Ask the Chef

THIS week we get to know Alan­nah Fox, the head chef at Mantra on Rus­sell in Mel­bourne.

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What do you love about your po­si­tion and what made you be­come a chef?

Food to me is home and com­fort, so I see the kitchen as the heart of the ho­tel – for both guests and staff.

Noth­ing re­ally ‘made me’ be­come a chef, it was more a nat­u­ral pro­gres­sion of a pas­sion that I shared with my friends and fam­ily.

What goes into de­sign­ing a ho­tel/venue menu?

The key is to un­der­stand your guests and their needs. You can cook for your ego as much as you like, but that’s not go­ing to make for a suc­cess­ful busi­ness if it’s not what your cus­tomers want.

What’s the key to cater­ing to large num­bers of guests?

Or­gan­i­sa­tion and plan­ning.

How do you de­scribe your sig­na­ture style of cook­ing?

Euro­pean­in­flu­enced mod­ern com­fort food.

Most fa­mous per­son you’ve cooked for?

Hard to choose the most fa­mous, but my favourite fa­mous guest was prob­a­bly Dwayne ‘The Rock’ John­son. All he wanted six times a day was steamed chicken and pota­toes, but he would al­ways poke his head in and say thank you after­wards.

Most in­ter­est­ing story or un­usual re­quest you’ve had?

While cook­ing for a cer­tain US Pres­i­dent, we had to pre­pare and cook all food un­der the watch­ful gaze of a mil­i­tary po­lice­man armed with a ma­chine gun. He lit­er­ally just fol­lowed us from fridge to bench to stove, watch­ing every move. It was pretty in­tim­i­dat­ing!

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