Chef Matt McCool – Culinary Director
Matt Mccool from Australia is working in Bali as culinary director at Capella Hotel Group. We have met him for an interview. Read here more.
Why did you become a chef?
I was always drawn to creative jobs and tried my hand a few different avenues (graphic design, wood work) i also wanted to wear a uniform and feel part of a community/ team.
I remember a restaurant I used to eat with my family when I was young and the chef/ owner would come to the table and explain the special of the day, each and every time I am positive we took the special as his passion in explaining the dish and how it was cooked etc made you salivate immediately, I remember thinking- this is the passion I want in my job, so I took up cooking.
Back to the time when you learned to become a chef. Which cooking school did you visit in Australia?
I studied a certification in food science, and qualifications in commercial cookery just outside of Sydney.
Chef Matt McCool – Culinary Director
Can you tell us something more about the cooking school system in Australia?
It’s a very organised programme which allows the student to attend study 1 day a week and practical on the job training the rest of the week. I personally found this extremely beneficial in the practical side.
What are some of the traditional Australian cooking techniques/ dishes which are unique?
Australia is lucky enough to have four seasons so our cuisine changes to suit the time of year, Australia is a multi cultured country where we call all types of food our own.
We are renowned for BBQing. Some of the best produce comes from Australia through Meat and Livestock to Organic Sustainable fisheries.
How would you describe your todays specialisation as a chef/ what are your special dishes?
Sourcing around you, finding interesting products, replanting, buying from the farm next door- I think there’s room for importing high end products, however some of the best ingredients are found at your local markets.
Generally we start with this philosophy and match flavours/textures around this.
Shangri-La Sydney wasn’t an Asian restaurant, it was a modern European with high end Australian produce.
Culinary Director in Asia
In 2015 you work as Chef de Cuisine at the W Hotels in Bali. Bali sounds to be great to work as a chef. Is it really that great/ did you have time to enjoy the environment? What have been the local specialties in Bali with which you came a across and are still used for you todays cooking?
Bali is a rapidly growing service industry island, you can find anything from some of Australia’s best chefs to pork sate skewers on the beach. It has amazing beaches, beautiful people with a strong culture and beliefs that make you feel welcome and comfortable wherever you go. All parts of the island have their own spices, unique styles and service standards, it’s hard to point one. You’ll have to come and visit.
In 2016 you worked as Executive Sous Chef at Shangrila’s Flag ship hotel in Shenzen, China with a team of 140 chefs. What has been your specialisation at this time? Could you learn a lot from your Chinese colleagues in sense of Chinese food?
This was a monster of an operation with banqueting of 1500++ Chinese weddings, outside catering, with it being only over the border to HK it was easily accessible for international conferences.
My specialisation at this time was being highly organised, able to think on my feet, and liaise with both domestic and international clients.
Yeah I learnt loads, i used to help the guys out on the Wok station for Chinese weddings at first they thought it was hilarious however once they got used to me being there i became part of the team.
Food wise, i learnt the most from eating out- not being able to read Mandarin it was always interesting to see what you get.
Today you are back in Bali as Culinary Director at the Capella Hotel in Bali. Did you feel “homesick” to Bali?
Bali is like home, my new family is here and it is only a short distance to Australia.
Can you describe us a little your work as Culinary Director?
At the moment we pre opening stages so its about developing concepts, menu development, staff training, operation procedures, think of it as starting from the soil up.
In this position, do you still have enough time to cook by yourself?
We are heavily into menu development at the moment, dish tasting, produce sourcing, working closely with the local producers.
Sure, I am actually responding from the kitchen right now 😊.
In sense of the creation of new dishes, what do you offer/ is “requested” theses days in Bali?
In our luxury brand we tailor the food to you, sure there are core dishes, however, prior to your visit, we will reach out to get an understanding of likes/tastes, etc. Something unique and breaks the old traditions of a chef cook what he personally likes.
You will be surprised how much you learn from this.
If you would open your own restaurant, where would it be and with which specialisation?
A self sustainable farm with a few small rooms, countryside in a quiet village. Specialising in an evolving menu, what is available off the farm of nearby areas, small menu, few seats, good wine, boutique beer, and really cosy rooms for a few guests.
Thank you for the interview, Matt!