more direction in me to be a better chef and manager and these attributes will be with me forever. His determination to push me every day to be better is something I haven’t had before at this level.

Where do you see yourself in 5/10 years’ time?
In 5/10 years I would love to have a fully-grown business a restaurant that is busy day in and day out providing a memorable experience for each customer. To give them a journey of what there is to offer and to work with amazing people to see that dream succeed.

How are you/will you collaborate with your mentor in order to perfect your dish for the Grand Finale?
Since the awards night when I was chosen to represent South East Asia, myself and Richard Ekkebus have been speaking nonstop about how I can improve my dish and my presentation. 

Richard is an amazing mentor to have as he his pushing me in the right direction to succeed in Milan. By using his connections to source different items (e.g. Ben Shewrey, Martin Ben and Dan Hunter) to take my dish to another level, it’s amazing. 

Jake Kellie representing South-East Asia in S.Pellegrino Young Chef 2018

What is the most exciting/challenging element of the S.Pellegrino Young Chef competition for you?
The challenging part I’d have to say would be organising everything for Milan so much planning into my dish and trying to get that to Italy will be hard.  

The most exciting part for me is to cook for such and amazing panel of judges to present my dish for these amazing chefs will be a moment I will cherish and thrive on under the pressure. 

Why do you think you can win the S.Pellegrino Young Chef 2018 title?
I really believe I can win S.Pellegrino Young Chef, my dish has a strong message behind it that I want the judges to see but most importantly it shows who I am as a cook. Showing great technique and deliciousness. 

I also want to be a good role model for younger chefs in our industry, lead by example and push more young chefs to be apart of a such great program.

If you weren’t a chef what would you be?
If I wasn’t a chef I’d be playing Rugby League back in Australia. 

This was a sport that I had a lot of passion for, I trained really hard day in day out for some time from the early ages of 8 years old. 

What’s your most memorable food experience?
Most memorable food experience would have to be when I dined at Faviken late last year.  

From the plane ride from Stockholm to the drive to the restaurant being greeted, the rooms that you get to stay in, to the dinner its self and to breakfast the next day. Faviken takes you on this ride of dining out at a restaurant to another level. Something I’ll never forget food was outstanding service was great, such a great place to visit. 

What do you like to do in your free time?
In my free time I love to eat out and drink wine with friends, I also love to travel - being in Singapore (South East Asia) you’re so close to so many amazing countries, all with different cuisines which I love to eat and try. 

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