Masterchef S02 ep6 : Michael Lambie, Taxi Restaurant, [Melbourne]

Interview with Michael Lambie

Ex -3 star Marco-Pierre White Restaurant executive chef Lambie has embarked on a modern cuisinal course whilst in a Melbourne landmark restaurant.


Taxi: Taxi is a fabulous venue which is in Federation Square in Melbourne. I was lucky enough to
get the opportunity to come on board here at Taxi in 2004.

Taxi: Australia’s very, very multicultural so it’s sort of modern Asian, Japanese, but also sort of
French and European, all sort of fused into one.

Taxi: I grew up in England in Camden Town, London and my parents were in the public house
trade, they were publicans and at a very young age I was always gravitated to the restaurant within
the pub and used to hang out with the chef and then I sort of started cutting chips and washing
salads and sort of, I was really getting into it and I remember sort of having a chat with my mum
and dad when I was about 12, saying one day I want to be a chef and it sort of just grew from there.

Taxi: I managed to get a job at 16 working in one of the local restaurants and the owner of that
restaurant said to me well look if you’re really into this, what you need to do is you need to go and
get an apprenticeship in one of the top hotels so I managed to get an apprenticeship at Claridges’
and worked at Claridges for three years.

Taxi: 18, 19 and I had all the cook books and you know I had my favourite chefs and I’d
discovered the Michelin Guide and you know there was one star restaurants, and two star
restaurants and you know, I used to save up and take my friends to a one star in London like I
remember going to Chez Nickos and then you know I kind of thought well, you know I’ve really
got the cooking bug here, it’s time to get serious and I thought right, I’m going to go to Europe and
I’m going to work in a Michelin star and I actually went to Germany to a two star Michelin
restaurant called The Koonikshoff in Munich and you know it was a complete culture shock and it
was really, really hard working in the kitchen being a foreigner. It was very military, it was very
organised, very German. The food was very good, it was a very busy venue and I actually met an
Aussie guy there and he said to me, you should go and work with the Roux Brothers, he said that’s
the place, the Waterside Inn, three Michelin stars, so I wrote a letter an application to Mr Roux, Mr
Michel Roux, and I sort of said in my application that I was going to be back in England in
December I think it was and I got a trial to work at the Waterside so I went and done my trial there
and loved it.

Jewellery Theatre Carravaggio

Taxi: The thing that I took from the Waterside is that it is just so produce driven and everything is
executed so well and everything has a really detailed recipe and if you don’t follow that recipe
then you’re in trouble and the organisation, the way that the kitchen’s run, the way that you have to
look in the kitchen, the way that the cleaning is in the kitchen, everything you know it’s just a
really, really well oiled machine.

Taxi: To be honest, working in a three star as a cook, which I was you know I was just a cook, it
came become very repetitive and it can become very boring because the menu’s don’t change very
often and everything is done exactly the same way every single time and it is like there is no
difference and I think you know the difference between a really good restaurant and a really great
restaurant is the fact that a really great restaurant is consistently good and if you went there at any
one time or if I went there a month later, the dish would be exactly the same.

Taxi: I had a restaurant here before and it was very successful but I wanted new challenges and I
wanted, I was looking at my food and thinking well you know this is the food that I was doing in
London in the ‘90s and you know I need to come up with new ideas and I sort of went on a bit of
an Asian tour of restaurants and you know put myself through a bloody Thai cooking school and
looked at different things and you know I haven’t lost my European fundamentals, but I’ve added
little Asian touches and it works really well.

Taxi: Asian cookery is completely different to French cookery and you know if you want to make
a lemongrass or a chilli flavoured lemongrass broth or something, if you make it in the traditional
French way, it’ll taste terrible. You’ve actually got to actually you know bash the flavour out of
the lemongrass and it’s a whole new skill but I’ve really embraced it and I’ve loved it and I think
that that’s what you have to do.

