This interview was conducted keeping in mind that the students willing to pursue a career in Culinary Arts may have queries regarding the scope, the opportunities and the challenges this field offers. It is an informal interview with Australian Chef David A Brunelli who owns the restaurant, Gennarro’s Italian Restaurant in New South Wales, Sydney. He has conducted many workshops for the students of PHCA and has also welcomed PHCA’s graduates to work in his kitchen in Australia. A few of PHCA’s graduates have been doing their training (paid internship) in his restaurant in Australia.
We hope the questions the Chef has answered will give you a proper insight to this field, the challenges it has to offer along with the great opportunities that await!
How long has it been since you have started this career in the hospitality industry?
It’s been 25 years since I have started cooking. And I still have a lot to achieve.
Are any of your family members in this field too?
Yes, my family has been in this industry since my childhood. My father is an Italian and my mother a first generation Irish woman, they both are brilliant cooks and so they decided to open a restaurant.
Who do you look up to?
It has always been my father, whom I look up to. Since my father was an Opera singer as well, he used to sing and cook in the restaurant. Every child look up to their parent, don’t they?
Did you go to any culinary school?
Yes, I did. But before joining the culinary school, I finished my high school and went to university and studied Environmental Toxicology, but since my father needed help in the restaurant so I joined him and started my training in a culinary school. In Australia, cookery is classified as trade. TAFE NSW is Australia’s largest vocational education and training provider. So, I learned my cookery skills through this training provider.
What is it like to be a chef in your family?
Since both my parents are brilliant cooks, cooking skills run in the family, it’s like I have inherited the skills. So it’s quite competitive being a chef in my family.
Is there any dish that your family loves when you cook for them?
On Sundays, we have this “Family Day” where all of our family members come for a late lunch or early dinner, where we cook like 5-15 courses. The food I cook is called ‘Ragu’ that’s basically a meat based sauce. I use pork and beef and cook it for 4-5 hours. I see my family enjoying the dish so am guessing they love it!
Is there any chef that you admire the most?
I’m not really big on “Gordon Ramsey” kind of stuff. I have my mentor Mark, Edward, who is an English Chef, I admire him the most. And then there is Anthony Bourdain, an American Celebrity Chef, I admire him because I found him very down to earth, he didn’t cut to the chase.
How often do you meet your family?
Since it’s a very demanding job, you don’t get to meet your family very often. Generally, when you have a public holiday, it’s hectic the most around that time, I am talking about 15-16 hours of duty, you can’t make it to different occasions and celebrate with your family and friends simply because it’s the time when the flow of guests are more.
What’s it like to have your own restaurant? Was it a “Dream come true” moment for you?
It’s always one’s dream to have your own business. When my father got ill, I took over my father’s restaurant. It was quite a challenging task moving from an employee to an employer. You’re basically responsible for the staff, guest, and management administration. But my wife, she is my business partner as well and she is a Nepalese. Without her I wouldn’t be able to handle it, she basically does all the management work.
What makes you happiest when at work?
When the customers and the staff are happy, if I don’t have to tell the staff that something’s not right, that’s what makes me happy.
Where did you work before?
The first place I started to work was a 5 star hotel. It’s called Grace Hotel. It’s in Sydney; I worked there for like 12 months. After that I worked in a 5 star hotel called Westin. It’s a fine dining Italian restaurant. I probably worked there for 6 months. And then a friend of mine got a job for me in an Eco Tourism Resort called Dooralong Valley Resort located in Central Coast.
I worked in Hornsby RSL Club too. It’s a club for the people who have served for the country, it’s open to the public as well. That’s where I got into the management part. I worked there for 3-4 years, that’s where I met Mark Edwards, the person who inspire me the most.
After a while I interviewed in another company called Villa Acru De Chelu, It’s a private resident for the Saudi Arabian prince. I was working for the royal people. I worked there for about 5 years.
In between I also worked for a company called ‘Chefs on the run’. Basically, they provide temporary or permanent placements of Catering and hospitality recruitment for hotels, restaurants, pubs and contract catering. This kind of job is very demanding cause everyday you could be in different place working. This was the highlight of my contracting career because it allowed me to work in 5 start restaurants to small cafés. It was probably the best experience in my career.
After that I started my own catering company called ‘Sopra Vento’ meaning Sopra is “above” and Vento is “wind”. That was a strange experience for me, because I started taking over the kitchen management in South West Italian Australian Association which is a company that contains club, hospitals, nursing homes, etc. I worked on a contract basis for like 1 year.
I once again got approached by an RSL club, that had club and a nursing home as well, where I took over the kitchen management, that’s the time when I wasn’t cooking anymore, I was basically handling the kitchen administration. Most of the latter part of my career was administrating the kitchen.
Once again I got approached by a hotel called Grand Hotel, but this time it was for my father’s restaurant to be leased inside the hotel. Finally I started Genarro’s Italian Restaurant again, but this time the restaurant is inside the hotel. We provide 3 meal courses for the hotel guest and the general public as well.
Any advice you would like to pass on to the students who are planning to work aboard?
First thing, I would like to suggest is to make your English very strong because the English spoken here and in abroad has a huge difference. English is going to be the biggest obstacle. And that’s the key to be understood and the key to understand somebody that you work for. You can be really good at work but if you have a communication gap then the hard work might not pay off.
The next biggest hurdle is to become integrated to the western culture. Many of the people think it’s very easy because you watch it in the television, but in reality it’s very difficult to live in western society. The cost of living is much more expensive, so students need to work hard and never give up.
Also, you need to have a positive attitude if you are aiming to work in the international hospitality industry. Here, work comes before anything, so you need to have that passion, sincerity and determination to pull it through the day with a smile on your face. Students need to enter with a big dream, a vision but should not close an eye to reality! Because what they do today and how they perform today will actually define and determine their tomorrows.