Todd Power’s story begins in the back streets of Sydney, where he started his apprenticeship at Rouges, under Neil Perry. Since then he has worked his way up through the kitchens of many popular restaurants in Sydney and more recently on the North Coast of New South Wales.
Todd first made the move from Sydney to the Gold Coast, where he ran the kitchen at SAKS at the Marina Mirage. From there, Todd brought his passion for seafood to Fishheads @ Byron, where his skills won the “Taste of Byron” two years consecutively.
For the past two years Todd has been experimenting with the flavours of Thailand, at Bang Thai Restaurant in the Northern Rivers. Todd’s use of fresh, local produce to create unique Australian meals with a strong Thai influence has earned him the Restaurant and Caterer’s Award for Best Thai Restaurant two years running.
Todd now heads up his new team of chefs at Rydges Port Macquarie, where he brings a wealth of experience and fresh new ideas to the area.
> When did you become interested in working as a chef and how did you get started?
When I left home at 15 my first job was as an apprentice pastry chef; I did this for 12 months. During that time I washed dishes in the restaurant next door at night for extra cash and I was excited by the hustle and bustle of a commercial kitchen. So, I switched my apprenticeship over when the opportunity came up. I have never really looked back.
> Todd, you have worked all over Australia. What was your most memorable experience as a chef?
One of my most memorable stories is working in Bizircus in Surry Hills, which only had a domestic stove and a fairly basic set up when we first got started. It took two years of hard work to turn it around and to reach the top 10 restaurants in Sydney list. That was a very challenging and satisfying time in my career.
> Being in top end kitchens for most of your life, give us an idea of some of the celebrities you have cooked for and the meals they have enjoyed …
When I worked for a time as a chef on private yachts on Sydney harbour, I cooked my Chilli Chocolate Pudding for Janet Jackson, a dish I have brought with me to Rydges.
More recently I cooked for Paris Hilton at an opening at the Gold Coast.
> Any goss you can reveal about her?
A good chef never reveals his secrets about his guests!
> What do you enjoy most about your job?
I love that I can come to the hotel every day and it is different on any given occasion – we have a range of events, functions and special menu requests that greet me when I walk in the door. I love the challenge of creating something new and exciting.
At the end of a long day in a hot kitchen, there is nothing more rewarding than when a guest approaches the kitchen to personally thank us for their meal. Ultimately, we love to create that special dining experience, and when we succeed in that challenge, it makes it all worthwhile.
> Do you have a favourite ingredient to work with?
Generally, I like to work with anything that is fresh; I couldn’t choose just one ingredient as a favourite. Some ingredients I have incorporated into our new restaurant menu include: soft shell crab; Hokubee beef fillet; fresh Moreton Bay bugs; spatchcock; whole baby snapper; and cuttlefish.
> How would you describe your cooking style?
As I was taught by, and have worked under some 5 star chefs, some would say I have a very traditional, old school approach to the hierarchy of a kitchen and how it functions. In saying that, I try to be very imaginative and contemporary when it comes to my style of food and cooking. I love fresh produce and it’s fun for me to try and create new flavours by blending different cuisines such as Australian and Thai – as I am at the moment.
> Moving to Port Macquarie, what challenges or opportunities did this create for you?
Starting fresh in a new area always poses the challenge of winning over the guests; they don’t know you or your style of food, but that is a challenge I love! It gives me the opportunity to try new produce and ingredients from the local area and also find out what the people of Port Macquarie like and want from a restaurant.
I also like the challenge of a hotel environment, juggling different events in different parts of the hotel at any one time! Life is never quiet at Rydges!
> What can our readers expect when dining at Rydges?
A new approach – fresh, clean and innovative flavours. We aim to create a vibrant restaurant that is renowned individually, not just as component of the hotel, but as a restaurant in its own right.
I have selected a new team of creative chefs to join the existing chefs on board at Rydges. I have brought down Kevin Casey, another chef from Byron Bay, and together we are creating a contemporary twist on Thai Australian cuisine for the fine local produce. We will recreate a new twist on this menu, with seasonal influences and dishes.
Kevin has worked for the famous Beach Hotel in Byron, Toscanis, Espresso Head, and his most recent posting was as owner of Byron Brown Sugar. Up until recently we worked for rival restaurants, so it is great to have a fellow Byron lad on board!
> Making the move to Port Macquarie from Byron Bay, what do you enjoy most about the area?
Byron Bay was a great spot, with an amazing fresh food scene. My wife, Shannon and I have a young family, and I like that Port Macquarie is more family and community oriented than Byron. The atmosphere of the town has more of a friendly feel and the beaches are some of the best I have seen. The food scene is really growing down here, and we wanted to be a part of it.
> Tell us about catering for functions at Rydges.
We are currently creating a new menu for function and event guests at Rydges, as everything on our menu is now made on the premises. I believe in being flexible with function menu design, and with enough notification, we are glad to create a menu around the desires of the guest for any and every occasion.
We have been doing some great waterfront weddings of late, as well as a number of corporate launches and events, both in the hotel and around the poolside. It is very satisfying to host such an event and know that the client and their guests leave happy.
> Three words that sum up Todd Powers, the chef?
Creative, consistent, perfectionist!
> Thank you for your time Todd.