Hubert Burda Media

European-Aussie Rules

Ian Curley may have years of experience at Michelin-starred eateries and a reality show under his belt, yet remains down-to-earth.

There’s no air of arrogance with Ian Curley. Despite being considered as one of Australia’s foremost chefs with his own reality show Conviction Kitchen, the Executive Chef of The European Group of Restaurants doesn’t consider himself a “celebrity chef”. Known for his classical approach to preparing creative meals, his role sees him managing seven venues (including a classical bistro, wine bar and a rooftop bar in Melbourne) and five kitchens.
The England-born, Australia-based chef has three decades of culinary expertise under his belt. Essentially self-taught, it was while he was working at the Point restaurant in Albert Park that the industry began to sit up and take notice. And rightly so. Yet Curley considers himself his worse enemy, constantly working to improve on his skills.
Not only does he run one of Melbourne’s busiest restaurants; he also has a passion for giving back to society. One of the charities he supports is the Youth Projects, where he’s helping to establish a centre providing medical aid and care for the homeless and mentally ill. The father of two also supports auctions to raise funds for organisations such as the Starlight Children’s Foundation, while also serving as ambassador for Jamie Oliver’s Ministry of Food Australia, Ovarian Cancer Research Foundation and Gold Australia.
In town earlier this year for the World Gourmet Summit (WGS), he spoke with Prestige.
What inspired you to become a chef?
I was inspired to travel the world and get out of my home town. I wanted to travel and meet girls! Also, my mother was a terrible cook so I thought I could learn [to do it instead].
With all that you’ve achieved, do you consider yourself a celebrity chef?
I am not a celebrity chef. I work in my restaurants everyday and don’t consider myself a celebrity at all — in fact, far from it.
What is your favourite cuisine to prepare?
My own. I’m always trying to improve how and what I do at my workplace.
What trends do you see in the food industry?
I think we will see more restaurants offering a more relaxed form of food and service. There will also be a boom in health cuisine while lots of good restaurants will make use of local cuisine.
How was it like working with the team at The Prime Society?
One of the good things about travelling and doing these events is that you get to work with local chefs. It’s great to see the local talent in The Prime Society kitchen is as strong as I had hoped.
How is The Prime Society a great fit for you?
It suited me because it is an Australian steakhouse and I have worked with [Head Chef] Dallas Cuddy in the past. I know his style of cooking and the restaurant is very similar to one I have worked at in the past with him.
Was there one particular dish in your WGS menu that you found most challenging?
Keeping a freshly churned ice-cream in a quenelle shape in this heat was very challenging! But I think all the dishes were executed very well.
Share with us your cooking philosophy.
I am the leader of my kitchens and my brand, [so] I represent myself very carefully. I never forget that people look to me and what I am doing, so I try and do it all with a smile and remember that’s why I get paid [to do] what I do .