Meet Woody, one half of amok restaurant.
If you have dined in our intimate and cosy cove in Windsor, you would have seen the dynamic duo bustling on the floor and in the kitchen.
Let's start with our chef, Woody Chet who was born and bred in Cambodia. He nurtured his fascination with food by watching his mother prepare food for the family and learning what is traditionally passed down from mother to daughter. No cook books, just nostalgic conversations and stories.
By naming himself the apprentice, she affectionately gave him the first taste privileges before any meal was served. He would often joke that the food wasn't up to scratch because the truth was, every meal was perfection. Every dish created was from the heart and respectful to the flavours of each ingredient used.
The best compliment to her was every meal finished where not one grain of rice was left behind. As Cambodian families are typically large, catering to different tastes is often challenging which explains why many accompanying condiments are also placed on the table. However she managed to leave everyone happy without having 'extra' salt, pepper or chilli sauce added to the dishes.
“My mother inspired me to love food and personally strive to make my cooking interesting and give people enjoyable experiences. She showed me that making delicious and interesting food comes from the heart,” Woody Chet fondly remembers.
“I believe that beautiful food can inspire and unite people to come together - whether they be family, friends or strangers. I'm inspired to create great dishes that make people happy just by eating it - that's rewarding to me. Simple as that.”
Moving to Australia in 2006, he studied at Homesglen and then completed his Apprenticeship in Certificate III Hospitality in Commercial Cookery in 2014.
His mentor and teacher from Holmesglen, Leslie Chan introduced him to the world of cooking competitions to accelerate his growth. Here Woody finessed his skills in preparation, working under great pressure, exploring creativity and experimented with different techniques and food presentation in a timely manner.
The hard work paid off as he was awarded the Gold medal at the VIC TAFE team cooking competition in June 2013, Most Outstanding Apprentice of the year at Fine Food in September 2013 and a number of Silver medals in the Fine Foods Competition in 2014.
Driven to learn as much as possible, he spent his first year Apprenticeship at the Pig & Whistle Tavern, Olinda where one of his dishes is now served on the menu. He then moved to Coda Melbourne where he met a wonderful and passionate team who took him under their wings. He honed in on his cooking techniques with the talented crew whilst exploring the concept of modern Asian cuisine. Feeling like he was part of the family, he didn't venture far from the laneway and jumped over to Tonka to see out his third year apprenticeship and worked as a qualified chef.
Chefs are notorious for having long and unreasonable hours, however Woody would still spend his days off work creating new dishes. He loves playing around with flavours and would host dinner parties almost every week with friends and family to fine-tune his dishes whilst experimenting with with different techniques.
"Rest is for the wicked and when you love what you do, there is no end to the lessons. I am always open to new ideas and love putting it into practice one of which is our amok restaurant." Woody proudly says.