Jerry Lagudas is executive pastry chef at the International Convention Centre (ICC) Sydney. He took five minutes to tell us what working life is like in one of the biggest convention centres in Australia.
Where did your passion for food stem from?
I grew up in the Philippines in a small village on Negros Island. Food is something I have always been passionate about. My favourite childhood memories are of my mother’s cooking and the sweet donuts she would make using boiled squash mixed with flour, eggs and sugar. My cooking career began almost accidently when, as a teenager, a family friend asked me to assist in opening a bakery. From this, my love of cooking was ignited. I then went on to secure a traineeship at the Manilla Hotel and worked in multiple culinary roles, followed by working at the Shangri-La.
What’s your favourite dish to make?
Working with high-quality couverture chocolate is my favourite, without a doubt. You can do almost anything with it, from making decadent desserts and quirky handmade chocolates to stunning centrepieces and elaborate chocolate sculptures. Chocolate is very diverse and allows me to use some of my finer crafted techniques.
Tell us your ideal meal to eat from entree to dessert.
There is nothing quite as satisfying as a great home-cooked meal. Certain foods, the taste and smells can bring back so many memories that take me back in time. If I had to pick three dishes it would be smoked salmon for entrée, a simple steak with mash and buttered baby carrots, and a sticky date pudding for dessert. Yum.
What’s the best thing about your job?
To join an international convention centre that has a world-class reputation is an incredible opportunity. ICC Sydney has set a benchmark, not only with the delivery of events but also with their food philosophy—Feeding Your Performance. The collaborative approach with regional NSW suppliers is exciting and I can’t wait to build on these relationships, and be given the opportunity to work our local farmers and producers.
Which country has the best cuisine?
My career has taken me all over the world and enabled me to build a collective cookbook of different flavours and techniques. It is difficult to pinpoint a specific country for their cuisine as each has their own style and flavour. The melting pot of flavours and cultures in Australia produces cuisines that are unlike anywhere else, which is why this country is so unique and special to me.
Describe a typical day in the icc kitchen.
My day at ICC Sydney always begins with a good morning check in and catch up with my team, followed by attending the daily chef’s operations meeting. Checking the day’s and the following days’ event work orders determines what the rest of my day will look like. I also meet with my senior chef team members to go over the many events the venue hosts each day. As the day goes on, I may be assisting the team in plating up, planning the roster, placing orders for the following week, or testing and trailing new ingredients and dishes. The last two things I do before I leave for the day is check the dispatch fridge and the stock fridge so that I know everything is all set for the following morning.
What don’t people know about ICC Sydney?
ICC Sydney has saved over one million plastic water bottles from being produced through its partnership with Sydney Water. This is the equivalent of saving 12,900kg of plastic and 150,000L of oil from associated activities in manufacturing the plastic bottles.
Tips for getting a start in the industry?
My number-one tip for those that are starting off in the industry is to take every opportunity you are given as you never know where these can lead to. Learn as much as you can from the people around you by asking questions and show to them how eager you to have a career in the culinary industry. Consistency and quality is a challenge for all chefs. With focus, determination and the right team, this can be achieved for every item.
What’s the largest event you’ve catered for?
The opening of the Atlantis hotel in Dubai was the biggest and most extravagant event I have ever worked on. Over 2,500 VIP guests from across the world attended the gala dinner event.
Is there anyone you wish to work with?
William (Bill) McCarrick, who is now based at the Culinary Institute of America, has been my biggest influence and mentor, and it would be an honour to have the opportunity to work with him again. I have known Bill since the beginning of my career in the Philippines where he was the executive pastry chef at the Shangri-La. Bill has always been supportive by pushing me to achieve my goals and always go above and beyond.
Why the move to Australia and the International Convention Centre Sydney?
Sydney is a city where my family and I have always felt at home. With two children under the age of six, it was important that my family were ready for this next step in my career just as much as I was. When the opportunity came up to be the executive pastry chef at Australia’s premier convention, exhibition and entertainment venue, I couldn’t say no.