Steve Harry thought he would end up in IT. But everything changed when he was working at his kitchen-hand job during uni.
“A chef didn’t show up to a shift and I was put on his section. I loved the adrenaline of the kitchen and got hooked,” he tells Broadsheet. “Later that night I was offered an apprentice role by the head chef. I said ‘yes’ right there and then and have not looked back since.”
After starting his culinary career in Brisbane, Harry did a brief stint in Italy before moving to Melbourne. He worked as a chef de partie at Cumulus Inc for two years, as head chef at Auterra, and most recently as a sous chef at Cutler and Co. Now Harry is head chef at Napier Quarter.
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We took five minutes to get to know the man leading the kitchen at one of Melbourne’s favourite backstreet wine bars.
How would you describe your cooking?
The most memorable dishes I’ve eaten were always the simplest. Whether it’s the coconut sorbet with sake at Ester [or the] veal sweet bread schnitty sandwich at Fleet [the 14-seat fine diner in northern New South Wales]. Inspired.
I now find myself embracing the same approach and philosophy with great ingredients and reserved, quiet technique. That’s more than enough to create a solid dish.
What’s the kitchen set-up like at Napier Quarter?
It’s a small kitchen with very limited fridge space, which is fun and positively challenging. A small team, too.
What effect does the size or set-up of the kitchen have on creativity?
I love small kitchens. I find the energy is always high and it makes you think outside of the box constantly.
What are your ambitions for Napier Quarter?
I was a huge fan of Napier Quarter as a customer long before working there. I loved the vibe of the whole place – you couldn’t put your finger on it, but it always felt great being there.
Rather than taking Napier Quarter in a new direction, I’ll expand on what has been achieved to date. I’ll endeavour to change the menu more often and maybe introduce more bite-size dishes to the dinner menu, work on our Sunday long-lunch menu – stay tuned! – and add some simple but delicious sandwiches on our house-made focaccia for our locals who are tight on time.
What dishes and ingredients are you excited to introduce in the coming seasons?
I always look forward to stone fruit season and using them in … everything from galettes for breakfast, and juicing plums, to dressing a fish crudo, or grilling cherries to accompany quail.