Aussie chefs reveal what Father’s Day means to them

Father’s Day is one of those special days of the year when families come together. That makes it a busy day for Australia’s restaurants, and the chefs and restaurateurs that run them. If they are dads themselves they try to squeeze in time with their children when they can. And the advice their own fathers gave them is never far from their minds.

After welcoming his first child, Leonardo, just a couple of weeks ago, Gabrielle Taddeucci is excited about his first Father’s Day. While he’s not entirely sure how he will be spending it yet, the executive chef at The Star’s acclaimed Balla restaurant knows he will spend it with his son.

“I’m still realising what being a father means, however I can feel that something has changed… and not only the sleep that I’ve lost,” he jokes.

He will also be thinking of his own father in Italy. “My father is a 71-year-old man who loves to enjoy his life in full,” he says. “He has worked very hard during his life and he’s always had a lot of passion for different things. Coming from a large family of seven brothers and sisters, he always taught me about the importance of sharing everything with others and how to respect one another.”

Taddeucci’s dad was a shoe maker who opened his own shoe factory with one of his brothers at age 25. “They had over 15 employees and his commitment to work and the way he managed his staff is something that I learnt from him and that I try to replicate in Balla,” he says. “Being a successful father and chef means making sure that our businesses can run without us being there all the time. It’s about managing our resources correctly.

“I can’t wait to see my baby boy growing and share my experience and knowledge with him. I hope to be a good father as my father has been to me.”

Elyros head chef Jarrod Smith, who is also celebrating his first Father’s Day this year, admits dividing his time between family and work can be challenging.

“I struggle with it personally,” he says. “I’m a bit of a control freak so I don’t really enjoy being out of the kitchen. On the other hand, being away from the family is really hard. I hate missing out on all the little things that are happening at home. It really is a juggling act, no matter what you not being somewhere will upset someone. Making it work is the challenge. The one advantage is that every moment you do get you try and make the most of it, and be present in whatever is happening.

“I make the most of my two days off a week – one family day and one dad’s day. I have a pretty strict no phone, no computer, no TV rule while Byron is up so he gets my full attention at all times. I don’t want him growing up thinking that every waking moment your head needs to be in a device.”

Being a dad to 11-month-old Byron, has made him think about his priorities. “I think for at least the last eight to ten years I’ve been focused on work, since I’ve become a dad I’ve realised that although work is important, being a dad and being a family is more important,” he says. “I love the first smile of the morning when he spies you walk into his room and the last sleepy cuddle before he goes to bed.”

Every year, Smith and his staff design a feast for Father’s Day showcasing the best seasonal products inspired by what he thinks his dad and other would like. “The Elyros ethos is designed around fresh seasonal food shared with family,” he says.

Smith says his own dad was always there for him when he was growing up, driving him to sporting events and school activities. “I have always admired his determination and work ethic,” he says. “As a young boy he worked in the local post office; now he owns it. I guess that work ethic has been instilled in me from a young age, it helps with the demands of hospitality life.

“I know that dad, and the whole family, support everything that I do and are proud of the achievements that I’ve worked towards, so knowing that they’re always there behind me has allowed me to work towards a career that I’m proud of and a restaurant that I believe in.”

Verace Pizzeria owner Stefano Cirene was also inspired by his dad’s dedication. “My father was born in Italy and came over to Australia when he was 14 years old, in 1958,” he says. “When he arrived, he worked on the Italian farms that used to cover the Macquarie Park area, and so he’s always had a very strong work ethic – he’s still working at 72. This is something which I’ve grown up with and always kept in mind.

“He’s given me good advice when it’s needed (and good advice when it’s not!). He also once said something which has stayed with me: if you focus on work, the business will take care of itself.

“We focus so much on work and business, and we lose track of the important things like family and relationships. That’s why it’s important to slow down and appreciate our fathers.”

While he will be working on Father’s Day, Cirene will find time to take his son to the local park to play soccer, as he does every Sunday.

“When we had our first child, my sister called me and said: ‘Love just took on a whole new meaning’,” Cirene says. “It’s meant that I’ve become more than just a chef and husband, and there are new dimensions in my life. I love that being a dad gives you a reason to forget about work.”

Cirene makes sure work never comes home with him. “The challenge is getting all the work done, and then switching off,” he says. “The advantages of being a chef are that my kids never have a short supply of pizza!”

Perry Schagen with his son Henry. Picture Supplied.

With life being so busy, Supernormal and Supernormal Canteen head chef Perry Schagen also believes Father’s Day provides an excuse to slow down for one day and appreciate family time. A dad to 10-month-old Henry, he plans to spend the day in the Yarra Valley with his family, enjoying a relaxing with great food and wine.

Schagen says becoming a father forces you to focus on the important things in life. “I love hearing my son chuckle when playing with him,” he says. “The things I do to hear that giggle!”

But he also finds getting the right balance between family and work life difficult. “I imagine it will get harder for me once my son grows up and wants more father/son time, but for the moment working most nights means I see him in the mornings,” he says.

Schagen’s own father is also a creative person. “For as long as I can remember he has been involved in making jewellery and gemstones,” he says. “He has a keen eye for detail, which I think has influenced me into a creative career.

“I do really get a lot of satisfaction in my choice of career which makes me feel very well-rounded, and I believe that’s an important thing for my son to learn in the long term.”
While he it has its demands, Nieuw Amsterdam owner and manager Michael Roszbach, finds the flexibility of the hospitality industry handy. He is a father to 19-month-old Max, and loves seeing the look on his face when he sees him for the first time each day. “Time management and patience is key,” he says.

Roszbach believes Father’s Day is a time to reflect and give thanks to the men in our lives who have helped guide us, teach us and keep us safe.

“My father is gregarious, intelligent, warm, humorous and generous and hopefully some of that rubbed off on me,” he says. “He taught me that success takes time and persistence is more important than anything.”

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