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10 Mar 2020

13 Questions with Daniel Hawkins

Head Chef, Melbourne Pub Group

1. Why did you decide to become a chef?

I was attracted to kitchen life. It’s a hard-working place that’s challenging both physically and emotionally. Coming from the army, my love of food is secondary to my love of hard work and a regimented lifestyle.


2. How has the reality measured up?

I was quite young when I started cooking and didn’t have any misconceptions or preconceived ideas. I just jumped head on in and the reality has been everything I expected.


3. If you weren’t cooking, what would you do for a living?

I would probably still be a soldier in the New Zealand infantry.


4. What is your favourite ingredient to cook with?

This is a hard question because my favourite ingredient really depends on what season it is. In Autumn, my favourite ingredient, without doubt, is mushrooms. They’re good and versatile, so they dominate my menu whether it’s as a garnish, a side or a main dish.


5. What food trend can't you wait to see the back of?

There are a few trends I haven’t liked, but at the moment it would have to be intentionally burning everything — from blackened onions to burnt leek powders . There are plenty of ways that you can achieve natural aromatic flavours without torching something.


6. What do you never want to eat again?

While I don’t mind offal in general, I always avoid tripe. Whenever I see it, before it even touches my mouth, I get a weird feeling in my stomach and just can’t eat it.


7. What’s your guilty pleasure?

Chocolate, chocolate and more chocolate. I love all types of chocolate whether it’s milk, dark or white. I’ve been found more than once grabbing a handful of compound chocolate from the dry store. As I’m not a trained pastry chef, most of the baking I do with it is at home with my kids. We love making chocolate chip cookies, muffins and chocolate crackles together.


8. What is your most embarrassing cooking moment?

I was doing a hands-on cooking demo for about 30 people and I was teaching them how to marinate a piece of fish, wrap it in a banana leaf and then bake it. I put them into the oven but didn’t realise that it was a classic kitchen oven with exposed elements rather than a professional chef’s oven. So I stacked all of the fish in and soon the top layers were burning and there was smoke billowing out everywhere.


9. What's one thing people would never guess about you?

I’m quite prolific on social media so I’ve always thought that people knew everything there was to know about me. But recently I posted an old photo of myself in my army camo clothes and was surprised by the reaction. Many people assume that being a chef is my one and only mask because I’ve been doing it for so long, but they’re wrong.


10. If you had one meal left, anywhere in the world, what would it be?

Some of the best meals I’ve had have been in the hawker street stalls of South East Asia. The most memorable would be the Balinese suckling pig I had from a roadside stall in Ubud.


11. What are you most excited about right now?

I’m so excited about the recent opening of the Prince Public Bar. It marked the completion of the entire Prince Hotel, which is a project that’s occupied the majority of my kitchen life for the past couple of years. 


12. What’s your favourite old school dish?

I’m a country boy so nothing beats a roast beef with all the trimmings.

13. What’s your favourite dish with leftovers?

I love a Croque Monsieur sandwich with leftover ham and béchamel made with quality cheese. It’s so buttery, rich and delicious.

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