Not everyone can boast cooking for Beyonce, Andrew Lloyd Webber and the Parker-Bowles family, running the company that catered for clients such as Ruinart champagne and Kate Moss, or co-owning Barbacoa, one of the most successful restaurants in Bali.
But travelling the world with his supermodel wife, cooking for the stars and running high-pressure events, Adam and Katharina Dundas-Taylor decided, was not the life they wanted to live while raising a family.
Coming back to the Gold Coast where Adam started his career, the couple have opened Fire Cue in Nobby Beach in the space once occupied by The Cave.
We spoke to Adam about his food journey so far:
“After finishing high school, I moved to Melbourne to play Aussie Rules in the VFA. On my return, I started working as a kitchen hand at the Paradise Island Resort, before landing an apprenticeship with Group Training Australia,” Adam tells us.
In 2000, I was offered the chance to complete my apprenticeship six months early. The criteria to do this was that I prepare a 5-course degustation for 50 people at Griffith Uni, which was filmed and got great media coverage. This played a big role in landing my chef position at A Tavola in Main Beach. Even though there were only three of us in the kitchen, that year, at the restaurant awards, we won Gold Coast People’s Choice Award.
At the time, I was modelling for Robert Veitch Looks Models. Robert was the big influence in sourcing the Sydney Agency for myself and two other male models, which facilitated my move to Bondi, Sydney. While I was there, I worked at Hugo’s, at Bondi Beach with Pete Evans as a chef, and Hugo’s Kings Cross as a barman for eighteen months before going to Europe.
Jamie Oliver’s first Fifteen
In London, I heard that Jamie Oliver was starting a new restaurant called Fifteen, so I applied. Toby Puttock and Jamie chose thirty chefs from the 200 or so applicants as finalists. We had to take part in a 3-day cook off, each with a trainee, preparing lunch for around 100 people in three hours. From that thirty, Jamie chose six who would be the trainers of his ‘first fifteen’, as well as the start-up chefs to get Fifteen off the ground. I was sent home on the second day, having being offered the job as one of the six. This was filmed as a part of the Jamie’s Kitchen series.
Fifteen was an amazing experience. We didn’t have a budget for food costs.
Scallops, diver-caught in Scotland that morning, were flown and then couriered to Fifteen restaurant in London, usually arriving just after lunch had started.
We would hastily clean and prepare them. They were so fresh that they were still moving, similar to the live langoustine [or scampi] we would prepare and grill to order. We were lucky enough to break down half-cow carcases, pigs, game and amazing huge fish and exotic seafood. The menu changed every service, so that was a really difficult aspect: learning, keeping up with the changes; but there was so much passion!
Alice Cooper signed my jacket.
During my time at Fifteen, I personally met many stars, such as Oprah Winfrey. Once, Alice Cooper came into the kitchen and signed my jacket, which Kat accidentally put through the washing machine years later. Adam Clayton from U2 came and cooked on my section with me for a couple of days.
Gordon Ramsay came into the kitchen one lunch service. Jamie introduced me to him and Gordon said to Jamie, ‘He’s not a chef! He looks like he just stepped off the set of Baywatch!’
Fifteen was also a time where we created lifetime friendships. When we opened Fire Cue GC at Nobby Beach, because we’d been away overseas for so long we didn’t have the contacts that could have made the opening much smoother. The morning after a very tiring first two weeks, my wife walked into the bedroom with my phone, and said,
‘Jamie’s just sent you a Facebook message saying ‘G’day and congratulations on Fire Cue’.’
That was the perk up I needed, and it came just at the right time.
Playing with fire at Nobu
Next, I worked at Nobu in Mayfair, the mothership of all Nobu restaurants worldwide. (At the time, there was only 13 Nobu restaurants, and now there are 27, some co-owned by Robert de Niro). It was the hardest job I’d had to that point in my career.
I started on tempura, which was the deep fryer section. It was so busy and dangerous that we used to have our chef jacket arm sleeves rolled right down, tea-towels tied with cling film past our knuckles so we wouldn’t burn ourselves. Gradually I went through all the hot kitchen sections. Later, when I returned to do a ‘rockstar shift’ on the tempura section, my sleeves were up showing my biceps. I was so comfortable in that section that the scalding oil was no longer a factor.
