Chef Profile: Jesse McTavish
Best Known For:
He started his apprenticeship as a 15 year old at the iconic Beach Hotel in Byron Bay, and over 24 years later his love of ingredients and cooking is stronger than ever. Setting a new standard for food and design as part owner and head chef at Melbourne's Top Paddock, Jesse then became the Executive Chef of The Kettle Black. As of March 2018, Jesse was appointed Head Chef of North Bondi Fish in Bondi Beach.
Head Chef at North Bondi Fish
Q&A with Jesse
Why did you decide to be a part of MasterChef Australia this year and what does it mean to you?
I’ve always thought it would be fun to be a part of MCA, I didn’t realise how real the pressure would be and how challenging the opportunity would be. The talent and drive of the contestants was impressive. Any content I’ve done post MCA has felt like a breeze in comparison to the immunity challenge I was involved with!
What’s the best cooking advice you’ve received that you want the MasterChef contestants to know?
Always research the source of every aspect of cooking, find the best ingredients, know the process of ingredients, study the best methods and understand the principle behind them. Then learn to show restraint and humility in your cooking.
Can you give us a taste of something you saw in the MasterChef kitchen this year that excited you?
I saw one of the contestants dishes that won them the opportunity to cook off against me in the immunity challenge and it was outstanding… I want to eat it now!
What is your all-time favourite comfort food dish?
Probably Avgolemono, the citrus hit with the warmth and comfort of chicken soup.
What’s your go-to ice cream flavour?
Pistachio, salty and sweet
Pineapple on pizza – agree or disagree?
Pineapple that has been roasted over coals with honey, then on a pizza with braised pork neck… agree. Tinned pineapple….no thanks.
What jumps out at you when you’re looking at menu at a restaurant?
Seasonality and local produce paired with simplicity and combinations that work.
What was your favourite dish to eat as a kid and is there a dish that you make now that reminds you of this time?
Prawns in white bread. We have a prawn sanga on the menu at North Bondi Fish with Yamba prawns and beach mustard mayo that I grab from Palm Beach sand dunes when I’m walking back from a surf.
What ingredient or flavour do you love to cook and eat?
Salty/savoury. It reminds me of the ocean.
What’s your favourite dish to make at home on a lazy Sunday?
Pasta with a simple cherry tomato, garlic, olive oil, basil sauce that’s cooked slowly for hours so that it makes the whole place small incredible.
What dish or technique did you struggle with in the past and you’ve now mastered?
I hated pastry when I was doing my trade, mostly because I didn’t understand the principle behind it and lacked patience. Know I find a calmness in working with pastry.
If you could go back in time and give yourself some advice as a young chef, what would it be?
Go into finance. No, I would tell myself to go overseas and work in as many incredible places as you can and while you’re there…Ask, listen and learn.
Is there a naughty technique for a dish that you use that other chefs might find controversial?
Adding salt to the bones and mirepoix for stocks. I believe that over time salt changes as it’s cooked and loses its harshness to turn more savoury. Adding salt at the end of the stock tastes 1 dimensional. I usually cop some grief for that!