His role across the popular Japanese & Geek restaurants involves overseeing the menu direction, staff culture and operations both front and back of house.
Teaming up with head chef, Thomas Tze Lian (GRECA) & Leaham Claydon (Yoko Dining), they worked tirelessly to build both GRECA & Yoko Dining into a busy, pumping and energetic spaces. Before long, GRECA restaurant was awarded a Chef’s Hat in 2019, Oscar’s first spot of recognition by an awarding body.
“Your apprenticeship is like the honeymoon period of a relationship, it’s blissful, it’s intentionally absorbent,” Oscar Solomon recalls his time starting out in his career.
Oscar strongly suggests being curious and, asking questions about anything cooking-related (but not during service!).
His advice stems from his apprenticeship with The Apollo Restaurant, in Sydney, under the watchful eyes of Stefano Marano and Jonathon Barthelemess.
He recalls his time working for Jonathon, describing him as one of his biggest influences in his cooking career over 6 years cooking with him.
Up until that point, he had been working in various cafes, bars and restaurants since the age of 13.
By the time Oscar was 22, he was managing a restaurant working mostly with Japanese cuisine, alongside studying for a Bachelor of Design.
Stefano taught him about the finer details – the cleanliness, level of organisation and attention to detail.
So what helps you learn as a chef?
“Cooking for staff and eating everything!” says Oscar. “Lean in on peoples cultures, learn about them and then get to know their food!”
Oscar decided not to specialise in a certain cuisine, but to continually learn and become good at cooking anything he turned his hand to.
“I never want to be a master in anything. If anything, it’s about making delicious food properly and that comes first.”
After his apprenticeship, Oscar was thrust into a sous chef role for the company’s new restaurant, GRECA, in Brisbane, Australia. Spending 18 months there and then Oscar moved to the sister restaurant Yoko Dining and ran its kitchen for 18 months with his then talented sous chef, Leaham Claydon.
Oscar believes that food serves a wider purpose than its simple sustenance, in terms of how food identifies with somebody’s culture and its ability to transcend basic communication channels, uniting people who have different ideals about life.
“I’m interested in indigenous ingredients though, as incredible and diverse the native food of Australia is, for me there is an important social responsibility of all non-indigenous Australians to pay respect to the knowledge of all indigenous countries and its people.
Through the unique ingredients, Oscar wants to contribute his skills to a contemporary Australian identity through food, encompassing the Indigenous history and multicultural backgrounds.
Oscar recognises the stress of running a kitchen, and how managing this in a way that works is crucial. Surrounding yourself with positive, outgoing people who push you to take advantage of every moment is what Oscar says help with positive wellbeing.
For Oscar, the ocean works as his cleansing space, with the general outdoors and nature serving the purpose of maintaining a positive outlook.
“I’ve been surfing and by the coast since I could walk and I generally find it a very therapeutic process in my life.”
When it comes to staff happiness and retaining people in hid team, Oscar counts this as one of the most important aspects of his job.
‘Post-birthday suppers, regular appraisals and big, over-the-top staff meals and birthday presents for birthdays are some of Oscar’s ways to keep staff motivated and happy.
Oscar rates being kind to yourself, getting out in the sun and eating junk food occasionally as a means to self-care. Chefs need to take time out and find the exercise and lifestyle that works best for them – but not enough do.
For Oscar, creating dishes is an emotive and passionate process that’s about touching on the human aspects of caring, nurturing, giving to others and receiving.
“Cooking is a language of love. The feeling of giving others a memorable, enjoyable, and fulfilling eating experience at any level is what drives me.”