As a finalist for Victoria’s Good Food Guide Young Chef of the Year Award, Pieter Buijsse is a rising star among the next generation of culinary talent. We sat down with Pieter to talk to him about his role as Sous Chef of Laura
What are the 3 best tips you can give to aspiring chefs in the industry?
Tip 1: Find the right place to learn your craft. As your teachers and mentors are going to be your biggest culinary influence, a work environment where low standards are the acceptable norm will not benefit your career. Working under the mentorship and guidance of chefs that set the bar high will allow you to flourish both personally and professionally.
Tip 2: If you truly want to be a chef you need to go for it 100%! Working as a chef comes with a lot of sacrifices. I remember missing out on weekends, holidays, and other social events due to work commitments. Therefore, knowing what you are getting yourself into is very important. I can confirm that it is all worth it, as all career paths are granted to come with sacrifices and a willingness to do so will only take you further.
Tip 3: Walk before you run. Putting in the hard yards might not be fun but is crucial to your career. Peeling potatoes and washing salad are not the most glamorous jobs, however every great chef must start from somewhere. The freedom and creativity to produce menu ideas and plate up dishes is guaranteed to come later down the track.
What have your years in the kitchen taught you? and how do you apply this to your life?
Hard work pays off! Putting in those years, working for very little pay whilst getting no recognition has made me appreciate my current position so much more. If you keep your head down and do the work, good things will come to fruition. A small example of this is punctuality, every single shift I work I show up 15 minutes early, no exceptions. As whilst we can teach people how to cook, being punctual is something the individual needs to prioritise as a desirable quality transferrable to life.
How has being Sous Chef of Laura influenced you as a chef?
Working as a Sous Chef in Laura has allowed me to work closely with many of the farmers, fishermen, producers and artisans based on the Mornington Peninsula. The use of local ingredients from the region is something the Laura kitchen prioritises, and we value this relationship and connection to the region immensely. My position has also allowed me to become a better manager by working within a large and diverse team of chefs from a different cultures and backgrounds.
What is unique about being a chef at Laura compared to other restaurants you have worked in?
Working at Laura not only gives you access to the best produce but also the opportunity to work with some of the finest chefs Australia has to offer. Having the ability to be locally orientated without losing sight of the overall end product is an absolute joy for me. Working as a chef at this level doesn’t always go hand in hand with a good work life balance. However, at Laura staff morale is prioritised; which is not something I have experienced in other workplaces.
Describe the importance of supporting local producers and suppliers of the Mornington Peninsula Region?
Supporting local producers and suppliers is in my opinion a duty of a modern restaurant. Without the local fishermen, butchers, fruit farmers and the amazing produce they provide, Laura would simply not exist. The relationship is mutually beneficial; we rely on the producers just as much as they do on us. With the Mornington Peninsula being one of the most affected regions due to covid-19, we have a responsibility to aid in the recovery of the region by creating jobs where we can and supporting the community. This region has given so much to us, and it is now up to us to give something back.
Photography: Chris McConville