My time in Melbourne- entry no. 1

Day 1-2 Press Club

My first day was to be at the pinnacle of George’s empire, The Press Club. I arrived in the morning and was greeted by head chef Joe Grybac. He presented me my new Press Club apron, along with the warning “these are as rare as hens teeth”. Don’t let apron out of sight. Check. I introduced myself to everyone and promptly forgot everyone’s names. New jobs:so much to learn, so many new faces.

I was to start in the larder part of the kitchen, which is responsible for the first couple of degustation courses/entrees and side dishes. This was a welcome place to start. The larder lads and myself got stuck into our Mise en place, and soon enough it was service time. Service was fun, I saw how all the different dishes are assembled and then it was my turn to plate some up. I was happy with how the dishes looked, but I think I cook at a fairly casual pace at home, so I will need to work on my speed.  The dish that caught my eye the most was a beetroot terrine with pickled golden beetroots, and carrot candy among other tidbits.

I accidentally started a small fire when I put a container of (still slightly wet) Jerusalem artichokes into a pan of smoking oil. Other than that, the day was fairly snag-free. It was a bit of a culture shock, going from barely any physical exercise in the last year to standing on my feet for a 16 hour day, but I can’t wait to do it all again.

Day 3-4: Ocean fresh seafood

I arrived bright eyed and bushy tailed (well, as bright eyed and bushy tailed as anyone can be at 4am) at Ocean Made Seafood.  After the obligatory hello’s and tour the first job I was given was to help clean 14kg of calamari. I must admit I was a little disappointed no-one came up with a clever Callum-ari nickname for me. Perhaps the others are not as lame as I am! I observed as the gentlemen around me sliced fish with the precision of a well planned military assault. I also listened in horror to the seemingly endless list of stories about getting fish spikes through hands or the various ways one can give themselves stitches with a filleting knife.

I haven’t monged many fish in my time (where does fishmonger come from anyway?), so it was good to get a bit of hands on experience. Scaling, gutting and filleting were all on the agenda.  Scaling proved to be a messy job; my body was covered in so many scales I resembled some sort of mer-man creature.

I loved watching as six 45kg+ Tuna were delivered. A wedge is cut out of the tail section, and I’m told that the quality of the entire fish can be determined by observing the flesh here.  I am also interested to note the spike mark through the head, as I had only read about it before seeing this (those who have the Pier cookbook will know what I’m rabbiting on about). The Tuna is spiked in the head as soon as it comes onto the boat, not only to humanely kill it, but to stop endorphins being released into the flesh by a stressed fish.

After this experience, I think my next venture would have to be in making fish stock. The amount of fish bones thrown out is a little sad but even if given away to restaurants there its still wastage.

It was also interesting to note how similar the business ran compared to a restaurant kitchen. Orders would come in from restaurants, be called out to the fishmongers who would quickly prepare and package the fish, and bring it up onto the pass.  The fish would then be loaded into a van and transported to the appropriate destination.I must say I was impressed with the overall level of professionalism of the place, and I don’t think its any coincidence they are supplying some of the best restaurants in Melbourne and Sydney.

I was given some scallops to take home with me, and I had quite a delicious little dinner of scallops with chorizo and white bean puree. So simple  I don’t really think I need to put up a proper recipe. For the puree just drain a can of white bean, bring up to a simmer with a little milk and butter, then puree. If it is too thick add a little more milk. Just pan fry the chorizo until golden and the scallops for about 1 minute on the first side and 20 seconds on the next. Serve with some apple julienne, good olive oil and a wedge of lemon.

Some of the lessons I learned this week:

  • Tea towels aren’t tea towels. They are torchons.
  • Make sure anything about to enter a smoking pan of oil is not water-ridden.
  • It’s not a good idea to bring only a chef jacket and pants to wear when you are going to be working in a fridge with your hands on ice cold fish all day (assuming that you like being warm).
  • Chefs are an amazing breed- working 70 hours a week, on their feet all day, and still managing to satisfy every customer. One week in and I’m exhausted. Or perhaps just soft.

Stay tuned because next week I’m at Hellenic Republic, so there will be more stories to tell I’m sure!


