CONVERSATION WITH A CHEF – ROMUALD OUDEYER

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When you are born in France it feels like your life’s journey will somehow guide you towards food. Romuald Oudeyer is no exception, and after years of study followed by some solid experience in the kitchens of some of France’s most acclaimed, Michelin starred chef’s, naturally that journey lead him straight to… Braybrook? There has to be more to the story, so The Westsider’s resident Francophile, Derek Green sat down for this conversation.

Tell us a bit about your background

After school I wanted to work at one of the best restaurants in the area so I went to La Roche Le Roy. All the young chefs were living together in the castle up in the old maid’s quarters. My first day was scary. And my first month too! My head chef was a very old school chef- he learned cooking after the war; he was taught tough, so he was also hard on us! His day started with lighting the coals and fire for the fourneaux (stove). It was mentally challenging and emotional, it almost turned me off being a chef. After one year I nearly quit as I thought I wasn’t good enough for this job. Then I got a call from a friend with an offer of a job at a restaurant – I straight away took it and I moved to Paris at age 21. I started to work with Jean-Christophe, a young self-taught head chef with lots of dreams and creativity. I became his second chef 2 years after.

How did you come to be in Australia?

Love! I met Liz in Paris. She was living on the corner near the little cafe where I was working, she used to come in every day to the cafe for maybe a year. I only met her properly 2 weeks before she was heading back home. We had a two-week fling, then 2 months after I arrived in Melbourne I moved in with her and her mum! That was 8 years ago now! We also have a beautiful 2-year-old daughter together too.

What guided you to a catering business rather than a restaurant?

I wanted to do my own thing without spending too much money or without needing a million-dollar loan! That’s what you need to do a fit-out. So we started this as joke, and it evolved from there. One of my first dinners was for a winery – Mount Langi Ghiran for 40 people. After that I bought some plates and then we started off doing around one dinner a month, whilst I worked on the side. The business grew from word of mouth and I stopped my other work to concentrate on the catering. I also love going into people’s homes as its very personal. You feel like you are cooking for your friends.

What is your food philosophy?

Seasonal, simplicity, modern. We aim to source organic produce as much as is possible. The end result is quality, and after that the food tells the story. But I am also curious. When I was young I was working in his uncle’s charcuterie, I met local suppliers and got a taste for how the local chefs handled the traditional local produce of western France, this influences the food that is presented on the plate.

What influences your menu?

My life and the people I meet. I am from the countryside in France, I lived in Paris and worked with Japanese chefs, I now live in Australia and I am discovering the food from around the world in this beautiful city. The produce available in Australia is so fresh. So it’s a combination of all of those things.

Where might your food journey take you in the future?

To the seaside! I love the area around Wye River, it’s my happy place to retreat to and would be amazing to call it home one day, and perhaps continue the food adventure in that part of the world.

Many people might not think to use a caterer – who can order from you?

Everyone who loves and appreciates good food! If our standard offerings aren’t suitable, we always ask what someone’s budget is and we can try to create a menu to suit. We recently added a more relaxed and affordable sharing style menu too which is suitable for 10-plus people. Our minimum number of people is 6 for our dinner parties. We bring a full gastronomic restaurant to your place, we bring plates, candles, printed menus, cutlery and cooking equipment. I think people are more relaxed in their own place and they don’t have to lift a finger! So if people maybe don’t think to use a caterer, it’s actually quite easy and accessible.

Tell us about the pop-up shop concept

When the first lock down hit we created a 4 course meal delivered to your house, along with heating and plating instructions. We did this every Saturday and changed the menu each week. Over the second lock down we did some “pique nique” boxes as the weather was improving and people were allowed to meet in parks. The third lock down I did a pop up with my friend Quentin from Shokupan doing katsu sandos. We sold out in one night over 200 sandos!

How did you approach the most recent lockdown?

This fourth lockdown we did a few pop-ups with a wagyu beef katsu burger I created and a crumbed prawn in a hot dog bun – the prawn dog. We have finished our final pop up now as our catering has resumed, however we plan to do pop ups here and there throughout the year – stay tuned! We also have ideas about opening the shop a few days a week on a regular basis, however we are still figuring out what this will look like. I think it will be a welcomed addition to Braybrook.

Find out more about Romu Caterers @ facebook.com/romu.com.au

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