Fresh is Best
Michael Trask 28 year old, Head Chef from Gusto Noosa explains Fresh is Best
How did you become a chef?
Like most of us, I fell into it. I had plans for University back home in England but
I started doing a few shifts in a kitchen to cover the bills and immediately fell in love with it. I already had a great enjoyment for cooking but once I got the vibe, nothing else would ever take my fancy again.
When I first started, it was with an event catering company in England and we would do lots of dinner parties for the upper middle class for about 15-20 people. There was lots of creativity week-in, week-out.
What is your approach to food?
Fresh is best. Local seasonal produce as much as possible but also appreciating the quality of something even if it isn’t local. Here we have the ocean and hinterland providing so many amazing ingredients, but things like asparagus that won’t grow in Noosa can still be appreciated. Australian asparagus is the best in the world! I try to let the food shine and not do too much to the dish. Work with quality ingredients and let it do the talking.
What do you love about local produce?
The kitchen we worked in back home was on a farm, which was great. We’d get ingredients straight from the farmer. You’ve never had a better strawberry
than the day they were first picked. That environment helped create my passion for, and understanding of, seasonal and fresh food. To be able to create something from the environment is magical. Here we have a variety of local produce with a mix of ocean and hinterland.
What do you love about being a chef?
Happy customers. That’s the main priority. If people are enjoying the things you think they are going to enjoy, that’s great. You can put your own spin on some classical dishes and you know in your head that it’s going to be good; but when people love it, it’s the best feeling. I just love food, so being able to create something with it and enjoy the environment is magical. Particularly here, it’s not a bad view. The pressure of service and creativity is also a big part of it. If you’re in the right team, it’s the best job ever when everyone’s working together.
What has been the most rewarding moment of your career so far?
Landing this job. I spent a long time at Thomas Corner with David Rayner and loved it for the 7-8 years I was there. But being recognised as competent enough and trusted enough to be the head chef for somewhere else and do my own thing is fantastic. I’ve done quite a few events for the Noosa Eat & Drink Festival over the years with David that were really special; particularly one event where I worked with Jason from Fraser Isle Spanner Crab. We started early catching the crabs fresh from the ocean and spent the whole day prepping. The food at the end of the night was sensational, next level, which felt so good after a long tiring day.
Do you cook at home, and if so, what do you like to cook?
Not as much as I’d like to but stir fry is my go-to. It’s such a simple dish that doesn’t take long to do. Lots of fresh veggies and you can make 5-6 portions. Put it in the fridge, and the next day it’s a cold noodle salad – it keeps me going all week. Don’t forget to marinate your noodles for a few hours beforehand.
Who is your culinary inspiration?
Currently, it’s Josh Niland in Sydney. He is an absolute genius. I follow him on Instagram and have been to the restaurant a few times. I love everything he does and I take snippets of inspiration from here and there. Back in the day, it was Gordon Ramsay – if you’re in England, he is the pinnacle; and Rick Stein, the godfather of fish back home. I’ve always loved seafood; that’s part of the reason I came to Australia. Seeing things Rick used to do were groundbreaking and Josh is taking that even further.
Who would you love to cook for?
Any of my heroes would be pretty cool. Josh, Rick or Gordon – to cook for them and then sit down afterward and have a beer and a chat would be amazing, just to tap into that knowledge. Especially Niland, to see how he comes up with some of the things he creates and understand that thought process. I would learn as much as I can and put that work and inspiration into my own cooking. Other than that, maybe a football star, I’m a massive soccer fan.
What is your favourite kitchen tool?
My chef knife. I had it custom-built a couple of years ago. It cost me just over $1000 and I’ve used it with almost everything. It’s a pride and joy for me.
I love it to bits.
What is your favourite ingredient?
Figs. I’ve always loved figs and the local ones are pretty pinnacle. They’re just a beautiful ingredient. You can do a lot with them. When you rip open a fig, they look amazing and the flavour is sensational. They’re God’s food. I can never stop eating them.
“I just love food, so being able to create something with it and enjoy the environment is magical.”