Steven Pallet







About Steven Pallet

Steven started his cooking career by default. He needed a job whilst studying at Melbourne University and was hired at Shakahari in Lygon Street Carlton as a dish-washer. He realised that at Shakahari there was something magic happening in the kitchen: he gave up his studies and cooked there for two years.

Steven worked at Stephanie’s for five and half years. During this time he completed his apprenticeship at William Angliss.
He later became head-chef and was running the kitchen.

He says of Stephanie’s: There was energy and an other-worldliness there. I would be rostered to start work at 10.00 in the morning but I would get there at 8.00. We wanted to be there. I was spoiled at Stephanie’s. The group she got together was amazing. We were like-minded souls and we were sucked into this wonderful place where we fostered new developments and foods. It was really hard work but you had a sense of purpose. And there was a constant reward of participating in a process of creating stunning food.

When Steven became a father he decided he needed to change his working hours to suit his new role. He was offered a job at William Angliss and quickly decided that he loved teaching. The idea of “passing on the baton” both surprised him and appealed to him. He feels this may have something to do with being a father!

Steven reminds his students that they have chosen a demanding profession but one that has its rewards for those who have a vision. He believes that the opportunities are there for chefs but that to succeed you need, “strong foundations and then build on them. All cooking techniques are really just basic techniques. Studies are just as much to do with hearts and minds and especially passion”

Summary of the Interview

Interviewer: Jill Adams
Interviewee: Steven Pallett
Date of recording: 5/11/2010
Recording Format: MP3





Early Career Highlights

  • Got his start in the food industry by default applied for a job washing dishes at Shakahari in Carlton and fell in love with what was happening in the kitchen, teaching him to put his heart into the food
  • Started learning in the kitchen and stayed for two years then moved on to Café Paradiso, and then Stephanie’s where he did his apprenticeship
  • Stayed for 5 ½ years at Stephanie’s and shared passion, intensity and focus to do with the pursuit of perfection in food, and no room for second best
  • A memory of making a salad to accompany a dish and watched how Stephanie put it together, leaving room for individual expression and nature’s gravity
  • Grew all the herbs and salad greens as they weren’t available at the time; Stephanie started a demand in the industry in the mid-1980s
  • There was an energy and other worldliness at Stephanie’s, where everyone was eager and committed
Shakahari, Carlton; Café Paradiso; Stephanie’s; apprenticeship; Brunswick Street; Fitzroy; Cato Street, Hawthorn; Stephanie Alexander; salad; herbs; onions; carrots; roquette; Le Herbier; mache; mignonette lettuce; hydroponic; Donovan’s Restaurant; Jeff Linsday, Pearl; Yanni Kyritsis, MG Garage & Opera House;  


Insights on the Hospitality Industry

  • Working with trainees he sees the way the workforce conditions vary, and there are some terrible work environments which are used as a testing ground for young chefs
  • Jamie Oliver is seen as a modern inspiration but the tough reality of getting to his stage is sometimes off-putting
  • All chefs who are earning lots of money have done the hard work and have put in 10-15 years and it has eventually paid off
  • Many young apprentices sometimes see only the hard work for very little reward, then they will leave
  • Working at Stephanie’s was hard work but it had a sense of purpose that helped with “the pain” of long hours. The constant reward was participating in a process of creating stunning food
  • Became head chef at Stephanie’s
Training apprentices; young chefs; Jamie Oliver; Masterchef; reward; waiting staff; pastry; Krug Champagne; head chef;


Teaching at WAI

  • Moved into teaching when he became a father and wanted to be able to work and spend time with the family
  • Discovered a love for teaching the next generation of great chefs
  • Reflects on how his career would have gone if he had stayed in industry, with his Japanese food training
  • Allure of return to industry, twenty years later with his Japanese Chef, he felt very familiar and comfortable
  • Tells his students about the process as the reward and that they should have a clear vision for the future but it is hard work
Mike Miller; curriculum; Great Chef’s program; third year apprentice; celebrity chefs; George Calombaris; Sushi; Japanese cuisine; Japanese Eating Houses; Melbourne; “flip the burgers”


Reflections on the current state of industry & influence of Masterchef

  • What happens to chefs that skip the process and go straight into stardom? Talks about Neil Perry in the 1980s setting up his own place in Sydney then exploding onto the scene and going straight to the top
  •  Need to have credibility and have to work really hard to get this ‘stardom’
  • In Masterchef the auditions seem to be contrived to polarise the viewing public first, then cooking skills second
  •  For Masterchef contestants to survive in the industry they need to be competitive or absolutely love the work and push to maintain exposure and then consolidate position and follow up in a way that enables them to continue in food, for others maybe the opportunities aren’t there
  • For most that graduate and go out into the industry, the foundations have to be strong to build on and need to master all the basic techniques (prepare a beautiful salad or make an omelette or cook meat or grill fish)
  • There has to be a hunger from the student to want to master the skills and teachers should motivate students to want to master all the techniques and waken a passion for food
Neil Perry; Sydney; Claude’s; Two Faces; Leo Scholfield; apprenticeship; omelette; cook meat; grill fish; molecular gastronomy; TAFE; competency based training; Hollandaise;


Interview Concludes


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