Tyler Preston is the latest chef to lend his hand to Forbidden Foods. We sat down with him to learn a bit more about this talented chef!
Why did you become a chef?It sort of happened out of necessity. I didn't realize it was happening but once it happened I knew that it was the thing I was going to do forever.
Coming from Wellington there was so much work for young people in cafes doing dishes, running coffees etc. The coffee culture in wellington was huge! During ‘99 it was becoming a big thing.
When I was 13 my family friends had a cafe, which was an institution, called the Chocolate Fish. I thought I would get a job with them this will be sweet! I thought it would be easy. This was not the case at all. It is still to this day the hardest work I have ever done
It was a tiny café, but it doubled in size and by the end of it we were doing hundreds and hundreds of coffees a day. It was always pumping! We were busy from 7 - 7. It was relentless, but working at this cafe taught me the basic knowledge of good business.
When I arrived in Melbourne I got a Job at Vegie bar - which at the time was prolific! It was a Melbourne institution. I worked there for 6 years. Met some of my best friends there, close enough to call them family.
I then wrote a menu for the famous cafe De-Clieu on Gertrude street. The head chef was no longer around and I needed to step up. So I put this menu together and got some great reception. I got really into the creative and technical side of the dishes. Within 2 weeks I was bored of the menu and I was already starting to jot down next menu change.
This was the place and the point I knew this is what I want to do properly.
What is your Cooking Style?
Fun and relaxed. Pay tribute to the traditional elements of things but I also I want it to be approachable. I also like cooking over coal and the BBQ. If I am going to sell someone a charcoal chicken, it needs to be a perfectly cooked charcoal chicken. A perfectly roasted, deliciously glazed piece of meat. The product will speak for itself. I am a little bit bipolar with my cooking. It definitely shows on the menu, sometimes it is really technical and other times BAM, this is black and white. I do not have a set rule. It comes down to each individual experiment. Tasty, fun and sharable! No-one should ever have to sit through their own plate; everybody should be reaching over and grabbing things saying I want that! Even with breakfast. If you have the right attitude you can even share our breakfast dishes. I want people to want to try everything.
Our simple breakfast has one rule, if someone is going to spend their hard earned money on poached eggs on toast - It has to be the best! For me you can either make or break someone's day. It needs to be the perfect poached egg, deliciously buttered bread and perfectly seasoned. Emphasis on how we make our breakfast especially scrambled eggs. I want people to walk through the door and say ‘I need them’.
Breakfast dish - eggs benne, dinner - crispy duck…pretty much the whole night menu I made at Dr Morse with some extra love on my hot chips. Did you know Aussies are really precious about their hot chips? It is this really robotic thing, you go to a bar and you get hot chips. I didn’t want to take that away from people, so I changed it up a bit, chips and gravy but Thai style. Musman curry, muzzi fries. Loaded fries. I didn’t think this would take off, but it did. People love it! It is delivering the thing that is familiar that people want - which is the hot chips, but doing it in a way that pays homage to a traditional cuisine. So it’s just chips and gravy mate - but its goooood!
Coconut. It is just so versatile. You can use it in anything! You got coconut cream, coconut milk, coconut flesh, coconut, juice, coconut flakes. It is the base to most of my curries and sweet dishes. it can be a garnish, it can be a drink, it is just awesome!
That one is easy. I say it to the chefs all the time. “Do simple things really well”. We are not trying to do anything super fancy. But I am super particular about the details. It’s the difference between a basic item being yummy and edible or a basic dish being WOW. Simple and so tasty!
Where do you go to eat on a night off?
Bells Diner. Chicken Joint. I order the hot chicken wings. Just hot wings. Feel good food. Comfort food. It’s a bit of a release, you know?
How would you rate Melbourne’s culinary scene?
It is exceptional. The food quality is world class. Anywhere you go, you are going to get something that is great. We are lucky that there are so many people following the good food trend in Melbourne. It really adds to the overall standard. And it makes you feel pushed to do better, because everyone is in the same boat striving to give Melbourne the best food.
How did Melbourne get such a popular scene?
When MasterChef started to get big I noticed a huge difference in the way customers approached food. Their knowledge and their involvement towards their favourite dishes put your as a chef under the microscope. It starting to push the industry standard forward. When you get the average punter strolling in asking technical questions, you have to be in the position to do it and deliver.
What is one culinary trend that needs to stop?
SCHWIPES! Also known as the ‘smear’. The schwipe of a puree, or the schwipes of jus. Ugh! The schwipe is ready for the bin. Any schwipe, no more, no more schwipes please!
What celebrity chef would you like to cook dinner for?
David Chang, American restaurateur, author, and television personality. Just because he is not serious and I reckon he would be really funny to have a drink with.
What would you cook for him?
I might make him a Mapo Tofu. Smoked Mapo tofu with a vegan kimchi. Because it would create curiosity as his kimchi is the opposite of a vegan kimchi. It would be interesting to him and different to what he would expect.
What is the Forbidden Foods grain you are most excited to work with?
It is mostly the organic short grain brown rice. For me it is the most versatile. You can do almost anything with it. It’s like Mr international.
What are you going to bring to table as the New Forbidden Foods chef 2017?Accessibility and versatility. My starting point so far is… Here is the recipe. But here is the recipe for the meat eater and here is the same recipe for the vegetarian, and the same recipe for the vegan. I don’t want it to be a recipe. I want it to be a guide to create and mould to the cooks needs. I want to show them, here is the way I do it, but here are some markers so you can change this dish to your own tastes.
I want people to read the recipes and use their initiative if there are missing an ingredient. I want them to go, wow I can use this pumpkin instead of using potato. I don’t want people to think they have to stick to the recipe. I want them to explore and have fun with it! No one ever has all that stuff in their fridge anyway; they may have brown rice… and water. So I want people to improvise with these ideas. Well that is what I am hoping for.