I was working 14+ hour shifts including a minimum of 10 hours of service without time to even stop for a sip of water. It was another steep learning curve cooking for 1,000 people a day in a Michelin-starred restaurant. The food was amazing and the talented chefs I worked beside were just as amazing. Adam Lane from Kiyomi also worked at Nobu, in fact we have worked together at times.
During my time at Nobu, the best-selling dish was the Miso Black Cod. The portion weight was 180-200g for an incredible UK£24, its sales topping over £1 million per year. The dish now is a whopping £37. No other version of this dish equals Nobu’s, as the only people who know how to cook this dish properly are the chefs who’ve made it at Nobu. (No cook book gives you the exact quantity of ingredients or the restaurant preparation and cooking method.)
In love with a supermodel
The day I finished at Nobu, I met Kat [now his wife]. I was supposed to begin work in Spain as a private chef on a super-yacht, which I put off for 2 weeks, so we could spend time together. When I finally got to Spain I met Ex Rock Pool chef Aaron O’Brien Whitney, an amazing chef. He offered me a job with him at Red Bar, which was owned by Julian Lennon. (Julian had opened the bar with Benjamin Cross, the current Executive Chef of Ku De Ta). This was a really fun job, especially coming off the back of such high-pressure London restaurants. The restaurant received so many noise complaints from neighbours inside the restaurant that Julian made a caravan-type kitchen and placed it in the back garden, so guests could dine al fresco! With this new job, I decided to stay on land so Kat and I could spend time together. One of us would commute on my days off, from either Spain or London or whatever country Kat was modelling in, so we could see each other.
Life on a super yacht
One Friday afternoon in Majorca I was approached to replace the ill chef of the yacht Cd2 (a 43-metre 3-level super yacht). The job would last for 3 weeks and pay AUS $10,000.
Working in top London restaurants, you take low salaries to work there and learn. At this stage, Kat and I were discussing moving back to Australia, and this job would surely give my pockets a boost. I accepted on the condition that the company fly me to London for the weekend and have me in Greece to meet the boat on the Monday, to which they agreed. It was almost 5pm on Friday and, with Internet not common in Spain at that time, I had to find an internet café to get me a flight that night to London. When I did find a café, the keyboard buttons wouldn’t work. Eventually I made the booking, ran home, threw my luggage into bags, grabbed my surfboards and skateboards, making it to the airport, 30kg overloaded, 15 minutes after check in closed. What a nightmare! Somehow the friendly flight staff let me on the flight without extra charges. It probably wouldn’t happen like that now!
The role on the yacht was to cook for the owners and 10 of their family, friends and the 12 staff. We sailed from Greece through the Mediterranean, to Spain and the surrounding islands. Cd2 rents for hundreds of thousands of euros per month and was valued at over US$10m at the time. The experience was unbelievable, again with no budget. As the chef, I was one of the very few who could leave the boat to get supplies. I would be picked up by a local person on their motorbike and taken to the boats to buy seafood, to local markets for local meat, vegetables and amazing Spanish products. All of the sellers were so passionate about their food and produce that it was always exciting.
While sailing through the Mediterranean, one night we experienced some very rough weather.
Battling sea sickness, I cooked a three course dinner for the 12 guests in a record time of 12 minutes, one foot resting on the fridge door, one hand on the cupboards, rotating cupboard doors as they flew open…
… all while trying to cook, plate and send the food up to the next level via the dumbwaiter!
Kat and I moved back to Bondi Beach, Sydney, and I become the chef consultant for Luna Park. My role was to create menus and win tenders for international, national and state events as well as corporate events for banks, elite watch companies, car companies etc. and events such as The Australian Open, V8 super cars and Open Air Cinemas.
High Flying in London
A year later, we moved back to London for Kat’s modelling. By this stage I had entered the world of catering and worked for London’s best catering company at the time, Rhubarb Food Design. I then moved across to Caprice Holdings who own some of the most famous London restaurants including The Ivy. It was here that I joined up with some of my former restaurant Fifteen start-up chefs, working alongside superstar chefs Mark Hix and Giorgio Locatelli. Our gala catering events catered for 600 to 2,000 guests with a core chef group of less than 10. Our other smaller catering events were for celebrity parties and weddings.
