Our head chef Buddha Lo was recently featured in the Rialto Tower Precinct Newsletter. Read the interview below!
Faces at Rialto | Buddha Lo
Buddha Lo | Head Chef at Hare & Grace
Buddha started his Apprenticeship at 14 at the Sheraton Mirage Port Douglas. After he finished high school he then moved to Melbourne where he was then found by Matteo Pignatelli owner of Matteo’s restaurant in Fitzroy. During the time that he spent at Matteo’s working and completing his apprenticeship under executive chef Brendan Mcqueen he was then approached by Raymond Capaldi, a long term friend of Matteo. Buddha then joined Raymond to start Hare & Grace – he started as a Chef De Partie and two years later he is now the head chef.
You started pursuing a career in food at a very young age. Where does your passion for cooking come from?
Definitely my Dad, my father has been a chef for 31 years. He has 16 brothers and sisters; 10 of those are chefs. So I was kind of born a chef, really.
What’s been the highlight of your career to date?
Becoming Head Chef of Hare & Grace. I’m 21 years old. It’s a lot of pressure; a lot of people are always watching you and at 21 you’re going to make a lot of mistakes but also learn a lot too.
Run us through a typical day as Head Chef at Hare & Grace.
Hare & Grace is an interesting place to work. You come in at about 8:30am to start work, chase up orders, deal with eight different suppliers coming in daily. You have specified produce coming in from specified farmers so there is a lot of dealing with the farmers on the phone and asking them why the produce is like that, and then getting ready for lunch service. Lunch is pretty big here. Then you get ready for dinner service. Deal with a couple of conflicts here and there, hit a few bumps in the road, finish dinner service then go home and start it all again the next day.
What’s it like working with renowned chef Raymond Capaldi?
It’s quite emotional. Coming into Melbourne at 17 I always looked up to Raymond. I feel privileged and honoured to work under him, not a lot of people get to work under a ‘big named’ chef as you don’t often find them in the kitchen anymore. There too busy on TV, but Ray is in the kitchen 24/7. He is definitely a Melbourne legend.
Hare & Grace recently contributed the entrée course of Chilled Pea, Blueberry and Onion Cream Soup for the Rialto Long Table Lunch, which was delicious. Where do the concepts for such original dishes come from?
The dishes are about 80 % of Ray and 20% me, he comes up and bounces ideas off me. I guess people sometimes say that they are a bit wacky, very interesting or too interesting but at the end of the day it’s just food and his knowledge of food beats anyone’s in Melbourne. It’s just good food and well thought about food, that’s the best way to describe it.
What is your food philosophy?
My food philosophy is a little bit different to Ray’s. I have a big Asian influence with my cooking from starting cooking with my Dad at 12 years old, it’s natural to me. If there are other countries that are doing things better why not take those techniques and bring it into your own cuisine? It’s about finding the best techniques and using them to make a dish that’s simple and delicious.
How do you like to unwind at the end of your working week?
The whole kitchen goes to the Supper Inn at about 3am, it’s the biggest reward. On a good week the kitchen is allowed a carton of beer so we all go down to the Supper Inn and let off some steam.
Where is your favourite place for a casual meal in Melbourne?
My ritual at the moment is Yum Cha, I go through phases. There’s just something about it, the trollies of food and you can have whatever you want and it costs practically nothing.
We hear you have won many awards for your talents as a chef. What are some of them and what were they for?
Recently I entered a competition called Appetite for Excellence. It’s a national award for chefs that are under 30 years old. At 20 (last year) I became the first National finalist of that age. It was such a big thing because all the chefs I was competing against are Head Chefs and Executive chefs who have been in the industry for 10 years.
At 16 I represented Queensland in the Nestle Golden Chefs Hat apprentice competition, which was a big deal for me.
I went to France and won a scholarship called the Thierry Marx Career Development Award (sponsored by Crown) to work in a 2 Michelin Starred restaurant in Bordeaux. That is probably the biggest prize I have won. There are many more but I just can’t go through them all. A lot of apprenticeship awards.