Tobie Puttock’s love of Italian food blossomed when he was 18 whilst working at Caffe e Cucina in Melbourne. Over the course of his career he has worked in kitchens in Italy as well as London.
In the late ’90s he worked alongside chef Jamie Oliver at the River Cafe and the pair have since collaborated on Oliver’s Fifteen project, an initiative that inspires disadvantaged youth to channel their frustrations into cooking.
Puttock has appeared on TV screens a number of times, in Jamie’s Kitchen Australia and the Tobie & Matt series.
He speaks to MiNDFOOD ahead of the Sydney, Brisbane and Perth
installments of the Good Food and Wine Show, where he will take part in Celebrity
How do you plan to wow audiences at the Good Food and Wine Show?
That’s an interesting question, I was going to try and jump the audience with a motorbike but the organisers of the show wouldn’t let me for safety reasons so instead I hope to get people excited about the interesting, yet simple dishes I will prepare.
What is your signature dish for this season?
Anything with mushrooms.
What ingredients are you loving right now?
Mushrooms, root vegetables and quince, they are all in season and pleasure to cook with.
What’s harder: cooking for fussy eaters or appearing on television?
Cooking for fussy eaters is hard but cooking for people that don’t know what they like is even harder, I think doing TV is easy after a while. Of course you get nervous from time to time but after a while it’s easy. The hardest thing about cooking is that everybody is different and for some people one dish that might be great may be horrible to another. I have found this always to be difficult.
What is the trait you most deplore in other cooks?
I don’t like arrogance, I don’t understand it. A few years ago people frowned upon chefs and these days they are seen to be hero’s but at the end of the day we cook food not solve world issues.
What is the trait you most deplore in yourself as a chef?
Not working for longer in Italy, I would loved to have stayed there for years working under other chefs to keep learning, learning and learning.
Do you think it’s acceptable to be arrogant in the kitchen?
I don’t think anyone should be arrogant, it’s very ugly and generally people think you are a jerk if you are arrogant.
Outside of the kitchen, which talent would you most like to have?
To fly helicopters so I can get to the mountains to go snowboarding quicker.
What is your perfect food and music match?
The Candoli Brothers, slow braised beef in barolo, polenta, bottle of barolo and my wife.
What is your favourite food-themed movie?
Caddyshack. It’s a golden movie, they do talk about food and there is a restaurant in it so I am going to class it as a foodie movie.
Which living person would you love to make a meal for?
My wife, and a Sunday roast (she doesn’t eat meat but in my fantasy she would).
What do you consider the most overrated ingredient or cooking technique?
I don’t think anything is overrated, chefs give people what they want and Australians love food trends.
What is your greatest extravagance in the kitchen?
My head chef.
What do you consider your greatest achievement?
Every trainee who has been through Fifteen [the unique Jamie Oliver-founded scheme combining a rigorous, on-the-job training programme for disadvantaged youth with top class restaurants, which Puttock launched in Melbourne in 2006].
What is your greatest regret when it comes to your career?
No regrets at all, where I am now is a result of everything I have done. Good and bad.
What is your current state of mind?
Busily trying to finish these questions so I can get back into my kitchen.
Try Puttock’s recipe for Potato Gnocchi with Morels and Vanilla.
The Good Food and Wine Show is scheduled for July 3-5 in Sydney,
July 31-August 2 in Perth and November 6-8 in Brisbane. For more
information, including ticketing, see here.