Taxi: A lot of the Asian countries are very poor and they tend to use a lot of ingredients which they
grow naturally in abundance and I think that that’s how their cuisine has developed. I love the fact
that I’m in a position where I can marry the two sort of combinations together and come up with a
sort of an Australian cuisine.

Jewellery Theatre Carravaggio

Taxi: I think it just depends how far you want to take it, especially like the Thai flavours, that sort
of salty sort of hot, sweet sort of acidic flavour and I think that it’s, I like to have those flavours in
my dishes, but I like to have them kind of quite subtle and not too sort of overpowering and I think
that there is a nice balance that you can have where you can sort of eat something and you can go
oh that’s really flavoursome and then it gets a little bit sweet and then it’s just got a little bit hot at
the end of the palate and you can actually marry that really well to a nice glass of you know
fragrant white wine as well. But yeah, it is a culture shock to try and change cuisines half way
through your career, but look I wouldn’t say that I’ve done a dramatic change of my cooking, I’d
like to think that it’s just evolved.

Taxi: The whole celebrity thing I don’t think that it has any substance to it to be honest I think you
know everyone’s hot for a couple of years and then they sort of drift into nowhere and they have to
you know reinvent themselves and try and do it all again and for me, I worked so hard as a young
chef and I was so committed to the food and to the produce and you know it’s a waste not to do
that and I think that I love, I love my cooking, I love my restaurants, I love the fact that you know
we’ve got a great venue here and it’s an open plan kitchen, it’s fantastic and to see so many happy
people here day in, day out, I love that part of my role and I think that you know for me to be out
in some TV show, it just doesn’t appeal to me.

Jewellery Theatre Elements

Taxi: You know most of the celebrity chefs are not great chefs, you know they’re good at TV,
they’ve got the right TV skills and you know that’s the way it works and the ones that are really
good cooks and the ones that have run really great restaurants are so committed to the kitchen that
they don’t have the skills to be good on camera so that’s the way I perceive it and I think that you
know Gordon’s developed something where you know, he’s got both and his role now is a PR
machine for his company.

Taxi: Working in a great kitchen is never going to come to you on a silver salver, you’ve got to go
there, you’ve got to have, you’ve got to keep your eyes open, you’ve got to keep your ears open,
you’ve got to look around, you’ve got to look at all the different techniques, all the cooking
techniques, you’ve got to look at the way that they handle produce, you know, no two chefs are the
same. My food’s come a long way now and it’s not over complicated and it’s subtle and you know
I mean we’ve got a dish, you’ll probably see it today, but we’ve got a wagoo beef dish, it’s $100 a
kilo it is like amazing. We just serve it really simple with a really nice dipping sauce and it’s all
about the product and it’s kind of like, and that was one thing I learned from Marco Pierre White,
Marco Pierre White said if you’ve got a great product like a great piece of foie gras, or a great
white truffle or a great scallop that’s really fresh, why confuse it with loads of different flavours?
Celebrate that flavour, because that will win you three Michelin stars because that’s the best it can

Jewellery Theatre Fairytales

Taxi: I mean where we are here in the middle of Melbourne’s CBD, we get full at 12.30 and
everyone’s gone by 2 o’clock and everyone wants to eat well, everyone wants fast, like they want
their food fast, they’re happy to pay for it, but you have to adapt to that climate so you know I’ve
got an express menu which we do of a lunchtime here that works really, really well.

Taxi: I’ve been faced with some bizarre situations here you know I’ve had customers come in
because we’ve got an open plan kitchen here at Taxi and you know when we first opened I was
like oh God, I don’t know about this open plan kitchen, but now I reckon it’s awesome. But you
know we’ve had drunk people come in and tell me that the steak’s terrible and they don’t like it
and tried to argue with me over the past, which is you know I mean what do you do, like what do
you do, how do you try and be diplomatic when you’ve got someone that’s drunk. We’ve got other
customers that walk in the kitchen that try and walk on to a section and start showing us how to
cook things.

OFFICIAL WEBSITE: Michael Lambie, Taxi Restaurant, [Melbourne]