To start a head chef role alongside running your own business, would make even the most ambitious chefs sweat in their whites.
But for newly-appointed chef at modern Asian restaurant, Luna Lu, at The Rocks, Lucas Doan takes it all in his stride.
“Luckily, I have a great team at my restaurant, including my own head chef, who’s just great,” he says. “They know what I expect, and I’m confident it runs well with little input from me, which allows me to focus on my new role.”
Lucas opened his own restaurant, The Ds, in 2008, when he felt it was the right time to take on a new challenge. He had the experience and vision to set up his own brand of Asian cuisine.
It has gone well in its Sydney location, attracting locals and visitors outside the area. But Lucas was hungry for a bigger challenge and, when he saw the head chef role at Luna Lu, it was an opportunity he couldn’t resist.
Since starting with Luna Lu in February 2022, Lucas has created a brand new menu, including one of his most popular dishes, smoked salmon rice with wasabi mayo.
It’s a great restaurant and general place to work,” says Lucas. “I love the freedom of creating brand new flavours and plates.”
So, with the sheer busy-ness of his two roles combined, there is also a question to be asked about competition.
“My restaurant’s in a completely different area to Luna Lu and our target customers are different” Lucas explains. “Though they are both Asian-based, the food are totally different styles, so it works.”
With the rising cost of ingredients, Lucas hasn’t been affected by this just yet.
Since he’s pre-planned the menu seasons ahead for Luna Lu, Lucas has managed wholesale ordering months in advance, with plenty of ingredients in storage. It means there is plenty of time to keep the menu as it is without needing to consider changes or impact on cost.
“The issue with wholesale ingredients is affecting a lot of restaurants, no doubt about it.
“For us, it’s not happened yet, but when the menu is due to be changed, we’ll consider the cost of ingredients then.”
Growing up with parents who ran a restaurant in the heart of Ho Chi Minh City, Lucas has never known anything different from the hospitality lifestyle.
“We moved to Beijing when I was about 9, as my father is Chinese. This brought a whole new culture to me growing up and I’ve had a firsthand taste of the cuisines,” he says.,
He took the influence of both Asian cultures with him when his family decided to settle in Australia.
After completing his commercial chef training at TAFE in Sydney, Lucas landed his first job as a chef de parti working for restaurant chain, Mr Wang, and then later became head chef at Hello Aunty, a modern Vietnamese brand in Australia.
Getting a flavour of different experiences has brought Lucas to where he is today. Mixing different types of Asian cuisines in a modern way is what has worked for him.
And he has teams who get his vision and work hard to make it happen. While he recognises that restaurant life involves long hours and a pressured environment, so makes sure his staff take all of their annual leave and that they don’t overwork.
“There’s no hierarchy with my team either – I’m not above my team as the owner or the head chef.
“It’s important to me that everyone looks forward to coming in to work and that they’re not tired. Wellbeing’s important in this environment.
“For me, it’s like coming in to see my family and catch up with them and make sure they’re all happy.”