Growing up in rural Australia, Marty Kindleysides did a four-year chef apprenticeship with his brother, who was a chef. From there, he worked in fine dining restaurants in Sydney. He made the transition into 5-star hotels, he had the opportunity to travel and do a guest chef appearance in Kobe, Japan, and this is where he realized that traveling and discovery were what he wanted to pursue. After that, he worked in well-known resorts in Queensland, Australia, and then moved over to Western Australia.
Hungry for more travel and knowledge, Chef Marty took up a position at a well-known 5-star hotel in Seoul, Korea. He then moved on to work for the same brand in Cebu, Philippines, and moved back into Seoul, where he also consulted on an opening in Fukuoka, Japan, before switching to another 5-star hotel in Gangnam, Seoul. The talented chef also took on the role of Vice President of Les Toques Blanches, which incorporates networking, promoting industry standards, and improving through training as some of its primary functions.
Spending more than three years in South Korea, Chef Marty then decided to move to Bangalore, India as the Executive Chef at the Sheraton Grand Hotel, where he was responsible for four well-known restaurants (including one on the top of Bangalore World Trade Centre), banqueting and out catering. From there, he was selected by the VP of Luxury Hotels (South Asia) to become the first Director of Culinary at the St Regis Mumbai. From Mumbai, he moved into the position of Executive Chef of Anantara Bophut Koh Samui, Thailand, where he oversaw culinary operations and played a vital role in the pre-opening of Avani Resort Koh Samui. New Zealand beckoned after this. Marty is currently the Executive Chef of Signature Restaurants at SkyCity Auckland, where he oversees nine outlets, including four restaurants that have been acknowledged with Cuisine Hats and other prestigious awards.
How would you describe your cooking style and the philosophy behind it?
My cooking style is very diverse. I started the whole process in a very traditional French way, but working and living in North, South, and Southeast Asia, I have learned a lot of new techniques and flavor profiles. While tradition is something I still use today, I like to add some aspects from different cuisines to make them my own. I still believe in not over-complicating a dish and letting fresh quality ingredients speak for themselves.
I started at the tender age of 16 and did a 4-year chef apprenticeship under the watchful eye of my brother. It was not the easiest; I remember him telling me, “I have to be harder on you then the rest of the team, as I don’t want to be seen to be favoring you.” Boy, he was not wrong.
I remember having some difficult days and heated exchanges with him, to the point where I looked at leaving the industry and opting to go and study something else. I chose not to walk away and have never looked back. I’m glad I did, as being a chef has taken me to places I would never have imagined.
You’ve cooked in some intimidating kitchens. Was there anything you did to build your confidence and ensure you always maintained the drive?
You realize at an early stage of your hospitality career that it is a very intense environment, but also very rewarding. Cooking from the heart can be quite intimidating, especially when you receive negative feedback. I used to take feedback very personally but learned to embrace and accept it. You are not going to get everything right all the time; it is better to accept failures, rework and improve; then, to storm blindly ahead thinking you are perfect.
I also believe that having a different interest outside of work helps balance things a lot better. I like to paint and find that art keeps me grounded and allows me a way to express myself away from the busyness of work. It gives me time to self-reflect and relax.
Which is the dish you’ve created that you are most proud of and why?
I had an amazing opportunity in 2007 to travel to Kobe, Japan, and do a guest chef appearance at a 5-star hotel there. I had to prepare a ten-course VIP dinner. I managed to get some ingredients imported from where I grew up, including Murray Cod and Yabbies (freshwater shrimp). I created a dish from these that spoke from my heart and my homeland. I grilled the Cod over charcoal, and I made a Yabbie and Fresh Baby Pea Sauce. It was very well received by the Japanese guests, and the ingredients had a story I was proud of sharing and explaining.
What are the most important considerations when crafting your menu?
I like to source the best local ingredients, where possible. Seasonality is a huge thing for me, and I want to use the freshest seasonal produce.
What is your favorite dish to cook at home?
Having lived and traveled in Asia for a long time, my diet at home consists of a lot of rice. I like comforting dishes from the places I have visited, from it being curries and daal from India or Thai coconut curries. I love spicy food, so I like to make it hot! My wife and I share a lot of the cooking duties and prepare dinner together. Saet Byul is from Korea, so we like to cook and make a lot of Korean food as well.
Which is your favorite ingredient while cooking?
I like using fish when I cook. There are so many fish types, and everyone has a different texture, taste, or cooking point. There is nothing more rewarding than breaking down the freshest of fishes and turning it into something special.
What inspired you to become a chef?
I grew up in rural Australia, having a close connection to the land and the food that grew there; it was always logical for me to find a place in the food industry. My mother and grandmother were extremely good cooks. I remember helping to do chores in the kitchen, running in the morning to get fresh eggs. My mother worked in the hospitality industry, so I always got the chance to see behind the scenes. I remember seeing the hustle and bustle of the kitchens and chefs clambering and pushing out food on a busy service. I wanted to be a part of that buzz and excitement.
What’s your restaurant’s signature dish?
Currently, I am overseeing signature restaurants at SkyCity, Auckland. I have nine outlets in my portfolio with a few New Zealand celebrity chefs attached to some of them. We have just opened The Grill restaurant after the New Zealand Covid-19 lockdown. I have put on the menu a tuna tartare with fried shallots, white sesame, pickled cucumber, and crème Fraiche.
How can restaurants/ hotels/ chefs communicate the approach of innovative sustainable plant-based food/ food chains to others?
We need to be truthful and believe in the story we are telling; there is no use talking about change, cause, and effect if all we are doing is having a conversation. Real change needs to happen on menus with chefs believing in what they are serving, not just following a trend.
Have you ever worked with meat substitutes? If yes, what are the pros and cons?
No, I have not worked with meat substitutes. I often wonder why there are substitutes. I would instead grill a portobello mushroom and smother it in garlic butter, before attempting to cook a processed vegetable that tries to resemble the taste and texture of meat.
Great talent will always move on, and I think that it is our responsibility to the hospitality industry to train them well and ensure that we have invested what we could to give them the success to grow. I was very fortunate to have a lot of great mentors throughout my career. I try and emulate on what I was trained, mentored, and coached on. If you see a weakness in someone, you should identify it and work on it until it becomes a strength. Some of the younger chefs coming through the ranks these days, want to have the highest position in the shortest amount of time. They need to have the patience and determination to ensure their careers are a long burn, not a short burn. There is no point reaching the top of your career when you do not have the business acumen or managerial skills to cope. I have seen the most talented chefs grow too fast, too quickly, and then fail, as they do not have the required skills to cope with financials or how to manage people under them.
Recipe of Mogwa-cha (모과차) (Korean Quince Tea)
Quince is a rich source of vitamin C, and with the added benefits of New Zealand Manuka honey, this is a great drink to have to ward off the winter chills.
-1kg of Organic green or semi-ripe quinces (You could substitute this with lemons, yuzu, Buddha’s hand or even green mango)
-1kg of Manuka Honey (You could substitute with any other ethical honey you can find, or substitute with organic coconut sugar)
– 80 grams of thinly sliced organic ginger (Optional)
- Peel and slice the quince thinly, place into a large jar.
- Add ginger and honey. Ensure all the fruit is cover with the honey.
- Steep and let sweat at room temperature for two weeks before use.
- The quince will have imparted an aromatic taste and perfumed smell to the honey. As the quince is acidic, it will have a nice balance of sweet and sour notes.
- Boil water and add enough of the tea to sweeten the water (to taste), add some of the sliced quinces.
- Infuse for two minutes and enjoy it.