Year 1, Home Economics at Golden Grove High School, Adelaide… where I realised my passion was for cooking and not sewing, as my pencil case was rubbish!
Recalls chef Jamie Gannon, whose “love of cooking” since the age of 15, nevertheless, continues to thread a commonsense approach through his career in hospitality.
Today, Jamie says he’s busy with “fingers in a few roles”, but says it all started with his biggest influence, “My father, Stuart who taught me to always work hard and never give up on your dreams”.
Along the way, a handful of mentors – Jamie says 5 in all – have also guided the young aspiring chef. His current roles are group chef for Laundy Hotels, Head chef at Sydney’s Terminus Pyrmont Hotel – and hospitality consultant!
Travelling the world cooking, learning my trade
It was in the Royal Australian navy – HMAS Brisbane and then 7.5 months in the Gulf on HMAS Melbourne – when Jamie met his first mentors while “travelling the world cooking, learning my trade”.
“Chris Pollock – who once managed a team of six cooks and served up 625 meals a day, seven days a week – was a massive influence in my navy career. Then there was Steve Davidson, who I also worked with while in the navy and in some top restaurants in Mornington Peninsula S.E Melbourne, including, Arthur’s Seat Restaurant – we are all best mates still”.
Importance of mentor influence when losing his chef mojo
Jamie remembers the importance of mentor influence at a certain stage in his career – when he claims he lost his chef’s mojo! In particular, Colin Fassnidge, Dublin-born celebrity restaurateur chef – ‘Four in Hand’ in Sydney, ‘4Fourteen’ in Surry Hills – and a judge on the hit Australian television show, My Kitchen Rules. Also well known, of course, for creating dishes that use an entire animal from “nose to tail”.
“I’ve worked with Colin Fassnidge for the last 3 years – who taught me to love cooking again! He took me back to basics and helped me remember why I got into cooking in the first place… I was so stale there for a while. When you have been in an executive role for so long you kind of forget how to inspire yourself. Forgot why you loved cooking, and when you forget all these things your creativity dries up. Colin, his wife Jane, business partner Clayton, and a guy called Dazza, really helped me to love cooking again”.
Refined my management style to become that all round manager
Jamie also cites Arthur Laundy (Jnr) and the family of more than two dozen Laundy Hotels where he is currently group chef as another important influence in shaping his career.
“They really helped me refine my management style to become that all round manager, and not just another Gordon Ramsey! Looking after 20 plus venues doesn’t come easy, and is very demanding”.
Jamie’s executive energies and creative chef talents look set to encounter new challenges. It seems that Laundy is going through some exciting changes. According to Jamie, “A restructure with a massive focus on food, with a new build Log Cabin at Penrith, two new taverns – at Jordan Springs, Sydney and down in Calderwood, NSW”.
There are also significant renovations at the Oxford Hotel, Drummoyne and the iconic Woolloomooloo Bay Hotel – involving a roof top bar and a Mediterranean inspired menu over three levels.
At the same time, Jamie’s consultancy work is also placing demands on his managerial skills, including the launch of a night time tapas bar at a local pantry in Engadine, south Sydney and the Forrest in Bexley, currently renovating their old function room to a “whisky, cigar and pizza bar – with a wood fire oven”.
Without amazing Australian produce, us chefs do not have a job
Jamie’s natural love of cooking is never too far away – despite expressing past doubts! His food philosophy is simply, “ingredients must be allowed to sing”. Along with most chefs we speak to at Life On the Pass, Jamie highlights ‘Australian products’. “At the end of the day, cooking is about the produce, without the amazing Australian produce, us chefs do not have a job”.
Jamie’s favourite ingredient to cook is “Australian Pork and seasonal veg” and also admits to, “Love a raw fish with a seasonal flavoured vinegar. Or my new favourite cooking technique – slow cooking over charcoal- which we implement at Panania Hotel, NSW, and will introduce in the restaurant at the Log Cabin, Penrith”.
Jamie also points out the comfort dishes featured on his menus such as, “spag meat balls, meat loaf, slow cooked meats during winter and the fresh seasonal salads during summer”.
Straight forward answers to taking care of personal wellbeing
With so much happening in his busy group chef and consultancy roles, you might imagine it can be more difficult than most to manage the demands and stress of the kitchen. But Jamie has very straight forward answers to taking care of personal wellbeing and life away from the pass.
“Gym every day and a cold shower, morning and night – sounds crazy but it really helps – and my missus, she’s my inspiration and sea salt!”. Jamie say he also loves to play soccer but his “body doesn’t love it so much, anymore”.
It’s not too much of a surprise to hear that Jamie’s favourite culinary read during those precious moments away from the kitchen is Colin Fassnidge’s, “Commonsense Cookbook” (Pub’d. October 2020).
Jamie also has some straightforward commonsense advice for younger chefs starting out in the industry, “Listen with your ears not your eyes”.
Importantly, to the words of those special mentors. From whom – just like Jamie – you can learn so much about how to master everyday practical problems and achieve personal career goals.