2 minutes with Lauren Eldridge
Occupation: pastry chef
Restaurant: Pei Modern
Lives: Sydney, NSW
Lauren started working at Marque in July 2012 as a second-year apprentice with very little cooking experience but a huge enthusiasm to learn. Fast forward a few years and is she now pastry chef for mentor Mark Best and last year she won the Josephine Pignolet young chef of the year award. We asked Lauren about being a chef…
When did you know you wanted to be a chef?It was more of a gradual realisation than a lightbulb moment. I was 20 years old and studying psychology at university and decided that I actually could take my passion for pastry cooking and make it a career. Once I had made my decision, everything clicked into place. In hindsight, it seems so obvious and I wonder why I took so long to realise.
What the biggest challenges working in a 2-hat restaurant?
Most of the challenges I face are probably the same as chefs in all style of restaurants. The hours and lack of social life, missing family gatherings and birthdays. Those sorts of things are always the hardest. I feel being a chef can be a rather selfish career choice because you and your job often come first.
Specific to working in a 2-hat restaurant I think meeting the expectations of diners. People (rightly so) expect the highest of standards so ensuring these are met every day in every aspect of the restaurant is paramount.
You were awarded the Jospehine Pignolet Young Chef of the Year last year, how has this influenced your career?
Winning the Josephine Pignolet Award was a huge honour. It provided a lot of recognition within the industry and has given me the encouragement and support to keep pushing myself forward. It is a massive kick-start to any young chef’s career but is also motivation to make something of yourself. You don’t want to let down yourself, Damien or the legacy of great chefs that have won the award. As part of the prize, I will travelling to Europe, specifically spending 2 months staging at Osteria Francescana in Modena, Italy. It is a great opportunity that will teach me a lot and something that would have been quite difficult for me to do without the award.
What do you cook for yourself on a day off?
I rarely cook at home or for myself. I spend so much time in a kitchen, it’s nice to go out and have someone else cook for me so I like to go to restaurants as much as possible.
If I do cook at home, it’s usually simple things for my friends or family. I have a few favourite recipes that I’ve used for the last decade or so, biscuits, slices and cakes, things like that. I started baking at eight years old and all those things make me quite nostalgic.
What are your career goals for the next 5 years?
My goal when I became a chef was to be ‘the best’ and I think that will always be the career goal, whether it is 5 months or 5 years from now. I haven’t figured out exactly what it means to be the best and I don’t think I’ll ever reach that point. It is sort of a purposeful unobtainable goal. I want to stay driven, creative and continually improve my skills and knowledge.
You can follow Lauren on Instagram @lauren.eldridge