“A journey of discovery” is a term we often hear from the chefs here at Life on the Pass. For Chef Shannon Easton, a career in cooking continues to be, in his own words, an “adventure that food could take me on”.
Shannon currently works at the Sardine Eatery and Bar, on the Gippsland Lakes in Paynesville, Victoria, where he says, “during Covid the support of the local community for their takeaway service was amazing!”
But his career path started, like so many chefs, by his boyhood experience in the home kitchen.
I spent most of my time in the kitchen with my parents
According to Shannon, “School wasn’t for me… always in trouble. I spent most of my time in the kitchen with my parents. I loved the discipline, and acquired a lot of basic cooking skills from my mother and father, which I still use to this day!”
Soon enough, Shannon started his chef’s apprenticeship – at Craigs Royal, the legendary Australian gold-rush era hotel at the heart of Ballarat, Victoria. Straightaway, the aspiring young chef, “knew he was on the right path”.
It was under the watchful eyes of Julian Robertshaw, a veteran of numerous international “top end restaurants”, that Shannon says, “he was taught so much”. Julian’s passion and respect for ingredients were addictive…and I will always be grateful for the time he took to train me”.
Learning fast and dedicated to his passion for cooking, it wasn’t long before Shannon worked his way up to the position of Executive chef.
I realised I didn’t need 20 things on a plate!
He was now working alongside Ian Curley, British-born and Australian-based celebrity chef with his own TV show Channel 7’s “Conviction Kitchen”. To be taken under Curley’s wing and mentored for four years “was amazing”, say Shannon.” I learnt a lot from Ian, including a whole new way of cooking. I realised I didn’t need 20 things on a plate!”
Discovery and learning is repeatedly emphasised by many we have interviewed at Life on the Pass as the ‘main ingredients’ in the career handbook of any aspiring chef. Shannon recalls there were so many highlights along the way.
But a fond memory is reserved for the time he was asked to take part in the William Angliss Great Chef’s programme, where he was originally apprenticed. “It was an amazing feeling to give back to the college I once studied at”.
Soon afterwards Shannon and his wife relocated to East Gippsland where he met Mark and Victoria, owners of Sardine Eatery and Bar. A new chapter was about to begin.
I love using as much local produce as possible
Shannon says it was the couple’s “amazing passion and love for the industry” that constantly drives his own enthusiasm and commitment to the venue. Not least, his passion for fresh, locally-sourced ingredients.
“I love using as much local produce as possible and living in East Gippsland we are truly spoilt by so many great producers”.
Managing the pressures of working in a busy restaurant kitchen
Of course, no Life on the Pass interview is complete without our featured chef’s feelings about managing the pressures of working in a busy restaurant kitchen. Shannon goes straight to a typical bugbear, “Definitely, the biggest cause of stress would be unorganised and cluttered work benches – they drive me crazy!”.
To help smooth out all the bubbling tensions brought on by an untidy kitchen, Shannon says he simply chills out at home. “I sit down with my wife with a glass of wine, and talk through the day with her – she is my rock!” Other relaxing activities include his love of simply “getting out on the water for a spot of boating or jet skiing”.
Shannon has great advice for the next generation ambitious to pursue their passion for cooking. “I would simply say: ‘don’t rush to be at the top!’ Take your time and learn your trade. In this industry you make a lot of sacrifices… but what you put in you will take out!”
It’s a philosophy that has clearly guided and informed Shannon’s passion and dedication on his own continuing adventures in the restaurant kitchen.