First, the bad news. Joel Valvasori-Pereza, the man who introduced Perth to the hearty joys of Friulian food (from the north-east of Italy), will hang up his apron at Lalla Rookh after dinner service on Friday September 2.
The good news? The gifted Italian chef will strike out on his own and open his own restaurant. But other than setting up shop outside of the CBD, he’s keeping his cards close to his chest.
“It’s fair to say there’s going to be a lot of pasta involved,” he says, laughing.
Taking over from Valvasori-Pereza in the kitchen will be Lalla Rookh sous chef, Alexandra Haynes. Although Haynes doesn’t have her predecessor’s Italian background – she grew up Malvern in Melbourne’s south-east – her career includes plenty of experience with cucina Italiano, most notably, running the kitchen at seaside cantina, Il Lido. Rather than focus on a specific region, she’ll adopt a broader approach to the country’s cooking traditions.
“We’ll still serve Italian food, but it’s going to be a little lighter and a little bit more feminine, similar to the dishes I’ve done in the past,” she says. “There’ll definitely be more vegetables and seafood, too. I’ve been looking through some of my recipes and I’ll probably be bringing back the crab linguine and some of my other favourites.”
While Valvasori-Pereza will be missed, Lalla Rookh general manager Patrick Ryan says the move marks an exciting time for both parties.
“It’ll be sad to see him go, but I’m excited about the opportunities and changes it’ll mean for us as well as what Joel’s doing next,” says Ryan. “I look forward to eating his food again when I don’t have to eat it as many times as I currently do.”