What made you want to Stage at Attica in Melbourne?
The reason why I wanted to stage at Attica was not because of its accolades or awards – it was solely based off word of mouth and what I have seen over the years. It speaks volumes to see a chef and staff pay homage to the region of the world in which they are located by using local, wild, fresh ingredients meaningfully. Chef Ben's vision is to always have every guest's experience challenge them in new ways so that it is not repetitive and always growing. After following Attica for many years and seeing the dishes evolve over time, I wanted nothing more than to see how a team like Attica works together to make it possible.
Can you describe what you did during your Stage?
My first few weeks at Attica were unlike the following. I worked at the larder station, which had many tasks such as steaming fresh snow crab, cooking many different fresh vegetables, knife cuts, and most importantly finishing tasks completely and in an organized way. Next, I moved to the Leaf/Taco and Pavlova station. The beginning was tough because I had to learn the technique of Italian meringue as well as a wattle seed, soybean, macadamia and cheese taco dish that was stuffed filled with ten different leafy greens and flowers. The Pavlova was another dish that was balanced with acid and therefore challenged me. I also helped with the last savory course of the tasting menu, which started off as a possum sausage and changed into a lamb souvla for my last month. Besides these courses, there was always work helping other stations, and a few different daily responsibilities.
When an order came in, everyone in the kitchen put the order away no matter how busy we were. Every morning, there was a prep system. Also, staff meals rotated every day, as well as the job of making fresh damper bread. It was interesting to see how some days we would finish certain tasks faster than others because of energy, attitude, morale, and team work.
Attica is a kitchen that puts out fifteen courses totaling to about 1000 dishes a night, yet it has a very small staff. The menu at Attica was always changing and was derived from ingredients that could be as simple as fresh carrot and as complex as wild bunya nuts and rainforest lychee. Everything on the menu had a meaning and told a little story about Australia and sometimes even New Zealand. Chef Ben is truly a craftsman in Australian cuisine because he has found a way to present native ingredients in a simple way with complex preparations behind every dish.
What stands out as some of the lessons that you learned during your experience?
The saying "Think slow and move fast" is demonstrated by the talented staff at Attica. Communication is key, and can really impact the service. This promotes growth and controls common variables that slow down efficiency in the restaurant. We also had daily meetings that gave us time to talk about our previous work and ways that we could improve.
Ownership, anticipation, and drive are a few key skills that Attica has furthered for me over the past two months. The importance of every guest will always stick with me. One night, Chef Ben spoke about a big food critic who would be coming into dinner; him stressing to all of us that the other 65 diners that night were equally important really stuck with me.
Attica delivers the perfect balance of sophistication while being playful with their dining experience. Employees all treat each other with heaps of respect and after being open for fifteen years it is clear that it is a very successful restaurant. In conclusion, I am grateful for this opportunity that Ment'or and Attica created for me and I will use the skills I acquired for the rest of my career. I know I can always look back and remember how Attica was run as an example for myself and my peers.