Ask most chefs how they first begin to create new dishes and you might expect the answer to centre around ingredients. Not for Lesley Taylor.
For this Hunter born and bred chef it all begins with the visual presentation – a theme that has run consistently throughout her career and her kitchens. Lesley Taylor began working in the industry at the tender age of 16, under the guidance of industry stalwart Robert Molines of Bistro Molines. Back then, Molines was heading up The Cellar Restaurant and had offered a friend of Taylor’s a traineeship. As fate would have it, that friend didn’t proceed with the opportunity and so Lesley stepped in. At the time, working in a kitchen was just a job, but little did she know she’d be hooked before too long.
Falling in love —ups and downs included
“I don’t think Robert was actually that keen to hire me to be honest. I think he was convinced that I’d just leave. “I really didn’t know what I was getting into at first but I fell in love with it and the rest as they say is history,” she smiles. Lesley went on to spend more than a decade under Robert’s guidance and reflects on the time as some of the most informative and challenging of her entire career.
Since those early days she has gone on to rack up an impressive career: she’s taught aspiring TAFE students the art of cooking and snagged a Hat in 1998 from the SMH Good Food Guide during her time as Chef at Café Albion – a first for Newcastle. She then went on to own and operate the acclaimed Restaurant Deux, Le Petit Deux, Osteria, Longworth House and just eighteen months ago joined the Surfhouse at Merewether.
It’s in the stunning Surfhouse’s restaurant that we sit overlooking Merewether beach. It’s quite a view and one that Taylor says she never tires of. “I love coming to work every day not the least because I have a fabulous team and I absolutely love what I do. And then there’s this to look out at. Sometimes you’re having a tough day and then you look out of the window, catch the dolphins playing and everything falls back into perspective,” she adds. She is quite right; the view alone is breathtaking. The venue with its floor-to-ceiling windows takes full advantage of the beachfront setting.
Merewether Surfhouse is open Monday to Sunday 7am — late Wed – Sat for dinner in the restaurant.
Read more about Lesley Taylors career and her love for food in the Spring issue of Hunter&Coastal Lifestyle Magazine. Available in news agencies or subscribe here and never miss an issue.
Story Lesley Horsburgh, photography courtesy of Lesley Taylor