“Rock star chef” Jay Tesorero earned his reputation as a chef to the stars when working at a major hotel. Nowadays he wants to cook for you and me from his post as head chef at Academy in Claremont. While the doors of Academy have been open for a little while, the all day café officially launches today, Wednesday 18 May, and will add a dinner service starting tomorrow. Jay shares his passion with us below.
When did you decide a career in food was what you wanted?
I had been surrounded by great food my entire life, so enrolling in culinary school was an obvious choice. I think I knew that a career in food was for me when I won silver medal in an open division MLA Black Box Challenge. I was still a student competing against the industry professionals back then.
What do you love about your job?
The best part about my job is that I’m constantly learning and I have the opportunity to experiment with different flavours and combinations every day. I also love the kitchen wars we get to partake in, there is nothing better than a bit of healthy competition in the kitchen.
What have been some of the challenges faced along the way?
In this industry I’ve been blessed to have worked with people from all different walks of life. Kitchens are always full of plenty of different personalities so I think for me a challenge has been getting to know each person’s strengths and weaknesses and what makes them tick to create a rock star team – once you’ve created an environment that everyone can thrive in your kitchen becomes a well-oiled machine.
Rose and berry pannacotta with summer berries and seasonal fresh fruit, nata de coco and passion fruit (left). Avocado smash – fresh avocado, feta cheese, free range poached egg, dukkah, summer herbs, roasted cherry tomatoes on a seeded sourdough (right).
What’s your motto when it comes to cooking?
Timing can make or break a dish.
I think that you can give anyone a recipe and they’ll be able to cook the dish but the timing, care and precision you put into your cook is really what makes the final dish.
You’ve made a name for yourself as a rock’n’roll chef cooking for some big celebrities. How do you get a celebrity gig like that?
When I started my career I was chosen to lead a team at a leading hotel chain who had a major contract with Sony. Every time an artist stayed at the hotel I was the person that got the call up to prepare the meals for the stars. We cooked for ABBA and John Mayer and everyone in between. It was certainly an experience I’ll never forget.
Have you ever been star struck in the kitchen, and if so, by who?
I’ve always been a huge R. Kelly fan and one time his drummer came into the kitchen to request a special dish, that was pretty amazing.
I also cooked a Thai banquet for ABBA when I was working in Thailand, that was another pinch yourself moment – we were running out of time because they had to hop on a plane but they really wanted some Thai food before they left – I wasn’t sure if I could pull it off but then they sang for me and I couldn’t say no.
What is the most demanding experience you have had in the kitchen?
The most demanding kitchen experience for me would have been cooking an entire Indian buffet for the Indian delegates during the World Leaders Summit, CHOGM. The pressure to cook for arguably some of the world’s most important people was stressful enough, let alone cooking to their exact tastes. Every region of India has certain styles and techniques they are recognised for, so making sure every dish was perfect certainly kept me up at night.
What is your favourite ingredient (or ingredients) right now?
Right now Maltosec and Umami paste are my favourite ingredients.
What are your plans for Academy?
I really want Academy to be recognised for creating a unique and exquisite food experience for the masses.
There is no reason a casual dining experience can’t be a gastronomic delight at the same time and that’s what we will be giving diners at Academy.
What’s your most cooked dish at home?
Pork Sinigang (a Filipino sour broth dish). Jay