1. Tell us a little about yourself, and your attraction into Australia’s professional food industry.
My passion for food and love of adventure have defined my career path. In my earlier life I was a model working around the globe, which led to life as a television presenter, filing stories on adventure sports. As a passionate cook, my family encouraged me to be on MasterChef Australia. Mentoring from Gordon Ramsey, Nigella Lawson and Maggie Beer helped me to establish my unique culinary personality and consolidate my skills.
My signature is creating artistic dishes, which have a theatrical presentation. I launched ‘Michelle e Toto’, a partnership with the talented chefs of Verde Restaurant in Darlinghurst followed by ‘Ten’ at the Medusa hotel.
With the COVID lockdown last year and the absence of my international clients for whom I had previously provided private chef services, I conceptualised my company ‘Luxe Attaché’, with partner Terry Kaljo, offering private chefs, luxury adventures and curated events for the domestic market.
I am currently writing a cookbook ‘Fast n Fancy’ in the hope of inspiring home cooks to create ‘wow factor’ dishes that are simple to prepare, but restaurant quality.
2. Food design and presentation holds an important position in the customer dining experience - what elements do you combine to enhance your creations?
Food should be a total sensory experience. When I design a dish the visual elements are as critical as the combination of flavours. From the choice of tableware, to the placement of individual elements, I love to create a bit of theatre on the plate.
Produce and presentation are key to a beautiful dish. I look for unique ingredients to enhance not only the flavour but also the aesthetics. Each element needs to be considered to give the dish a visual cohesion that is matched by its delectability.
3. How important is the choice of dinnerware in food design?
Dinnerware is incredibly important when deciding how a dish will be plated. Colour plays a huge part in the plate I choose, when designing a dish. Handmade pasta is one of my signatures, and I will often colour the dough with squid ink, beetroot or spinach. Choosing a plate design which picks up on one of these colours can make the dish really pop.
I recently used The Fairfax & Roberts Art Deco dinner plate for a squid ink pasta dish, which complimented the monochromatic pasta perfectly.
The plate is like the canvas and should be an integral part of the dish. The size, shape and colour of the dinnerware should be cohesive with the food elements, contributing to the foods visual appeal.
4. Providing a Private Chef service for some of Australia’s most prominent families and companies must come with an array of considerations. How do you conceptualise your service provision and delivery?
When working with a new client my process is to get an understanding what style of food the client desires and how they like to dine. From the type of cuisine, to how it is served, everyone has different needs.
The first element is customising the menu and offering unique dining ideas. Every family, group or company has different food considerations and none of my menus are ever the same. I really enjoy tailoring the menu and factoring in dietary requirements, then working on how that specific group likes to dine.
The space in which the meal is served is given great consideration along with the dinnerware and table décor.
I had a client who was in from the US and wanted a Thanksgiving dinner for twelve. The brief was for a classic sumptuous turkey banquet but with one twist, it had to contain loads of vegan options. Conceptualising the meal and marrying in the dietaries whilst considering the visual elements is what I love most about my job. It is very gratifying to see the delivery of a special meal from concept to delivery.
5. Tell us about your new company ‘Luxe Attaché’
I started the company Luxe Attaché with partner Terry Kaljo last year in Covid lockdown. Our luxury lifestyle company offers private chefs, luxury accommodation, unique experiences and exclusive event curation.
Terry’s background in Luxury villa rental and my background in food, gives us the unique skill set to combine curated local experiences with a strong culinary element. Fine food and fabulous locations are the hallmark of our experiences.
Squid Ink Pasta with Prawns and Crispy Capers
12 king prawns - peeled, tail-on, heads and shells reserved
Slice of fennel
Clove of garlic
500gr squid ink pasta - spaghetti or linguini
1 clove of garlic - finely chopped
1 lemon - halved
1 small chili - finely chopped
1 tablespoon flat leaf parsley - finely chopped
2 tablespoons baby capers
100gr unsalted butter
1. Place the prawn heads, shells, fennel and garlic clove in a saucepan with a splash of olive oil and fry until fragrant. Add in a cup of water and boil for 20 minutes. Strain and set aside until needed.
2. Cook the pasta in salted boiling water until al dente, drain and reserve a little of the starchy water. Drizzle olive oil over the drained pasta and set aside.
3. Heat the butter and add the capers, frying until they are crispy, strain and set aside.
4. Season the prawns with salt and pepper. Heat some olive oil in a fry pan and sauté the whole prawns until barely opaque.
5. In a large fry pan, heat olive oil over medium-low heat. Add the garlic and chilli, sauté, stirring occasionally until fragrant. Add the pasta, parsley, squeeze of fresh lemon, some of the reserved prawn bisque and toss until the pasta is coated. Add additional reserved starchy water if needed.
6. To serve, place a twist of pasta, top with prawns and sprinkle with crispy capers.
Michelle Walsh's Top Four Selects
1. Art Deco Wide Rim Dinner Plate - The geometric print on the rim with white plate-centre is a great combination for plating food with a similarly striking monochromatic palette.
2. Chagrin D’Amour Wide Rim Bowl - I love the pop of colour and textural nature of the Chagrin design. It looks stunning teamed with the Red Protea dinnerware.
3. Art Deco Presentation Plate - The large dinner plate with a classic art deco gold pattern lends itself perfectly to dishes designed to be plated in an asymmetrical fashion.
4. Eclipse Deco Flat Bowl - I love this as a show-stopper dish to present my signature watermelon and tuna cone canapés. It makes a bold statement.