Head chef, of the Balcon by Tapavino, Aprill Gullo shares with Life on the Pass about her recent win of “Australia’s Best Tapa” by Eat Spanish, why she would like to meet Gordon Ramsay off-camera and her favourite unusual food combination.
Head chef of the Balcon by Tapavino, Aprill Gullo has a career spanning more than 10 years, where she has worked her way up, landing the role of head chef somewhere she can call her second home.
Aprill began her career at the age of 14 when she applied for a position as a kitchen hand at her local bistro. She fell in love with the fast-paced, high-demand atmosphere straight away. But, being a kitchen hand wasn’t enough. During every shift, Aprill looked at the chefs and what they were doing and wished she had their skills. There was something about the blunt, brutal banter and sense of humour that made her feel at home.
After working in several pubs and with Sodexo Catering, Aprill dropped out of year 11 at school and started her culinary training at TAFE. Alongside her studies she began working at Cyren Bar & Grill for Nick’s Seafood Group, under head chef John Fahy and sous chef, Terry Thamrin. She also worked with the head pastry chef, Stephen Peel, who she learned a great deal from over the years. Providing food for covers of 800-1200, the environment was fast-paced and pressurised, however, by working hard as a strong team Aprill and her colleagues got on with what they needed without feeling those pressures.
Putting in the hard work, Aprill began working her way up into different roles at hotels, where she then won the Accor NSW Golden Plate award.
Aprill became the senior sous chef at Candelori’s Italian Restaurant, then at The Peakhurst when it was first launched and as senior sous chef at The Squire’s Landing.
These roles have led Aprill to where she is today, at Balcon by Tapavino, in the heart of Sydney’s CBD, which has become like a place she can call her second home. After a career spanning more than 10 years, she has built a solid name for herself, cooking classic Spanish Tapas with a modern twist.
As much as Aprill enjoys preparing and plating up fancy fine dining meals, her heart lies with hearty, home-cooked meals, as grandmother would have made.
“I love having the ability to change people’s moods and make them feel at home or be reminded of past memories from a meal I have prepared for them,” she said.
Among colleagues, Aprill is known and thought of as the ‘feeder’ of the team, as she is always making sure everyone is fed or given soup if they’re not well.
“I’m a nurturer by nature, a mum at home and a mum at work – I love looking after the people around me!”
As Head Chef at Balcon by Tapavino, Aprill works with the team to create new specials daily. It’s important that the natural flavours of the produce are maintained, without masking them with overpowering flavours. The idea is to showcase the proteins in their purest form and not cover them up with other, more overpowering ingredients. Aprill’s team follows traditional Spanish cooking techniques, while giving a modern edge.
Aprill recently won in in the ‘Australia’s Best Tapa’ category by Eat Spanish with her creation ‘Cerdo Cuatro Maneras’ (Pork Four Ways), made from pulled pork head, handmade coca dough, smoked chorizo and bellota with mojo picon sauce.
Aprill believes in using all parts of the animal when creating her dishes, so that there is no wastage. When working with a whole king fish, the bones get used for stock, while the wings are used for one-off chef specials. Using all parts of every animal is a trend Aprill foresees taking off and becoming much more common in the future.
To add to her experience, Aprill has worked with meat more specific to Australia, including crocodile, emu and yabbies, which she has used for wine dinners. These have been created with edible indigenous plants and fruits, including lemon myrtle, kakadu plum, Davidson plum, salt bush, pepper berry and wattle seed.
When it comes to eating, she loves the unique flavour of white chocolate and caviar.
If Aprill was hosting her own meal, she would cook a traditional, Italian, homely style menu, including an osso bucco among the dishes, a dish made from yeal shanks, vegetables and special broth. Aprill would invite her husband’s grandfather, chef Marino Gullo, head chef of Beppi’s Italian restaurant for 25 years, her grandmother and chef Anthony Bourdain as her ideal dinner guests.
April recalls one of her scariest experiences working in the kitchen. During service, she cut off the tip of her finger and lost a lot of blood, but had to push through. After a quick trip to hospital afterwards and some urgent treatment, Aprill returned to work the next morning.
Of all the chefs setting trends and making headway in the industry, who does Aprill most aspire to? In particular, she follows chef Peter Gilmore, of Quay Restaurant and Vaughan Mabee, of Amisfiend Restaurant.
Amare’s head chef team, Alessandro Pavoni and Marco Putzolu are chefs she has also started to follow on social media. Of the chefs she would like to meet, Gordon Ramsay is top of her list.
“I would love to see what he is like with no cameras around and under pressure!”