Curtis Stone: on opening a pie shop and almost becoming an accountant
Curtis Stone is arguably Australia’s hottest culinary export.
Between TV gigs and running two Michelin-star restaurants in LA (Maude and Gwen, named after his grandmas), Stone visited Australia in April to launch the latest arm of his catering and event business.
He took time out to share his career tips, life lessons and food vices with food journalist Wendy Hargreaves.
Q: You’ve just launched new events spaces in Melbourne? What’s next for Curtis Stone?
A: I have plans to open a permanent pie shop in Los Angeles and bring a bit more Australian food culture to the US.
Q: You own restaurants and catering businesses. Got a favourite way to work?
A: I love the creativity of both. Restaurants are more routinised and catering an event can be more spontaneous. Each gives their own energy.
Q: What tips do you have for people starting out in hospo today?
A: Be on time and keep a clear workspace. It sounds simple but you’d be surprised how many people don’t get it right.
Q: What do you enjoy most about your job? And what do you hate?
A: I love the creativity that comes with being in the kitchen and my other projects, but it comes with the cost of long hours and being away from my family.
Q: What did you want to be when you were in high school?
A: My dad is an accountant and I started studying business before I took to the kitchen. I can’t imagine myself now running around with just a briefcase and not wearing an apron, but the business knowledge sure has come in handy.
Q: What chef advice would you give to your younger self?
A: Be available to appreciate what you’ve accomplished.
A: Find brands whose principles align with your own. I love supporting Cargo Crew as it’s a female-founded company. And my work with Coles is driven by their fresh food initiative which is always how I subscribe to cooking.
Q: Describe your perfect day when it comes to cooking?
A: I’m cooking for family and friends in the outdoors. Getting everyone involved in the process is super fun too.
Q: Have early food memories growing up in Australia impacted on your menus today?
A: Working with ingredients that remind me of home is important. Lamb ribs have been on the Gwen menu since we’ve opened and the wagyu at the butcher counter comes from Blackmore in Victoria. It’s critical for me to expose my guests to Australian products and manners of dining and eating.
Q: Top three places to eat out in Australia?
Q: Who do you admire most in Australian hospitality and why?
A: I have always admired Ben Shewry and his work with indigenous communities. I think Josh Niland is doing incredibly creative dishes that are sustainable and look toward the future of food and how we eat.
Q: It’s been a rocky road for hospo in recent years. What did you lose and gain from the whole painful process?
A: The last three years have allowed me to take a step back to reflect on my career and to be grateful for everything I’ve accomplished and the experiences that brought me here. It was a scary time for everyone, and I’ve moved forward having a better sense of what I want to devote my time to and what I most enjoy doing. I’m focusing my energies and prioritising that more than ever.
Q: What do you see as the biggest challenges to the hospitality sector, and how are you tackling them?
A: Retention and hiring have been tricky lately. Creating a team environment with strong core values that everyone subscribes to is the best way to attract staff and keep them happy.
Q: Customers want value for their dining dollar, while costs are going through the roof. Any tips for fellow hospo professionals on bridging that gap?
A: Avoid food waste and make the most of every ingredient you have, whether extras go to your bar program or into a family meal. It’s important to make the most of what you’ve got.
Q: Kitchen weapon of choice?
A: Chef’s knife… and coffee.
Q: Have you got a signature drink?
A: My favourite drinks are coffee and rosé. If drinking cocktails my wife always orders a straight whiskey while I order a Cosmo, the waiter always delivers them the wrong way around!
Q: Favourite music to cook to?
A: I don’t usually listen to music when cooking, but when I do it’s Andrea Bocelli.
Q: What ingredient are you obsessed with right now?
A: I just ran across some interesting dried seafood and I’m rolling around ideas in my head on how to incorporate that in dishes.
Q: What was your favourite food as a kid?
A: Chocolate and my mum’s Sunday pork roast.
Q: Favourite food now?
A: Chocolate and my mum’s Sunday pork roast.
Photo credit: Ray Kachatorian