Lady Lex | 03 June 2015

There are many words used to describe Adrian Richardson, but wallflower is definitely not one of them. The gregarious, larger-than-life character dazzles wherever he treads. Perhaps it’s the fiery red locks and the generous voice that precedes him. It might even be the penchant for velvet jackets and cravats. Either way, as a restaurant owner, renowned chef and valiant carnivore, Adrian particularly shines from the kitchen, whether it is in his own from La Luna Bistro in Victoria’s North Carlton or on the set for Channel Ten’s Good Chef Bad Chef, Lifestyle’s Secret Meat Business, presiding over a corporate function for five hundred, a Magimix demonstration or the Essendon Football Club for the Culinary Chairman Functions. For wherever he stands, the spotlight naturally follows.

Surprisingly, Adrian is far more complicated than even he would let on. Behind the quick wit and kittenish manners lies a double-edged mind, stropped for business. One of Australia’s top restaurants, cooking for luminaries from the Prime Minister to CEOs, popular TV shows and bestselling books aren’t by-products purely based on culinary skills alone, but through a tenacious grip with astute calculation. With a cosmopolitan upbringing, he grew up with an Italian mother and chef Father - English-bred, French-trained – who also moonlighted as a pilot. Such is the daredevil attitude that indirectly led Adrian to the kitchen. But it would be surrounded by the comfort foods care of his Italian mother and grandmother where his Nonna retains a very special spot in his heart. Fond memories of her affection and her cooking - where her Egyptian background infused a Middle Eastern tinge to her Italian foods - continue to influence him in his approach to food today.

While a few years growing up in Malaysia taught him worldliness, it would still be the western suburbs of Melbourne that would toughen him up. As hospitable as the hospitality industry is, only the truly resilient and conditioned will survive – and succeed. And it is his clear-cut passion for food and a naturalness to teach that allows him to transcend the rockstar celebrity chef as a simple lover of good food. In the lead up to the  Variety of Chefs Ball at the Hilton Brisbane Hotel on June 13 where ten of the country’s top chefs unite to cook for a cause, we sit down with Adrian and chat about the biggest misconception of who he really is, going the extra mile and what we can expect when he plates up across from Kim Machin for #VOC2015.  

You’ve had quite a cosmopolitan upbringing so where does your philosophy with food start?
I like to cook what I like to eat. I don’t really like the frothy fancy stuff. I eat it occasionally, but I don’t have the time and patience for it. For me, it’s artwork, and there are some great guys who do an amazing job with it. It’s just not my bag. I’d much rather kill and cut up a large animal, cut it into little pieces and stuff them into its own intestines.

Since you've bought it up: how important is butchery for a chef?
I did a lot of training in the butchery field as a chef and I loved it. I’m good at it. I can see an animal and where all the parts are. You understand where different muscles come from, what they do and how then to best use it in cooking. When you’re doing your own butchery, you can leave the fat on so it keeps the moisture in.

You really do go the whole extra mile in everything you do – for example, you age and smoke your meat on the premises. Is that what makes you stand out?
I make my own bread. I make my own butter. If it’s homemade it’s better. I take it back to your grandmother’s cooking: it’s better than buying from other people. The prosciutto from restaurant A is the same dish you can have at restaurant B, C, D and E. And it’s good, so how am I going to be different? So I make it myself. The prosciutto I make you can’t buy anywhere else in the world. That’s what it’s about. As a chef, that’s what I do. I toughen up and make food from scratch. That way, you’re getting a unique experience and something no one else does. I’d just rather make it myself.

What do you think is the greatest misconception about Adrian Richardson?
I get the feeling people think I’m an amazing person when I’m just a good cook. I’m entertaining because I can present well on TV, but I’m no different to you or anyone else. We’re all just normal people. It’s just the job I do that puts me out there in front of people. People become in awe of what I do. And so I almost feel like I’m public property. 

While everyone knows you as a TV personality and great chef, many forget you’re also a businessman. Are you proud of this?
I am. A few years ago, I had to pinch myself. I’ve been able to build something from nothing. I borrowed some money and I paid it back. I borrowed some money and set up a restaurant. I bought some property and set up a small production company. I’ve been around some good people and made some clever decisions. I’ve also made some shit decisions - believe me. I can’t take any of this for granted. I’m quite chuffed about what I’ve done. I’m so lucky, because I knew at a young age cooking was what I wanted to do. It was instant. It’s not like I’ve had to make a career change, it’s only my career that has evolved. I was put on this planet to cook for other people. If you want, I’ll also teach you how to do it, but that’s what I do. That’s my gig. 

You’ll be cooking up a dish of whole rib fillet roasted for more than twelve hours for mains, and you’ll be set against Kim Machin. What can we expect on the night?
I’ll cook you a bit of beef. You better bring it because this is a great dish you had better be ready for. 

Each year, Variety of Chefs is an incredible experience. You’re very dedicated to Variety – The Children’s Charity. Why is it so important to you?
Variety is for kids. Who doesn’t like kids? When you see a child, especially a child in need who you know needs a little extra help - how can I say no? Through the simple act of cooking up a dish, people will donate money and make a huge difference to childrens’ lives and their families. I get to meet the people for who the money has been raised. It’s just a fantastic charity and makes a huge difference. It’s a no brainer for me. Lives are changed.

Adrian Richardson will plate up mains alongside Colin Fassnidge and Kim Machin for Variety Of Chefs Ball, Saturday June 13, 2015Tickets available here.

Photographer: Lady Lex

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