5 Minutes With Aaron Habgood

Tell us about your journey to being a Head Chef: I started my apprenticeship at the Landmark Park Royal in Sydney, and continued to work in various Sydney hotels for the next six years before moving to the UK. I spent six months gaining experience at the Berkley Hotel in Knightsbridge and Relais & Chateaux in Dorset before securing a Sous Chef job at Sienna’s in Dorchester, which was awarded its first Michelin star while I was there. Such an amazing experience to be working alongside a Chef that cared so much about the produce he bought and where it came from, as well as the food we served to our customers. I came back to Australia in 2008 and started at the Shangri-la Hotel in Sydney as sous chef and continued to work my way up for the next 4 and a half years. What an amazing hotel; I was lucky enough to work with some great chefs and cook for some of the world’s elite performers and sportsman, dignitaries and royal family members. In 2013, I moved to Shangri-la in Cairns where I have found my own true style. I’m not sure if it’s my kids or the relaxed tropical resort lifestyle I now have but I couldn’t be happier with where my food is at the moment.

What is your food style?

Honest cooking done well. My food is a mixture of classics with modern interpretations. The older I get and the more I continue to learn, the more I appreciate what food is and how good it can be in its simplest of forms. Gone are the days where you place a dozen ingredients onto a plate. Our produce is that good in Australia that sometimes you only need a pinch of salt to have an amazing meal.

What do you love about this business?

Haha…this isn’t a business! The Kitchen is a lifestyle choice; one that is controlling, demanding and one that I can’t live without. Everything I have today whether it is my family, skills, life experiences, memories has come from this crazy industry. I think that’s what young kids today don’t understand about our industry. It’s taken me 19 years to get where
I am today and hopefully another 19 years to get where I want to be. My mentor, and the first Chef I worked for, ignited something in me and the buzz of the kitchen is electrifying and addictive.

An ingredient you can’t live without?

Salt – it enhances the flavour of every dish, be it savoury or sweet.

Most ‘eyebrow raising’ menu item?

The day I threw two whole spring lamb carcasses on my team’s bench and asked them to break it down for specials – they were shocked, but loved the challenge. Our chefs today are no longer taught the art of breaking down these beasts. Most of today’s hotels buy everything in cartons or portioned. Being able to teach my team skills my mentor taught me is truly satisfying.

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