Playing with Fire: Whisky Boy
Chef Q&A with Geoffroy Marcq, Head Chef/Owner of Whisky Boy Noosa
Why did you become a chef?
For me, it was meant to be, it was always my path. I come from a big family and food was one of the key ways we came together; to share stories, bring new people into the family, it was valuable family time.
Who is your culinary inspiration?
I was in the kitchen before I was 15 and my first restaurant job was at Alexandre Restaurant with Michel Kayser who became my spiritual advisor in a way. He was one of the greatest chefs I have met.
Michel not only showed me classical and traditional ways to cook but how to be a nice person; how to grow up as a kind man to respect people, to respect produce and as a chef to always put yourself in the customer’s shoes.
When we came to Noosa, I met Tim Montgomery at berardo’s and he opened my eyes and my mind and taught me how to use the traditional French techniques in a modern way, to think outside the square. He was a Beast of Nature – very similar to Chef Kayser, my first mentor – sharing all his knowledge, caring about the product and being very nice as a person. I was always questioning, always learning. I have been and still am surrounded by very talented people. It’s up to me to take the best of everyone and also to inspire others.
What brought you to Noosa?
I was born in Northern France but came to Australia with my girlfriend at the time, who is now my wife. We planned to come for one year before we settled down in France. Fifteen years later we are still here with two businesses (Whisky Boy and Bean Theory) and two kids.
What has been the most rewarding moment of your career?
Daily feedback from customers. It’s always important to be honest with your food and put the customer first.
What do you love about being a chef?
Sharing and creativity. I love when the service is on – it is so busy, so hot and there are so many things to think about. You forget who you are. You come in as one person and you become someone else. Anything else that happens outside service disappears – any problems, worries – it all goes to the side. During these few hours you lose yourself. It is intense but it is something you look forward to. It is very relaxing in a way. When you finish service, you need time to come back into yourself.
What is your approach to food?
If I had to choose three words I would say honest; generous and rich. My inspiration comes from an idea, a combination of a product, a memory.
Who would you love to cook for?
For me it is more about the people that I want to cook with – my young nephews and nieces and my goddaughter back in France. We’ve never really met as I’ve been in Australia but cooking is one of those things you can share – there’s flour, cookie dough, it’s very manual and involves the senses – touch, sight, smell.
My nephew saw some photos of dishes I have cooked and wanted the recipe to recreate it at home so we worked on that together with Facetime. I loved that.
Do you cook at home?
Not really because I am so busy at the restaurant and I don’t really have the time however when I do, I use every single pan, pot and tray so I drive my wife crazy because she washes the dishes. But I’m usually doing seven or 10 different dishes, so we can portion it and freeze it for later. One of the best things for a chef after a long, hard, crazy day at work is to come home and get a big bowl of pasta, lovingly-prepared by your busy wife “thank you darling, merci cherie” – but please add more salt next time!
What is your favourite dish?
Something that brings me back to my childhood and family: Paella that my grandmother would cook for special occasions; fish soup with my dad after the markets; or the secret sauce from my mum that is still a secret now!
Any advice for young chefs?
“Toughen up Princess!” Cooking and hospitality is hard and you make a lot of sacrifices but there is a lot of good in it.
When you start it is so exciting – the heat, the smells, the pressure. You don’t see the challenges and before you know it you are doing late nights, early mornings and there’s the physical challenges.
I would do it again though. There’s no point in complaining.
Favourite kitchen utensil / tool?
Fire! and my palette knife that I always wear on my apron. I got it the first day I started working to look like my master. My son sees it as a sword – and me as a Ninja. I like that idea.
Fire for me is very natural and primitive. Not only for cooking but roasting, smoking, caramelising – it’s so versatile. It’s not about burning stuff, it’s about flavours and textures.
I know you want me to say “cream and butter”!
To be honest though, I’d have to say potatoes. There are hundreds of varieties and so many different ways to cook them so they offer a lot of options. What can I say, I’m a simple guy!
Give me a steak and potatoes and I’m happy! Don’t forget a good whisky and fresh beer.