Chef Stephen Simon showing how to roll gnocchi at a Foodie Shots Pasta workshop

If you’ve been to one of Foodie Shots’ cooking workshops, chances are you already know Steve Simon as our chef extraordinaire and in-house workshop leader.  But we wanted to share more about the man behind the masterclasses. We sat down with Steve before one of Foodie Shots Cooking Workshops and learnt so much.

Meant to be a plumber!

First off, we were shocked to learn that Steve fell into cooking because he couldn’t get a plumbing apprenticeship in his hometown of Kempsey, NSW in the seventies. Instead, he took a job as a kitchen-hand, which quickly led to an apprenticeship in the kitchen. Since then, Steve has spent his whole career in kitchens, cooking, training, or selling food. 

 

Apprentice in the kitchen with Chef Stephen Simon

Chefs helping the industry

That’s right! Not only has he worked in the kitchens, Steve has been on the other side too—helping producers get their products onto the plate, so he knows the struggle of convincing chefs to invest in something different while competing with the endless chains and franchises out there. He does this by talking up his favourite local restaurants at every opportunity. 

Where the Chef Eats

Steve’s favourite place to eat in town is also one of our favourites, Zev’s Bistro. Steve loves Zev’s creativity and off-the-cuff originality.   And we love Steve for this! He’s such a supporter of local restaurants and businesses, because he knows they’re the ones producing real food from quality ingredients. And he builds on this passion by teaching his students to do the same.

Guiding Future Foodies

As a trainer with Darling Downs Hospitality and Training, Steve spends his days educating fledging chefs on the impact quality ingredients have on the food they plate. As he does in our Foodie Shots Workshops, Steve teaches about the benefits of buying local, from local producers or small businesses, as opposed to large supermarkets. He reminds his students the learned skills are only one part of the food journey, and there is so much more behind each dish.

Teaching and Learning

Steve also knows he is privileged to work in an industry that allows him to engage so deeply with students, and how important it is to do so on the correct level. His most important take-away after years training anywhere from ages fifteen to sixty-three, individualising the training method to the student wherever possible. And be ready to be more than just their trainer, sometimes you also get to be a parent, a life coach, and even a friend or friendly ear.

“You build up a relationship with them,” Steve reflects. “And they get to trust you. And sometimes they open up about their personal life…they feel they need to talk, and you can’t just walk away.”

Downs Hospitality and Training Chef Stephen Simon with a trainee in the kitchen

Food and Friendships

This human aspect has allowed friendships to blossom between plenty of students in the past, but one that Steve appreciates the most is his relationship with Mayez, a student and Syrian refugee who joined Steve’s training class just a few years ago. You can hear the warmth and pride in his voice as he talks about how much Mayez has achieved in his time with Steve and working at Park House Cafe. You can truly see he’s in this not just to make money, but to help people find a passion for food and build careers.

Uncovering Culture

But that’s not all. There’s also the humanity behind what Steve helps his students achieve. He’s met Mayez’s family—his mum and dad. He’s learnt about their culture and traditional Syrian food. And he’s shared meals with them, building relationships over food once again. He’s also excited to tell us Mayez is dreaming about opening his own restaurant café, which means more amazing food in the region. 

 

Maez apprentice in the Park House Cafe Kitchen

Foodie Shots love uncovering these kinds of stories from our clients and colleagues. Stories of food that aren’t just about the food itself. It’s these stories that inspired Foodie Shots into existence and keeps pushing that passion in us. Shoutout to Steve for being such a local food legend. We’ve loved working with you over the past three years and can’t wait to watch you inspire many more food fanatics and regional chefs. 

Tell us, who inspired your food journey?