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Meet Cheffie

The ‘Meet….’ series gives you a glimpse into the inner workings of some of my all time fave peeps and  cheffing superheroes. I ask the same ten questions and you get their heartfelt responses.

Do you know Paul Butler? Or, if you live in the Berra… you’d know him as Chef or Cheffie?  You must – and if you don’t, what rock have you been living under? This man is an institution in our town.  His reputation precedes him!

Paul has been published a bunch of times, done a couple of cooking stints with George Calombaris, Vic Cherikoff, Serge Dansereau & Matt Moran to name a few, and trained with some of the industries toughest.  He was the Executive Chef at the Press Club for 12 years before moving into the Food & Beverage Manager position just 3 years ago.  Not only do Cheffie and I share an office, a love of Food & Wine & Beer, but we are Yellow Van Ambassadors,  and get to participate in many fundraising gigs together, like our yearly cooking demonstration at Floriade.

How long have you been cooking / a chef?

Completed my apprenticeship in 1982. That’s when you were born right?!

Where are some of the coolest places you’ve worked? Destination jobs etc.

As a fourth year apprentice I worked in a little restaurant in a NSW University town called Armidale. The work was interesting and challenging, but it was the after work parties that were spectacular. No one throws pyjama parties like uni students!

What’s your signature dish?

No signature dishes as such. I love the whole idea of going to the fridge or the cool room and seeing what’s left, and then trying to make something great out of whatever I find.

What was your worst kitchen disaster? Worst cut, burn etc. What happened?

First real job in Canberra at the Canberra International Motor Inn, it was week 2 on the job and I was 21. I was asked to make 20 litres of Ice cream, which I promptly turned into scrambled eggs. I was then told to make 20 litres of Mayonnaise, which I curdled badly. Like the day couldn’t get any worse, I burnt the crap out of 10 litres of caramel, it was so bad that we had to throw the pot away. 

If you were stranded on a desert island and could only bring three things, what would they be and why?

Tough question! Assuming there was enough animal life and vegetation on the island to survive, I would take a nice assortment of booze to make cocktails on the beach, my trusty pepper mill loaded with a sh!t tonne of pepper because you can assume there is plenty of salt, and my Bear Grylles knife just because I’m on a desert island and well he’s pretty damn awesome.

When you just want to make something simple, quick, and delicious, what do you prepare?

Pasta is always quick and easy. Great to share with company and quick which means I don’t have to spend too much time in the kitchen and can join the party.

If you were to invite a famous person to your house for a meal (any meal) — who would it be, what would you prepare, and why?

Nelson Mandela, great man. He has always inspired me, and is a great loss to us all. I believe he had a bit of a sweet tooth, so I would make an Aussie pavlova and I have a great chocolate coffee mousse I’d like him to try too.

What is your fave breakfast?

I rarely eat breakfast but know that’s not a particularly good way to start the day. Bircher Muesli is always great. I prefer poached eggs to fried, and you just can’t beat bacon!

Do you do the cooking at home?

In the early days I was rarely at home (always at work) and the wife did everything! I am home a lot more these days and yes, I do most of the cooking. Although the kids still prefer their mum’s cooking over mine.

If you could have any superpower, what would it be and why?

It would be particularly helpful to have a superpower that would tell me how many vegetarians, vegans, coeliac etc. will be attending functions, semms many only realise their dietary requirements after they have been served what everyone else is having!

Paul’s dedication to his craft extends beyond his role at the Press Club. He has his own catering business called Chef at Home, is the President of the Chef’s Network, he’s taught at the Canberra Institute of Technology, and in 2009 was named The Australian Culinary Federation Industry Icon. BOOM!!!

Cheffie is one of the best people I know, word on the street is he can whip a cloth out from a set table (full James Bond style) leaving the crockery and cutlery where it stood. Now I’ve not seen it happen, but I believe this claim to be true.  He is a teacher, trainer, mentor, advisor (sometimes counsellor) and inspires the NPCA team to be great.

I’d love to know, what is your favourite breakfast? 

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