As a Formula 1 circuit Executive Chef Ben Green was lucky enough to travel the world and experience new cities. The position also came with the demands of tough clients and tight turnarounds. On return home from a trip to Australia, the British chef declared to his wife - ‘We need to live in Melbourne!’
Luckily, hospitality legend Ian Curley was looking for someone to help open his new Melbourne venture, Amphlett House, Curley’s ode to the British Pub. It was here that Ben first encountered the City Larder range and he was quickly impressed. Fast forward several months and City Larder is fortunate enough to welcome Ben Green on board as the kitchen’s newest addition.
Describe your role at City Larder.
At the moment at City Larder, I don't really have a particular role or responsibility. I've been moving around each kitchen learning all the processes. Coming from a restaurant environment into something like City Larder, it's very different. The processes that are in place and the level of hygiene is so elevated at the City Larder.
I've also been perfecting my knife skills that I've not used in a while and learning the logistics of the place. For the first few months I'll be continuing moving around the whole space and get a better understanding of where I fit in.
What was the food culture in your family growing up?
Mum was great. Every night we would have a home cooked meal. I would always look forward to Mum's cottage pies, sausage and mash; she was a very, very good cook. Every night was a home cooked, classic British meal. As we got older, she would venture out into different cuisines like Indian, Chinese or Mexican. Food culture at home was that everyone had to sit around the table – me and my brother would have to come down from upstairs and sit at the table, Dad would come in from work - and we'd all discuss our day. Everyone discussed, everyone sat down and everyone helped clear up.
How did you get started in cheffing?
My parents used to go to the pub on a Monday evening and no sooner had they left, then I would dive into the kitchen and make some concoctions. I got a love of cooking, of taste and flavours. I definitely wanted to be a chef. One day, my dad was driving home from work and he saw that local restaurant, Cromwell Manor, needed a kitchen porter, or kitchen hand as they say in Australia. I phoned them up and then I started washing up on Sunday nights. There was so much washing up.
I got to know the head chef really well and I ended up doing Monday nights in the kitchen. From doing a cheeky bit of cooking when Mum and Dad were up the pub and helping out my grandmother, that's where I got my love of cooking. By the time I was 15, I was straight into it and I loved it from then.
When you get a chance to cook a meal for family or friends, what do you like to make?
I think cooking for friends and family are two different things. My direct family here in Australia there's only the four of us, so we keep to our British traditions of a Sunday roast even when it's like 30 degree heat. It’s a great opportunity to end the week and discuss next week as a family. Our family meals are very different because my two daughters and my wife are vegan. I’m obviously the meat eater. We stick to the same principles as we had in England, everyone’s around the table and everyone helps clear up, we discuss our days.
With regards to friends, when they come over, we do a mix of vegan food and meats. Often, I’ll do small bites and grazing style. Everyone's in the kitchen and we’re just chatting and having some drinks, some charcuterie, some cheese - that's it really. When you have friends over, it’s got to be relaxed and we love entertaining.
What has been the biggest surprise and challenge moving to Melbourne/Australia?
We had a few difficulties getting the kids into school. Early on last year, we didn't have a car so it was difficult. The house didn't have any furniture because we had to wait for our belongings to turn up in a shipping container from England. Other than that - touch wood -there's been no real major challenges. For me personally, I've been surprised at the interest and the respect for chefs here in Australia is massive and the standard of food is out of this world. When you say you're a chef in England, they look at you like you didn't do so well at school. Here in Australia, you feel so much more respected which is really nice. That was a massive surprise to me.
What do you enjoy most about working at City Larder?
The thing I like most about working at City Larder is that everyone is so nice; there’s no egos in the kitchen. Everyone gets into it to get the job done. The hours and the working conditions are fantastic - the hygiene is second to none - the kitchen and the equipment and the people. There's no us and them between front and back of house; we’re all one great team.
City Larder is going places, it's not just sitting in its lane, plodding along. In the next ten years, it'll be one of the biggest food distributors and makers in Australia. It's going from strength to strength. The quality of chefs is fantastic. To be honest, from the bottom of my heart, I have not found anything negative. I even got paid overtime this week; I couldn't actually believe it.