A kitchen lifer, chef Scott Blomfield has come through the ranks the old-fashioned way – working his way up from dishes in Auckland to running his own kitchen in Melbourne. After stints at Sails, The Commons, and Auckland’s pioneering Cru at Sale St., Scott crossed the ditch and landed at Andrew McConnell’s Supernormal. He then took over the kitchen at Mighty Boy Eatery. Now at Grub Food Van in Fitzroy, Scott will oversee a food offering focused on the simplest expression of the highest quality produce.
I see that you started cooking in New Zealand. What made you want to become a chef?
To be honest I sort of fell into it. I had a really crappy job and a friend asked me to come over and wash dishes. Then one day the chef didn’t show up and I jumped on one of the sections and helped out and that’s how it began.
So how old were you then?
Early twenties. I hadn’t quite decided what I wanted to do with my life.
Is this it then? Are you happy with what you’ve chosen?
I see that you worked in some pretty good places in Auckland before jumping across the ditch to Melbourne. Who were influencers on your career path?
I think everyone I’ve come across has had an influence. The two major influences would be Jason Blackie at Sails Restaurant. He taught me how to work a very busy section and keep my head. And then Nick Honeyman who has just opened a restaurant called Paris Butter in Auckland. I worked with him when he first became a head chef and we hung out together and from him I learned how to be really creative and how to run places. It was really good.
That’s an interesting point. How do you learn to be creative? Do you reckon anyone can be a creative chef or does it take a certain personality?
It takes a certain personality for sure. I know some chefs who are amazing around the kitchen but if you give them a blank slate they don’t know what to do with it.
How do you cultivate that creativity?
I think you have to jump in with both feet.
What inspires you the most? Other people’s food or reading about it? Or…?
Initially what I think kickstarted it was wanting to make sense of what I saw happening around me with other chefs.
How do you keep the ideas alive?
That’s pretty easy here.
Very easy. Me and my partner have set ourselves the challenge of not going to the same restaurant twice in a year. And we’ve not nearly got around all the places we want to in Melbourne. It’s a big place.
Have you been documenting it as you go or just enjoying it?
Little bits and pieces. I write a food blog called workeatlaughrepeat and so we do little bits and pieces from some of the restaurants we go to. But if something really strikes me, I’ll keep it for myself and put it on the menu.
Good plan. Was it easy to make the transition from Auckland to Melbourne in terms of networking and knowing how to access suppliers and all that?
No. The way I did it was jumping into working at Supernormal and that was the best thing I’ve ever done for my career. I was working with other chefs and got to know them and now some of those people have moved on and work in other kitchens and I got to know suppliers. Without that I would have been struggling quite a lot I think.
And do you think it is a community amongst chefs or is there rivalry or do people help each other out? How does it work?
I think people help each other out more than there being any rivalry. You never want to burn your bridges. The more people you know, the better it is.
Exactly. So now you’re working at Grub and I see you’re working in with Ben McMenamin, another New Zealander and I think that’s great because the more New Zealanders dominating the better.
So he’s growing stuff down there and then you cook it. Or how does it work? Do you work together deciding what’s in the garden?
Ben is more of a consultant. We have an onsite gardener who comes in twice a week and pulls stuff out and tells me what’s ready to go. So that’s how that works. And we’re starting a kitchen garden project where the chefs are going to plant out a specific crop and wait for it to fruit and then they’ll have to make a special out of it.
That must be quite a learning curve.
Yeah, absolutely. It teaches people the true value of food. It takes a long time to grow a carrot so you don’t want to chuck one away because it doesn’t look quite right. Not every carrot can be a superstar.
True. I was looking at your menu and there’s a lot going on there. How do you cater to all the different facets of the grub menu; breakfast, lunch, dinner, set menus?
It’s all about choosing things that cross over. Like some of the all day items appear on the brunch menu. There’s a bit of doubling up.
What’s your hope for people when they come to dine at Grub?
I’d like them to come and have a unique experience. We are one of Melbourne’s most unique venues. I’d also like them to try something that’s slightly out of their comfort zone and hopefully they’ll like it and come back in. I just want them to have a little sense of adventure.
Do you have a particular ingredient or product that you’re enjoying working with at the moment?
Coming to Melbourne especially, I really love the mushrooms that are available. There’s a whole culture of people going out and picking mushrooms. Friends call me up in the morning and tell me they have a whole lot of pine mushrooms they want to get rid of. It’s incredible. I’ve never experienced it before. It’s a beautiful thing.
Grub Food Van
87-89 Moor Street, Fitzroy