TEPPANYAKI chefs are like the clowns of the hospitality circus, they throw knives, perform tricks, make jokes and juggle salt and pepper shakers, in a spectacular dining performance.
Gold Coast International's Chris Radecki certainly is no exception.
He is one of three teppanyaki chefs at the award-winning Yamagen restaurant.
He said he played the role that most regular chefs do but with the added responsibility of entertaining guests as well. "It's my job to make my guests feel special and add a bit of flair to their international dining experience,'' he said.
Although Chris said he always had enjoyed cooking, he left school at 14 and became a truck builder's apprentice -- enjoying his culinary hobby in his spare time.
At 22, after several disheartening comments about his chances of a successful career change, a recommendation from a close friend to "give it a go'' in Queensland encouraged him to pack his bags and move from Victoria to the Gold Coast in search of his dream.
"I started working as a kitchen hand a couple of days a week after I arrived and just made my way up,'' he said. "I eventually got an apprenticeship as a western chef with a Gold Coast restaurant.''
When he finished his training, he was head-hunted to join a prestige hotel and specialise in Japanese a la carte. After having dabbled in teppanyaki and a stint at the Sea World theme park, he secured his job with GCI's Yamagen restaurant.
Chris has more than 12 years of experience as a chef -- six of which have been in teppanyaki with the five-star hotel. He won the Gold Coast Teppanyaki Challenge in 2004 and 2005 and hopes to take home the award again this year.
"I love that I get the chance to mingle with the guests,'' he said. "It doesn't feel like I am at work. It's more like having friends around for dinner and entertaining them.''
Chris said that teppanyaki chefs needed to have "a bit of character'' to make guests feel comfortable and be able to read people.
"You entertain the rich and the famous, international, interstate and local guests and everyday people so you need to know what each person expects -- the night is about them.'' Chris has a variety of tricks, many of which are self-taught.
"I used to practice at home for about two hours a day,'' he said. "When I started with GCI, they really nurtured my professional development and polished my skills.''
By Candy Davis, The Courier Mail, June 3, 2006.