Despite what the shiny production of reality television might lead you to believe, becoming a successful chef is no easy feat.
“Cooking and hospitality can really grind you down,” says Gould. “But it’s just about persevering, remaining focused on the positives and taking each experience to the next level.”
For Gould, working his way up from dishwasher to head chef took the better part of a decade.
“At around age 15 I had this epiphany that for some reason I enjoyed cooking, even though I hadn’t really done it before,” he remembers. Growing up in the outer suburbs of Melbourne, he approached a local restaurant for work experience, which led to a job washing dishes.
The sheer mayhem of a busy restaurant soon became something of an obsession for Gould.
“I was there when the restaurant was heaving; turning tables three times a night. Soon I was promoted into the kitchen, where I started cooking, and quickly fell in love with the fast-paced nature of it all.”
It was a serendipitous mistake that led Gould, then 18, to Stokehouse in St Kilda – one of Melbourne’s best restaurants. He had turned up for a trial at a competing restaurant at 9.30pm instead of am, an error which immediately had him looking for other opportunities.
“At the time I didn’t really know anything about Melbourne’s restaurant scene. Mum read newspapers and magazines and knew the Stokehouse was a reputable business, so I rang them up. I didn’t even have a trial, I just had an interview and got the job pretty quickly.”
Mentored by some of the best in the business, serving his apprenticeship at the Stokehouse downstairs took Gould’s cooking to the next level.
“It gave me the same sort of rush, but better experience in terms of the quality of food. The Stokehouse helped me realise that food and cooking were something that I could continue doing.”
New skills and perspective
After completing his apprenticeship, Gould moved to Souk restaurant in Prahran for several months.
“A waiter I worked with at Souk helped me to understand the whole package of hospitality… that it’s not just about kitchen madness, its about wine service, and communication with customers.”
Gould encourages other chefs to mix it up every now and then.
“If you stay in one job too long, you can stagnate and get stuck on the same sections cooking the same dishes. Variety of cuisine is important to learn while you’re young so you can choose what direction your career takes later in life.”
Promotion to head chef
Gould returned to Stokehouse in 2006, and became head chef in 2009.
“Anthony Musarra, head chef at Stokehouse before me, saw my potential and mentored me through the kitchen. We had a relationship where I would write the specials and do most of the organisation of the kitchen, so when he stepped aside into management, I was able to step up into the role of head chef.”
Gould’s simple yet skilful approach to seasonal fine dining won him the coveted title of Young Chef of the Year in The Age Good Food Guide 2014 awards, at age 29.
“It certainly helped to put me on the map as an individual, rather than simply being a face behind the Stokehouse brand”, says Gould.
With eight years at Melbourne’s Stokehouse under his belt, 2015 called for a literal sea change. Gould now works on the edge of the Indian Ocean at Perth’s latest beachside dining venue, The Shorehouse.
“I think it was just to get out of Melbourne for a while, to get away and experience a new city.”
This article is presented in partnership with Hostplus, superannuation you can take with you throughout your career.