Masterchef S01 ep3: Geoff Lindsay, Restaurant Pearl, [Melbourne]

Interview with Geoff Lindsay

This tyranny of distance and this isolation that we have breeds this special kind of character that Australians have, that you need to suck the marrow of every chance you have to go to London or New York. To have a great desire for knowledge, a great desire for travel, and the feeling that we have to go and search for it ourselves, it is not just going to come to us.


Pearl is a restaurant in Church Street Richmond, it is a restaurant that gives
me the opportunity to creatively express myself as far as food is concerned,
which is really important to me.

I was born and bred in a little town called Warrnambool, which is at the other
end of the Great Ocean Road in Victoria. We had my family.... my dad is a
Pharmacist in Warrnambool and every Friday night we used to eat at this one
little restaurant, and my dad used to come and join us (he had a break
between 6 and 7 p.m.) so we could eat together. There was a guy who ran this
restaurant at the time, he was a German who drove this John Player special
BMW, back in the 80's and every time I saw him on Friday night he would be
coming to work at 6 o'clock, at the same time we were arriving for dinner, and
he would either have his golf clubs under his arm, or he'd have his tennis gear
on and he was just off the tennis court or whatever, and I used to think that
this would be an amazing way to live my life.

KM Did he actually make any money?

No I don't think he made a lot, I know that now - I don't arrive to work at 6
o'clock with a tennis racket under my arm. I realise now, that it is a little bit
harder, but at the time it looked really glamorous

Jewellery Theatre Carravaggio

By the time I was 15 or 16 I was getting bored of sitting eating dinner with my
mum and dad, and that became my Summer job, my part time job. I worked
for a year on weekends before I began my apprenticeship.

KM But why did you decide to do your apprenticeship. Your father being a
Pharmacist ..

It was his.... I think that it really came down to my mother, mum used to cook
for us all the time, obviously, but the things that I remember most vividly about
my mum was she was an artist. She used to paint in watercolour and pen and
ink, I used to watch this and I would jump around behind her to get her
attention and she was oblivious to this whole thing.

KM She was in her own space?

She was in her own space. I use to think at that time, I hope I discover
something like that, that I am so absorbed in that I lose all track of time, lose
all track of anything else.

The restaurant was then bought by a more sophisticated couple and they used
to come to Melbourne once a week and would arrive back in Warrnambool with
a boot full of really interesting things. Whole wheels of parmesan, legs of
prosciutto, things that I had never seen before as a young chef. That was
really progressive, there wouldn't be anyone now that would drive to Melbourne
to buy a wheel of parmesan and takes it back in their car.

KM they couldn't bloody afford it!

Jewellery Theatre Carravaggio

Yeah exactly, that sort of thing, was a massive eye opener as far as the
produce was concerned, so the couple that I worked with then, and they
certainly weren't gourmets by any stretch of the imagination, but they really
opened my mind. After I qualified, when I was 20 - 21 I moved to Melbourne
and I went to work for 3 or 4 restaurants in Melbourne and then I worked for
Stephanie Alexander. I was with Stephanie for 7 years

KM Where in Hawthorn?

Yes, in Hawthorn, so I guess that is where I really....she was sort of the first
person that showed me the level that you can take the whole thing to.

The creative way in which she handled Australian ingredients and classic
Australian dishes, not that there are any classic Australian dishes.

KM That was what I was about to ask?

This approach, this Australian approach to food I found really intoxicating and I
found that was what I wanted to do - and she taught me that that was
something to be proud of that whole thing and not to feel like it was some
culture cringe, that Oh you have to go to France to learn how to cook

KM when you are creating a dish what is your philosophy?

I guess it is a much lighter style of cooking, we don't make very many... there
are no reduced sort of sauces here, there is a lot of much emphasis on fruit
and vegetable based sort of sauces that we use in the menu. It is definitely
lighter and I definitely like as far as my food is concerned for each of the
dishes to have cultural integrity.

KM What do you mean by that?

Jewellery Theatre Elements

O.K. I don't like this concept of fusion food really, confusion, this train smash
sort of attitude. If an inspiration for a dish has Chinese origin then I want it to
run all the way through the dish, I am not then going to sneak pasta into a
Chinese sort of dish.

KM Yeah, but that is where Pasta came from.

Well maybe pasta is not a good example, but I am not... If I have got a Thai
dish on the menu I want it to have that integrity. My menu meanders through
countries all around the world, and it is multi cultural, just like I think Australia
is. It is layered with influences from everywhere but things sit sort of fairly
happily and I think that is what Melbourne is. There are pockets and enclaves
in Melbourne, whether it is Victoria Street with the Vietnamese, whether it is
Little Bourke Street - Chinatown,

One of the reasons why the hand brakes sort of went on in Melbourne was
because there were too many owner chef operators who didn't really have the
skills to run a restaurant. They were great Chefs but they didn't necessarily
have the skill to run a restaurant, they got used to not making any money out
of their business and they were happy to do that because they felt, I own my
restaurant and that is what I do. They run the business out of a shoebox. The
same creative systems that they have to work with in their kitchen were not
applied in the office where there really needs to be applied. So I think that not
all the people who came from outside into the hospitality industry not all of
them are good but I think we really needed that flushing out, we really needed
to understand that the same attention to detail in the kitchen was needed in the
office, just like we realised that it was needed in the wine department.

This tyranny of business and this isolation that we have breeds this special
kind of character that Australians have, that you need to suck the marrow of
every chance you have to go to London, or every chance to get to go to New
York, you have to suck every moment of that out, you are on the internet, your
buying C.D.'s, your buying books, it is a very Australian nature to have that
great desire for knowledge, that great desire for travel, and the feeling that we
have to go and search for it ourselves, it is not just going to come to us. Maybe
if you are in a great city like London or New York, where the best of the best is
there anyway, and everyone wants to come in

Jewellery Theatre Fairytales

KM You can take it for granted in other words?

...but then it creates this really dog eat dog environment I think as well,
Melbourne is a lot more comfortable and a lot more liveable and a lot more
easier to negotiate on all sorts of different levels.

OFFICIAL WEBSITE:Geoff Lindsay, Restaurant Pearl, [Melbourne]