Andrew Lloyd Webber, Sotheby’s and Harry Potter, Roman Abramovich and Mikhail Gorbachev [launches] were among the clients.
At one event, I met James Brown, and at another D&G event where Beyonce was performing, I remember cheeky Giorgio Locatelli grabbing a table for Mark Hix, myself and a really amazing chef, Ian Graham. It happened to be right next to Leonardo DiCaprio’s table! It was the first time I’d actually sculled from a 3-litre bottle of champagne, a long way from our early cask wine indulgences on Surfers Paradise beach before a night of clubbing!
Catering for Ruinart and Kate Moss
Whilst in London, I formed my first company, called Red Sage. I began catering for such clients as Ruinart [the oldest established champagne house], Red Bull, Kate Moss, De Beers (diamonds) executives, Bloomberg, and the Parker Bowles family. I had some very wealthy Russian clients and somehow was introduced to the Queen’s personal butlers, who worked for me on these jobs. They were very switched on, keeping me right on my toes.
During my time in London, I had my own monthly food column in ‘TNT magazine’ which was the ‘number one’ Australian and New Zealand travellers’ magazine, where I discussed food in season, food trends, catering for friends, my food travel journeys and cheap eats etc., whilst trying to keep the humour in every article.
Meanwhile, Kat was tiring of international travel, so we decided to return to Sydney where her agency, Vivien’s Models, was based.
Right after the transition back to Australia, I became Executive Chef of ‘The Cuisine Group’, a gold licensed catering company for five years, a high-pressure job heading one of Sydney’s premier catering organisations for events of up to 3,000 guests.
Ambassador for Healthy Kids
From 2008-2011, I was the National Ambassador for the ‘Healthy Kids Organisation’, who were the consultants for Australian Primary school canteens. My role included cooking demonstrations at the Australian school canteen expos and attendance at public primary schools to work with canteen staff.
In 2011, I created Dundas-Taylor Catering, attaining my gold license in the first year of operation and gaining the trust of corporate clients such as Saatchi & Saatchi, KPMG, and PWC, as well as many weddings and celebrations such as the 40th anniversary of the Australian version of the Rocky Horror Show.
A year later, when I was holding a cooking demonstration for KPMG’s top 30 clients, I made Salmon tacos, making the corn tortillas from scratch. […as they are today on Fire Cue’s menu.] This really gave me the inspiration to become more involved in Mexican food. Steve Marks, founder of Guzman Y Gomez, offered me the National Chef role for his company, whilst at the same time an opportunity arose to open my restaurant Barbacoa in Bali. After a 10 month design and build process, Barbacoa opened in 2013.
Barbacoa breaks records
Barbacoa had amazing early success in Bali. Having 10 months to meet local ex-pats really helped to get the restaurant moving quickly. Within its first year, Barbacoa was named Bali’s Best Restaurant 2014, Tatler Magazine’s Best Indonesian restaurant 2014, Now Magazine Best Mexican Restaurant 2014 and Bali’s Best Restaurant in Forbes Magazine 2015.
After 3 years in Bali, two children later, Kat and I decided to return to Australia, settling on the Gold Coast. Looking back…
…my proudest moment was cooking for Elton John’s wedding in country London.
My mother was a huge fan and I’m sure she would have been over the moon to know this.”
In relating his amazing journey, Adam has barely drawn breath. I’m the one feeling exhausted, just from listening!
The Opening of Fire Cue
In Fire Cue, I realise, we see influences from many of Adam’s previous culinary experiences: the flavours of Latin fusion-influenced cuisine, handmade tortillas, succulent ribs and anticoucho (skewers), smoky grilled seafood, the use of long slow fire and wood charcoal grilling to cook meat, including whole animals, also the Japanese influence of his ceviche using sake, miso and yuzu. In other words, it’s food we love to eat on the Gold Coast with an added twist of flavour from the asado grill.
Executive Chef at Miss Moneypenny’s Broadbeach
Note: Some photos supplied by Adam Dundas-Taylor. Used with permission. Other photos of Barbacoa and Fire Cue’s food by Good Food Gold Coast.