16 responses to this post.

  1. What an experience for you Callum! I hope you are enjoying your time in the industry and it’s good to hear you reporting about what you are learning and sharing it with us eg the spikes in the tuna head, very interesting fact.

    All the best for your future endeavours!


  2. Callum-ari… classic!


  3. Nice writeup! Sounds like you’ve had a fair share of different experiences in just over a week, imagine what the next few months will bring.


  4. Posted by Rachel on October 17, 2010 at 6:06 am

    Those scallops look amazing! More recipes like that one please- so simple and yet I would never have thought of it 🙂


  5. Posted by Katrina on October 17, 2010 at 7:10 am

    Sounds like an amazing experience so far! Your scallop dish looks and sounds amazing! Where did you get the idea from? Would never have thought of combining scallops with bean puree and chorizo …


  6. Callum-ari, bwa ha ha ha! Sounds like a good start, look forward to more of your adventures!


  7. You make me smile, Callum! 🙂 I’m so thrilled for you that you had this opportunity. I can certainly imagine the physical strain; I remember a similar experience when I worked from 8am to 4pm at the library for work experience once. It’s a long time on your feet, and your whole bod feels sore the next day! 😛

    With your awesome character and sense of humour in the kitchen, I’m sure all the staff are blessed to have you around. 🙂 Callumari… hilarious! 😀 I’ll be sure to try and trip up my sister in the kitchen tomorrow… “Please pass me a Torchon, will you?” 😛

    Thankyou so much for allowing us the pleasure of hearing all about your days at the Press Club! I hope you continue to learn heaps. 🙂 <


  8. Reading this is like being there with you, really entertaining! Shame I couldn’t get a table at Press Club this week, that beetroot dish looks lovely.


  9. Posted by sonia on October 17, 2010 at 10:21 pm

    You are not soft Callum Ari. A 70 hour week may have killed a lesser person.


  10. Callum-ari. Sheer brilliance there! Have you been cooking with any Callum-ata Olives? haha, sorry, that’s probably the lamest thing i’ve ever said (well… written actually). Sounds like your having a lot of fun! Could you please do all of us Melbournians a favour and let us know where you’ll be at different times during your 3 months so we can come and visit you? GOOD LUCK WITH EVERYTHING 🙂


    • I have been, all while working for George Callum-baris. That takes lame up a notch. The only reason I’m somewhat hesitant to tell you were I’m going to be for the 3 months is that George has told all front of house staff if anyone wants to come say hello or anything during service then it’s a “no” as I’ll be working and it’s not really fair on the other chefs if I leave them to do my work. I would hate for anyone to make a special trip to come say hi and not get to. Having said that, I’m at the Press Club most of the next 3 months except for a week at maha starting in 4 weeks and 2 weeks at PM24 from 6th Dec.


  11. Hey Callum! Great to hear what you’re up to, and great to be able to read about the new chapter of your life at Press Club! It sounds like a huge learning curve but no doubt you’re up for the challenge (otherwise you wouldn’t be there!)


  12. thanks for all the great feedback! 🙂 hopefully you keep reading about my adventures


  13. Posted by Nee on October 20, 2010 at 3:15 am

    Sounds like you’re having fun, you’re dishes look amazing! What a great experience. I hope I’ll get to see you in Melbourne sometime. Please, keep us updated on Facebook on any upcoming events in Melbourne you plan to attend and I’ll come see you!
    And I just want to say what an inspiration you are to me, to follow my dream and love it. You are my favourite MasterChef ever.


  14. Posted by Jessica on January 4, 2011 at 5:21 am

    Hi Callum! I am also a chef and I work your silly hours but I really enjoy reading your updates.. I’ve found nothing quite like this online! Is there any way I could have your pea mousse recipe from the final? It looked fantastic! Jessica


    • No worries Jess.
      2g gold leaf gelatine leaf, soaked
      225g frozen peas
      100ml cream
      25ml water
      Combine peas, cream and water in a saucepan and bring to the boil. Add gelatine, then transfer to an upright blender. Blend for a minute or until well pureed. Pass through a fine chinois. Cool as quickly as possible.


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