When I spoke to Sean back in 2014, he was Head Chef at Hell of the North, a French-inspired restaurant in Fitzroy named for the gruelling Paris-Roubaix bike race.
What made you become a chef?
I used to be a butcher and I’ve always loved working with meat. I thought that being a chef was quite extravagant and would allow me to travel a lot more. Once I started, I fell in love with it. Then when I worked for Philippe Mouchel, that’s when I really found my passion.
He was your mentor?
I had just finished my apprenticeship and I started working for him. He taught me how to cook first and foremost. He taught me a lot of technique. And he taught me to be humble and to really love what I do.
Then you went to France, the Jura and Auvergne. It’s very rural. What kind of food did you cook?
In Jura, I worked for Romuald Fassenet. The cooking was quite classical but modern as well. It’s what I love. Nouvelle cuisine with a lot of the food inspired by the region. He was the coach for the Japanese team for the Bocuse d’Or which is an international cooking competition. So we had a Japanese influence as well. In Auvergne, I briefly worked for Serge Vieira. He was the winner for the Gold Bocuse d’Or. And his food was very modern.
How different was the produce you were using in France?
I think Australian produce has come a long way and we’re lucky because we have a large range of things because of our climate. In Europe, particularly France, you always felt as though you were restricted to certain produce. My best memories are going foraging with my chef, getting morels and different mushrooms. Farmers would come to the kitchen and drop stuff off and we’d spend a long time cleaning it and picking through it. It was all about seasonal availability and I guess that’s the beauty of it. I really treasured that when I worked in France and I felt like I had a lot more respect for what I was doing. It was a really magical experience for me.
With all the new trends in food, is French food still popular in Melbourne?
I would like to say yes (laughs). We’re busy. The interpretation of French food is my passion. To freshen up some French dishes and interpret them with Australian produce and some Asian influence. You can’t play around with it too much but I want to make French food more modern and approachable.
What would you wish for you diners?
I’d want them to let me feed them. I want them to eat great food. I want to be part of that and share that with them. We’re all so passionate about food here. It’s great to work in a place with so much passion.
82 Vincent St, Daylesford
Wed 3 – 10pm, Thurs, 11am – 10pm, Fri – Sat 11am – 12am, Sun 11am – 10pm, Monday – Tues closed