As a Foodie, I know that I personally love to go out to eat and because I live in Perth I am spoilt for choice with so many beautiful options to choose from. So when I get an amazing dish that captures the senses and puts a strong hold on my tastes buds, I automatically want to meet the person with the vision to create such amazing dishes and grill them for details on how they came to create the perfect dish.
This was the case with Dave Duff and the team at JACS Restaurant in Applecross. My partner and I went to the restaurant on a recommendation from one of my partners clients and now I can safely say that from that night onwards, JACS is now our ever reliable, never disappointing place to go for a local date night.
This week on Behind the Counter, I had the privilege and rare opportunity to sit down with Dave Duff, the Head Chef and Part Owner at JACS to talk about what makes him such a fabulous Chef. I was setting up my things for the interview, when Dave and I got chatting. What I found is that he is a kind, relaxed and very hard working man with a straight shooting edge to his personality and has a world of knowledge for his culinary years.
So how did Dave become who he is today?
Well growing up in Mundaring, Dave left school after year nine and with his parent’s permission started to pursue an apprenticeship at The Loose Box where he stayed for two years. Once Dave had learnt what he needed to at The Loose Box, he then (like many budding chefs) decided to move on to another challenge and finished his apprenticeship at the Esplanade Hotel in Fremantle. Now qualified and looking to expand his skills, Dave started to work at (a then) new restaurant called Gucce in Applecross with a friend. Little did the young Dave know then, that one day, years down the track, he would be a Head Chef and Part Owner of a popular restaurant called JACS on the same street as his new workplace (isn’t it funny how life turns out?).
Dave’s first taste of responsibility started when he became the Chef de Parties at C Restaurant in the heart of Perth City where each night, he would be in charge of a particular station in the large industrial kitchen with a team that he had to lead through a busy and demanding service. This was the first opportunity for Dave to show that he had the leadership skills to become a Head Chef and started on his journey to move up the ranks within the industry he is so passionate about.
Some pivotal places where Dave worked was ECucina Café (which unfortunately is now closed) where he had the opportunity to collaborate with like minded chefs and at Zafferano’s Restaurant in Crawley, were he became part of a team that went on to win many gold plate awards.
Now with twenty years of culinary experience under his belt, Dave is the proud part owner and Head Chef at JACS and has been there for seven years with no intention of leaving. He has found his place, his team and through his experience, he is now creating the dishes he wants to.
What is the one thing that Dave wants you to know about him?
Well, he wants to “be successful in his career not famous”. This speaks volumes to me about what kind of chef Dave is. He is not in it for the fame or get his face on a TV series like Master Chef or any other cooking program and he doesn’t want to be noticed when he walks down the street, he just wants to be known for his dishes, plain and simple. Dave wants his dishes to speak for themselves and this to me is one humble chef and a rare breed in this day and age.
Where did Dave’s passion come from to become a chef?
For Dave it was always something that he wanted to do from a young age and it was one of the reasons why he left school so early. He knew what he wanted to be and went ahead and persued his dream of becoming a chef. Although Dave knew that he wanted to be a chef and liked food, he believes that his passion came gradually and he “picked passion up from different people” as he worked in a number of restaurants. One thing that Dave believes is that “its who you have around you and that you can bounce ideas off each other”.
So does Dave have a significant time in his life that made him who he is today?
To be honest he thinks that all of his experiences from “learning off people” in his culinary life are a huge part of who he is today. However if he had to choose, he said that “Other than JACS, when I worked at ECucina Café, it was a really collaborative environment” which brought that side out of him. He states that “you can’t teach creativity” and I believe this is a powerful statement to anyone trying to get into the industry. Like most professions, you either have it or you don’t.
How does he fuel his passion to create the amazing dishes at JACS?
Dave is hardworking man but when he does have a chance to get out of the kitchen and eat at a restaurant as a patron, he always wants to “try something out of the box” on the menu. What he means is that he chooses the most experimental or unusual item on the menu and see how the chefs have put it together.
He admits that it can “be hard to change peoples minds” to try something new as most clients will have a picture of what they like and what a dish should be instead of letting it speak for itself. So he even though he loves the unusual, Dave and his team always make sure that the menu that they are creating have a little bit of something for everyone. This ensures that all patrons can enjoy the meals and don’t have to do too much to push themselves and get out of the culinary comfort zone.
So what’s the team like at JACS?
Well its a good team with a lot of the staff that have been working with them for a while. The low turn over of staff is a testament to the managers on how they foster a happy and close team dynamic. This is not to say that it can’t be challenging at times with different personalities but when you walk through the doors of JACS restaurant as a patron you can see that the restaurant has a good dynamic between the kitchen to the front of house staff and therefore it all works in cohesion.
What would be one piece of equipment in the kitchen that Dave just can’t live without?
Dave laughed at this question and said “there’s lots of things” however right now it is the cool room as they previously didn’t have one for 5 or 6 years. Now his team can dry age their meats and the cool room has allowed a lot more organisation within the kitchen.
So if he could give one piece of advice to anyone who wants to become a chef?
His response was very wise, he said “don’t become a chef if your doing it for the money and only do it if you have the passion for it BUT be prepared to work”. He admits that you never stop learning and that he’s always made sure that he has left each business on the right terms as everyone knows everyone in the food industry.
I would like to thank Dave Duff and the team at JACS for taking the time out to speak to me and give some insight into what it really takes to be behind the counter. If you would like to visit JACS Restaurant please visit their website below: