Masterchef S01 ep8: Michael Lambie, Le Cirque Restaurant, [Melbourne]
Interview with Michael Lambie
He [Pierre Marco White] was like a rockstar chef and he showed us that anyone could make it happen. I didn't think that he was a particularly good cook, but he had about 6 or 7 dishes that he knew how to do really well and he used to change them all around. We used to have a joke in the kitchen when Marco would say "Oh Michael I want to have a menu meeting with you". I used to get a piece of paper and cut it up into six things and write Red Mullet , Beef in Red Wine etc , put it all in a hat and ask myself "What we are going to do today for the new menu?, o.k. we are going to do Beef, with deep fried leeks and that is how we would come up with our new menu.
KM What is Circa
It is a restaurant which I was lucky enough to get a partnership in back in
1998. Back then I was 26 years old, it was kind of my dream come true.
I had done all my training in London and France
KM With who, who are your masters?
Michel Roux, at the Waterside Inn.
KM Never heard of them…Just kidding.
I was with him for 3 and 1/2 years and then one day I got a phone call from
Marco Pierre White,
KM Never heard of him either? (HaHa)
He offered me the head chef job in his restaurant called Harvey's at the time,
so I went with Marco and we opened two restaurants together which was, The
Hyde Park Hotel - Marco Pierre White restaurant which won the 3 star
I actually came on holiday to Melbourne and ate in Jacque Reymonds, Paul
Bocuse, and I went to the Stoke House, and as I was there I had a friend who
used to come to London, and so he introduced me and we got chatting, and
they were like Hey why don't you come and work for us.
KM How do you compare the style of running restaurants here, compared to
what you were used to in London, with Marco and all those people?
Oh look, I reckon a lot of the operators in London they are not good operators,
because I think of the population that London has, and because of supply and
demand. The restaurants are always busy, Last time Gordon was out he
actually came, (because I am good friends with him) we caught up and he said
that I can't believe how tough it is in Australia.
We all like to think that what we are going to do is going to be successful, and
when I first opened here I had the vision of cooking the food I had cooked at
Marco's and that is exactly what I did, and it did not take me long to realise
that we weren't doing that well.
We could see that Lachs Nest, some Sydney restaurants weren't doing that
well, and we were sort of following their lead, so we decided that we were
going to keep the Reidel Glasswear, great produce, Villaroy and Boch plates,
great service and beautiful dinning room, but just make everything a little bit
more friendly and a bit more accommodating, and nothing is a problem kind of
attitude towards our guests. I also decided to take a slightly different direction
with the food and I wouldn't say that we have gone Asian, I would say that we
have a really nice mish mash of different cuisines all together. So, some of the
things we do are French, some of the things we do are Thai, some are Thai
French, some are Italian, but the food is much lighter and much cleaner and
In French cuisine it is all about roasting and extracting flavour whereas in Thai
cuisine it is a different style. You have to pound the lemon grass to get the
flavour out of it, and pound the lime leaf - and I didn't know all that.
KM Oh so you thought it was just cutting it up and throwing it in? Like you
would in a French with a garnish.
Exactly, so I was doing a lot of that and getting frustrated as to why it didn't
taste very nice, so in the end you just have to say "I don't know how to do this
I need someone to show me". That is why I went to London and worked with
David for a week.
The rest of the world is probably looking at Australia going hey, you guys are
doing it, whereas.....I have got a lot of guys working with me here and they all
want to go and work in London and they all come back going well what was
that? It is like you go to London and it is not any better than what we are doing
KM Have you tried any unusual Asian things, other than the Lemongrass and
Corriander that we are used to here?
We use a thing called Galanger which is kind of like a really hot ginger which
adds a beautiful... mixed with tuna just gives a beautiful hot
horseradish/gingery flavour. We have started to use cape gooseberries which
are really sour, so if you mix them into a broth.... all of a sudden you can be
eating something and all of a sudden you get this little sour hit that is not hot
but adds a lovely little sort of
We have limited the amount of veal stock we make, and we make everything
with chicken stock. So all the sauces are really light and clean. But I think all
the sauces I learnt to make with Marco they are still something that I don't
want to go away from, because you can eat that sauce and it is not reduced
and sticky, it is kind of really flavoursome and light.
KM What was so special about Marco to you?
He was like a rock star chef and he showed us that anyone could make it
happen. I didn't think that he was a particularly good cook, but the thing he had
about 6 or 7 things that he knew how to do really well and he used to change
them all around. We all used to have a joke in the kitchen and Marco would
say Oh Michael I want to have a menu meeting with you, I use to get a piece
of paper and cut it up into six things and write Red Mullet , Beef Red Wine, put
it all in a hat and go what we are going to do today for the new menu, o.k. we
are going to do Beef, with deep fried leeks , and that is how we would do our
KM So you would say that Gordon is a much better cook that Marco.
Absolutely and I think that Gordon is a smarter operator as well. Marco had
this reputation of shouting and screaming and ripping the phone off the wall
and smashing it up, but it was all good fun, but after a while
KM You can't see that too many times..
But after a while his business was growing and he was loosing chefs everyday
and he wasn't replenishing them and everyone in the end said o.k. Marco you
can be the dictator but you are on your own and we all left.
KM Do you think it was the matter of being the right person, in the right place
at the right time?
At that time of the late 80's you had the Nicko's, the Raymond Blancs and the
Roux brothers and England was actually waiting for this young new person to
burst onto the scene and it was him.
KM He looked good, he was from the continent as well.
He looked good yes, but he was from Yorkshire, and his name is Mark White,
KM You're kidding?
Yeah, I opened a restaurant with him in Yorkley in Yorkshire which is where he
had done his training ship, it was called the Box Tree back in the 70's and it
was the only restaurant that had 2 Michelin stars in the whole of the U.K. and
we took it over as part of the Marco Pierre White group and I went up there to
relaunch the restaurant so that is how I found out that he was a local lad. He
went to school in Leeds, his name was Mark White,
KM You're kidding me...? There is another myth destroyed, next you will be
telling me that superman doesn't exist.
OFFICIAL WEBSITE:Michael Lambie, Le Cirque Restaurant, [Melbourne]