The inaugural Culinary Speaker Series (CSS) was held at William Blue last week. It was an honour to have successful restaurateur Giovanni Pilu as guest speaker, with Culinary Management lecturer Justin Maclaren facilitating an interactive 60 min Q&A session. Lecture room 3.01 was filled to capacity, students captivated from the moment Giovanni walked into the room.
Giovanni is owner and executive Chef of Pilu at Freshwater on Sydney’s Northern Beaches. He and his team have been melting the hearts of Sydneysiders with regional Sardinian cuisine year after year since he opened his first 11-table restaurant, Cala Luna, in Mosman.
Passion flowed with every word as Giovanni spoke candidly to students about his humble beginnings as concreter, when he found his true calling on the cold larder section, and how an idea to supply cafes with caramel biscotti tarts soon turned into him becoming a restaurant owner.
His remarkable journey drove home that anything really is possible, and that students need to value the importance of starting ‘at the bottom’.
Giovanni shared the challenges that come with owning your own restaurant and the stark differences between being a chef and a restaurateur. He advised students to think carefully before opening their own venue.
“You need to grow into this industry, there is a lot to learn before you can start your own venture… There are a lot of failures out there, unfortunately, because people thought it was easy and everyone can do it.”
“You graduate so young with so much to learn … set your ego aside,” he said.
Giovanni emphasised the importance of gaining a quality education to become a chef, and that this is the first step to eventually being a restaurateur (if that is your ultimate goal). He maintains that taking the time to learn the technical side of cooking is the second most important decision he has ever made in Australia – the first one being marrying his wife, Marilyn.
“It is important that you take your time and do your training before you become a chef,” he said.
Giovanni posed a question to the Culinary Management and Hospitality Management students in the audience: “What is more important – the food or service in a restaurant?”
Arguments for both came back. But Giovanni argued that whilst food was important, service was always going to take the lead.
“You still need good quality food, but your service needs to be on point every time.”
“I’m not saying the service needs to be better, but it needs to be more important,” he explained.
Giovanni’s parting career advice for the audience included:
- Take your time, it’s a long road
- When you graduate you will be a cook, not a chef. You will still have much to learn
- You will never be anything without your team
- Put yourself out there and get known
- Travel as much as you can
The Culinary Speaker Series will be an ongoing event for William Blue at Torrens University, bringing chefs and leaders from the industry onto campus where students can listen, learn and ask questions in a casual atmosphere.
Immersing industry into each course through on campus events, visits, excursions and industry placements is an ongoing commitment William Blue at Torrens University has to ensuring it produces career ready graduates. Students need to have a well-rounded approach to learning, focusing on theory, practical and industry experience.