ASKO - Paul Mounsey - The man behind the chef

Paul Mounsey: The man behind the ASKO chef

Over the past two decades, Melbourne-based chef, Paul Mounsey has worked in professional kitchens, in Melbourne and throughout regional Victoria. Currently the Head Chef as ASKO Appliances Australia, and an authority on steam oven cooking, Paul spends his time sharing his skills with colleagues and Australia’s home cooks.

We sat down with Paul and asked him to tell us a little more about himself.

What is your current role?

My current role is Head Chef of ASKO Appliances Australia. Within my role I teach and train all of our ASKO demonstrators across the country, I also host functions and training for both our retail and commercial partners, develop recipes for the ASKO website, and run the demonstrations in Victoria for ASKO.

I’m also Co-Founder and Chef for the cooking website Cooking with Steam, a side business of my own that is a recipe database for home cooks that own a combi steam oven.

What do you love about your job at ASKO?

Since my appointment with ASKO I’ve been fortunate enough to travel all over Australia. I’ve cooked in every state for different people and enjoy passing on my knowledge of food and cooking.

Where did you grow up and what were your interests when you were younger?

I grew up in the eastern suburbs of Melbourne. I must say that school was not a high priority for me but I muddled my way through. My main interests during my youth were sport and woodworking. I played basketball, golf, and loved fishing. I also enjoyed anything to do with building or woodworking. When I left school, I thought I would become a cabinetmaker or wood turner.

What was your experience of food growing up?

Mum was a good cook and I only ever witnessed my father man the BBQ. There were a few charred steaks and sausages over time, but he was okay. My fondest memories of cooking were going out fishing from our holiday house in Rosebud with my dad and catching a bucket full of flathead and bringing them back to mum. They would go straight in the pan with butter and lemon for lunch.

My other food memories involved our neighbours. When there was a big celebration at either their house or ours, ‘Uncle Nick’ would come over and spend an evening preparing the whole lamb for the spit for the next day. I would then spend the next day basting the lamb and waiting until it was ready. ‘Uncle Nick’ also did the best BBQ octopus known to man. I always wanted to learn how he did it but unfortunately, he passed away before I got that recipe. Although I’ve tried, I’ve never been able to get it the way he used to.

Did you always want to be a chef?

I never really thought I would be a chef. I always wanted to be a wood turner or cabinetmaker. I kind of fell into it having left school early. I needed to secure a job and my first job was as a kitchenhand. More than twenty years later I’m still in the kitchen and loving it.

Where have you worked?

Like most other chefs I have a long list of restaurants I have worked in. Probably the most notable are:

● Charcoal Lane, Fitzroy: This was a social enterprise restaurant designed to give disadvantaged indigenous youth employment and qualifications in the hospitality sector.

● Bistro Thierry, Malvern: This is possibly the busiest French Bistro in Melbourne. I did two stints here both as Senior Sous Chef and honed my skills in classic and modern French cuisine.

● Range Restaurant, Myrtleford: This was my tree change, four hours out of Melbourne near the border of NSW. It was paddock to plate cooking, utilising local farmers and produce. I was head chef here for three years and loved every minute of it.

Where in the world have you travelled as part of your cooking career, and which country is your favourite?

I haven’t travelled as much as I would have liked to, although I have spent some time overseas, mostly holidaying. My role at ASKO has afforded me more recent travels, including an upcoming trip to Milan, Italy that I’m very much looking forward to. My favourite country is still Australia. The unbelievable diversity of our nation yields us with food from around the world; something that I spend much of my time trying to experience.

Have you worked with any notable chefs?

I haven’t worked with anyone who’s a household name, but the chefs that I’ve most enjoyed working with are:

● Fred Naud:Head Chef, Bistro Thierry, The French Brassiere, and Jimmy Watsons

● Gabriel Martin:Co-Chef, The French Brassiere

● Adrian Turzon:Head Chef, Warf 8 and Estivo

Which chefs who inspire you?

My two favourite chefs in the world are Thomas Keller and Rick Stein. Both these men have an absolute desire to work with the best produce and often frame their dishes around classic flavours and techniques.

What’s the best thing about being a chef?

The best thing about being a chef is that you are bound only by your imagination. The other thing is of course the food.

What’s your favourite thing to eat?

It’s a tie between a dozen ice-cold natural oysters and steak tartare.

What is the weirdest thing you’ve eaten, and where did you eat it?

I have memories of the first time I went diving for, cooking and eating abalone in Cape Conran with friends. That was eye opening.

Another memorable thing I tried was courtesy of an apprentice I used to work with. His dad was a very good cook and my apprentice colleague brought me his dad’s ox tongue biryani.

Probably the weirdest though, was bear meat in a can that one of my friends brought back from Norway. Not my favourite, I’ve got to say!

What’s your philosophy when it comes to food?

I know it’s a cliché but keep it simple. Purchase the best ingredients you can afford and let the ingredients speak for themselves; that and understand technique. Cooking is not only an artistic endeavor, but also a scientific one. Understanding the correct technique for the application will yield the best results.

If you could cook anything, for anyone – what would it be, and who would it be for?

One thing that I take a lot of pleasure from cooking is a French terrine called Fromage de Tete or Head Cheese. It’s made from a pig’s head and is absolutely delicious. If I could have cooked this for anyone and had a chance to talk to him or her, it would have been Nelson Mandela.

What do you like to do in your spare time?

I have a two-year old son so I don’t have much in the way of spare time! But when I do I will always try to head to a golf course, or a river for some fly fishing.