Tony Kelly – Australian Chef and Restaurateur & owner of Rice Boi and Saltwater
Tony Kelly has been Executive Chef, founder and owner of various gastronomic operation. Today he is the owner of Rice Boi and Saltwater and talks about the Australian food scene, his role of an entrepreneur and how hard work pays off.
A Chef portrait of Tony Kelly
Tony, where does your love for the culinary come from?
I love creating. Discovering new suppliers, supporting local producers & always learning. But it all began for me in the kitchen with my mother, she is an amazing cook.
How would you describe Australian kitchens in one sentence?
Australian kitchens are intense but very creative.
“It’s not romantic, it’s a bunch of hard work but worth every second.” – Tony Kelly
At the beginning of your career, you have opened your own wine bar and restaurant. What was your greatest learning from this first restaurant ownership?
Restaurant are a simple game of mathematics – you should never forget that.
Many chefs would like to open their own restaurants. What do you advise them?
Be prepared to go all in. It’s not romantic, it’s a bunch of hard work but worth every second.
You founded and sold successfully two gastronomic franchise operations – Donut Boyz and The Burger Joint. Do you see room for new gastronomic franchise concepts in Australia today?
I do. I believe with Australian market at the moment is very much driven by value and time. And there are many people looking to buy food franchises which offer great systems as experienced labour is very hard to come by.
After working as the director of the World Wide Hospitality Group, you once again took on the role of entrepreneur as the owner of Junk Boat. Where do you get your inspiration for all these new gastronomic start-ups?
Junk is an Asian Street food offer and was born off the success of my Burger offer. Asian food is very popular here in Australia, so I combined the fast casual approach of the burger offer with Asian style street food.
Today you are the owner of Rice Boi and Saltwater. What’s the culinary concept behind both operations?
Riceboi is simply a “grownup” version of Junk – better food and better beverage. And Saltwater was born from the location – right on the water. Offering the best locally caught seafood.
After so many different experiences as Australian Chef, how would you describe your culinary line today?
Hard to manage. There will always be passionate cooks out there but they are thinning out.
Do you still have time to be part of the kitchen team?
I do, and I love it. Only recently I teamed up with a couple of my head chefs for a Chefs Table Degustation. It was a bunch of fun.
Can you share some of your current dishes/recipes with us? (➔ more delicious recipes by top chefs)
Which next trends do you see at the Australian gastronomic scene?
I see a strong return of the classic bistro. And I think in the fast casual sector – fried chicken.
So far you did not come up with a chef book. What would be the title of your chef book?
Blood. Sweat. Tears. And a few good recipes.
Many foreign chefs would like to work in Australia. Are the hurdles high for finding a job as a chef in Australia?
I could not think of an easier place to get work than in the Australian Hospitality Industry! Do some research and make it happen. You will not regret it.
Thank you, Tony!
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