Growing up on a dairy-turned-vegetable farm in Gippsland, Montalto Head Chef Gerard Phelan has always had a passion for cooking with the fresh produce growing on his doorstep.
So after a stint fronting a metal band and working in the Australian music industry, a career in food was the logical choice.
Gerard soon found himself working in some of the best known restaurants in Melbourne and regional Victoria.
He was appointed Montalto Restaurant Head Chef in 2016 after successfully guiding the Montalto Piazza Cafe kitchen team through an extensive refurbishment and re-opening.
What was your professional background before coming to Montalto?
Most recently before coming to Montalto I worked for Jason Jones, owner of Entrecôte. I helped establish his cafe called Second Home, I was the Head Chef for the set up. I also worked in Daylesford for a number of years including a stint as Sous Chef at Lake House. Daylesford was a great, lots of locally sourced produce from that region. In Melbourne I’ve worked at The Atlantic and Rockpool at Crown, among others.
Who has had the biggest influence on your career?
One of my biggest influences has to be Donovan Cooke who I worked under at The Atlantic. He pushed so hard to do new things, he helped set the culinary scene in Melbourne. I was really interested in the food he did before I even knew him, then working under him was amazing. Although I would not now do my food like he does, with so many elements at on a plate, I was raised on his book Est Est Est so to learn under him was a defining moment in my early career. But this (Montalto) is always what I’ve been steering towards, working at a place like this with so much fresh produce on offer in Wendy’s Garden.
What should visitors to Montalto Restaurant expect to find on the menu?
I’m about the produce really, just trying to push it to new levels and find new ways of using it. I want new flavour in every dish that I produce. There are European influences because that is my background but I don’t want to get bogged down in any one regional style. There’s an element of innovation but you’ll always recognise what’s on the plate. You won’t find so many unusual combinations that push diners palates, we’re pushing to do new things but without it being contrived. So expect fine dining, innovative yet recognisable food that is produce driven. We just what to turn the flavour up to 11.