MEET OUR HEAD CHEF
Our head chef Luke is the mastermind behind The Clock's kitchen and most importantly our delicious new menu.
We asked Luke a series of questions to get some insight into the new menu along with some extra insight into his career and passions.
Before you dine with us, enjoy getting to know our wonderful chef.
We would love to know what inspired you to become a chef?
Growing up, cooking was not the main focus in our house. It wasn’t until I fell in love with the Japanese show “Iron Chef” that food and cooking interested me. Our wonderful childhood neighbour and friend Ruth also loved it, so I would go across the street every Saturday night and we’d watch it together. Ruth was an amazing cook and saw that I loved it, so she would invite me over to teach me how to cook. It started with a stew, and it went from there.
Can you give us a little run down on your career so far?
I moved from Newcastle to Sydney when I was 16, and started my apprenticeship at The Commodore Hotel in North Sydney. It was a good starting point. Busy kitchen. Great bistro food. From there I went on to work at some Sydney institutions like Milsons and Fish Face.
Eventually, I moved back home to Newcastle where I got my first sous chef position at a restaurant called the Bistro. That’s where I really learnt how to lead a team.
Moving back to Sydney I worked at The Quarryman’s hotel, before starting my career with Solotel. I began at the Golden Sheaf and then went on to take over the Edinburgh Castle, then The Marlborough, and finally taking over The Clock in January last year.
Who are the Chefs that have influenced you and why?
Lee Kwiez at Milsons. It was my first fine dining experience, and Lee was a wonderful guide. He taught me about the value of quality ingredients and allowing them to be the star. Milsons really set the tone for me to be the chef I am now. Thom Green from The Bistro. Thom had worked in some of Europe’s best kitchens, so his food was amazing, but the biggest thing that he taught me, was about managing a team. He would tell me that I knew how to cook, but I needed to know how to lead, and it’s helped me to this day. Finally, Ben Turner. Ben has helped and continues to, shape me into the chef I am today. Both pushing me creatively, and encouraging me to travel and eat out more to broaden my knowledge. There are of course others, but those are the three that stick out.
What inspires and influences your cooking style?
This is constantly evolving. I think I’m very much influenced by Mediterranean and Middle Eastern food. Having more of a focus on fresh seasonal vegetables, lots of herbs, lemon and olive oil. I love to go out and eat at restaurants like Stanbuli in Enmore, where the flavours are so bright, and the vegetables are the real stars of the show. As an apprentice, I would also save up money to eat at some of Sydney’s best restaurants. Quay, Sepia, Becasse, Tetsuyas among others, I would also put my hand up to do work experience for free, just to see how the kitchens worked. I found that immersing myself in great food all the time has had lasting effects on my cooking.
What is your all-time favourite dish/cuisine/era of cooking and why?
This is a tough one because it’s forever changing. I have to take it back to basics so my favourite thing to eat is something my Mum made for us as kids. We called it “Sausages In Special Sauce”. It’s not classy, but it feels like home which is what food should make you feel.
The best food I’ve had was in Japan, nothing in particular, just amazing food across the board, you can’t go wrong no matter where you go.
I also have a massive soft spot for daggy old 70s cookbooks! They are so ridiculous that I just love them.
Tell us more about The Clock’s new menu?
I think this is the best menu we’ve put together at The Clock so far. There is a real cohesion to it. Very fresh and colourful. I recently realised we don’t use butter at all in our kitchen and I think that really shows through with the food. Clean and bright flavours, plenty of food to come back for and always something new to try.
Was there any inspiration behind the new menu?
Seasonality. We have really been focusing more on what’s in season and at it’s prime for each menu change. This menu is me building on this ethos, but even more, focused.
We can see there are a few house-made items on the menu, can you tell us more about these and why you opted to make them yourself?
We’re currently making our own in-house ricotta, mustards and a variety of pickles. I truly believe this is great for both the guests and the kitchen team.
The kitchen gets to be more involved, learn about the process, and really be creative, and the guests really reap the rewards with a better product they can’t get elsewhere.
We heard on the weekends you are a DJ, that’s cool! What’s your choice of music?
I am! I DJ a party called S.A.S.H. I’ve done it for a number of years and love it, it’s my escape outside of the kitchen. I’d say I play house music with a real easy groove to it.
Ever thought of DJing at The Clock? Chefs takeover perhaps?
I’m not sure if my music suits the venue. But never say never, if it’s what the people want, it could happen.
All-time favourite tunes to cook to?
At work in the kitchen with my team, I love something everyone can get into. The Beatles, cheesy 90’s hits and anything you can sing along to.
At home though, it’s a bit deeper with bands like Radiohead, Nick Cave or some blues music.