Monto maestro one of Qld best
THE head chef at Monto’s Grand Hotel, Ron Gabriel, is not the kind of chef you would typically expect to find in the kitchen of an outback pub.
The 33-year-old grew up in the town of Calumbit in the Philippines, two hours north-west of Manila, and has more than a decade of experience in kitchens around the world.
His work has taken him to all seven continents.
Such is his reputation that he was invited to compete in the 2018 Queensland Chef of the Year competition.
Last weekend, Gabriel went head to head with the state’s finest at the annual MasterChef-style tournament in Brisbane.
Having spent time in the high-pressure, fast paced environment of kitchens in Manila’s exclusive hotels, he said he was still taken aback by the stress and scrutiny of the competition.
“I was really privileged to be a part of it,” Gabriel said.
“It was hard not to be intimidated with spectators watching and the judges over your shoulder.
“I thought I would be more nervous but it went really well.”
From the mystery box of ingredients, Gabriel created pork adobo, a traditional Filipino dish prepared with vinegar, soy sauce and sugar – a delicate balance of sweetness and acidity – complemented by a pork belly and vegetable tempura entrée.
The judges were impressed when he plated his dishes with 10 minutes to spare, but only four of the 24 contestants could make it through to the final.
Judges agonised over their decision, taking longer to score the meals than the chefs had taken to cook them, before giving dishes a score out of 100.
Gabriel missed out when Brisbane sous chef Marcus Hillier’s dish pipped his adobo by a single point.
Hillier, from Factory 51 in Cooparoo, went on to win the final and earn the title of top chef in Queensland.
While disappointed at falling short after coming so close, Gabriel said it was a fantastic experience and he was proud of they way he performed under pressure.
“It was tougher than I thought,” he said.
“All the other chefs were very good and much more competitive than I was expecting.
“In the end I think technical issues let me down.
“Little things like ingredient preparation, station cleanliness and wastage – I only used half my pork belly.
“At first I was a bit deflated, the judges spent a lot of time tasting my dishes.
“But the experience was awesome and there is always next year.”
EXPERT: Attention to detail is key for Ron Gabriel when he’s in the kitchen.