Having dished up over 25 years experience in the kitchen, Stephen Geurds now adds another feather to his chef’s hat – mentor to young and aspiring apprentices.
Nicole Fuge finds out where his passion comes from.
When I say San Remo, my guess is you start thinking about rich and delicious tomato sauces coating a generous serving of silky al dente pasta, peppered with parmesan cheese.
While you’re not wrong, it’s also a fishing village in Victoria and the place where Stephen Geurds started his cooking career in 1989.
But unlike the former Italian ingredient, Stephen’s repertoire is much broader, specialising in a whole host of international cuisines.
Stephen says he has always liked working with food and learnt the art of cookery from his mum and grandmother.
“I wasn’t very good with anything else at school, home economics was the only subject I did really well in,” he says.
“When an apprenticeship came up in a local hotel I did my time there. I spent nearly 10 years working with them and then moved to Melbourne for five or six years to get into a busier environment.”
Stephen thrived in the bustling venues, dishing up 600 to 700 meals a day, before craving another change and shifting to the Northern Territory in 1999, where he spent 13 years working for various award-winning sports clubs.
It’s the experimentation of creating new items and new food and serving customers and making people walk away happy.”
In 2011 he made a seachange to the Sunshine Coast and worked at the Yacht Club in Mooloolaba, then the Nambour RSL and just over a year ago took on the role of head chef at The Creek Tavern.
Stephen has since had the opportunity to broaden his specialties, whipping up dishes in a wide range of cuisines to cater to everyone’s needs, as well as running daily specials to test and measure new meals – the popular dishes are then graduated to the summer or winter menu.
“I try and get all the chefs in the kitchen to have their input so when a dish goes out they’ve got that feeling, ‘that’s my dish’. At the end of the day we’re all here to provide good service and food for the customers so we’re quite flexible in allowing them to experiment,” he says.
In allowing the younger chefs the freedom to experiment in the kitchen, Stephen has become a mentor to them, teaching the tricks of the trade and how to make delicious meals from scratch – all from recipes he’s developed over the years.
“It’s good when you get someone who’s eager to learn and you see their eyes light up when you show them something new,” he says.
“We make our own stocks and bases, so all our sauces and dressings are made in house, which for the apprentice is a good thing because nowadays a lot of places use bucket mayonnaise, hollandaise – everything comes out of a bottle.”
And the perfect accompaniment to a delicious sauce?
“I’m a steak person, I love a nice piece of steak,” he says, elaborating on his love of cooking with red meat.
“I also like doing things like the lamb shanks, braising, osso buco and oxtail, all the old style traditional cooking, slow cooking. I find when you have a nice lamb shank that’s been cooking for four or five hours, the meat melts in your mouth.”
But despite his penchant for the old style of cooking, Stephen still revels in sampling new flavour combinations and testing out recipes, it’s a passion that never tires.
“I’ll get here of a morning, before everyone else, and tinker around, have a look at what’s in the fridge and put things together,” he says with a beaming smile.
“It’s the experimentation of creating new items and new food and serving customers and making people walk away happy.”