Jesse McTavish’s fascination with food and cooking started at a young age, leading him to kick off his culinary journey at the Beach Hotel in Byron Bay as a 15-year-old apprentice. Growing up on the coast, and as the son of renowned surfboard designer, Bob McTavish, the ocean has always been a vital part of Jesse’s life and has influenced his journey as one of Australia’s great chefs.
After completing his apprenticeship in Byron Bay, Jesse moved to Sydney in 2000, where he continued to learn and develop his skills before moving north to South East Queensland to open his first solo enterprise – a delicatessen. While running his delicatessen Jesse focused on building strong relationships with primary producers to bring top-quality food to his customers – after a few years of developing this ethos and forming relationships with farmers and suppliers, Jesse was on the hunt to find a new platform to amplify this concept.
In 2012, Jesse met Nathan Toleman to start a new venture, Top Paddock , it was clear that this was the platform Jesse was looking for. Top Paddock allowed Jesse to reveal another aspect of his creativity through his involvement in the design and layout of the cafe. Top Paddock customers were able to consume great food, in a warm and inviting cafe atmosphere. Top Paddock went on to win the Age newspapers Best New Cafe Award in 2013, and the Age newspaper Cafe of the Year in 2014, as well as the Eat Drink Design award for the Best Cafe Fit-out in 2014. Jesse’s next venture was as Executive Chef at The Kettle Black in Richmond which was awarded the Best Cafe Design in 2015, as well as receiving culinary awards.
Jesse extensive experience in the hospitality industry has led him to collaborate and consult on a number of projects both here and abroad. A few of the venues that have received the benefit of Jesse’s creative input include Pure South Dining in Melbourne; Willo cafe in Kew, Victoria; Five Senses coffee located in both Melbourne & Sydney; Revolver Coffee in Seminyak, Bali; and The Collins Quarter in Savannah, Georgia USA.
As of March 2018, Jesse was appointed to Head Chef of North Bondi Fish – an ideal location for a beach and ocean lover. North Bondi Fish champions fish and sea-food in its menu, perfect for a chef who grew up in Byron Bay. Jesse created a menu using freshly caught Australian fish and seafood, combined with other fresh ingredients. The venue’s iconic Bondi Beach location also provided him with plenty of opportunities to make his way to the beach to indulge in his other great love – surfing.
Jesse is currently co-owner along with Brett Conway of the Dunes at Palm Beach. Formerly a wedding venue, the Dunes has been restyled and opened in September 2019 as an all-day eatery. Jesse is also head-chef and has designed a menu which includes numerous fish and seafood options, although it caters to all tastes, including vegetarian.