Ask Peter Howard AM

Posted on December 6, 2018 , No comments

Once you’re a cook, you’re always a cook. No matter how much distance you want to put between you and your job, or former job, it is very hard to escape the cooking scene and appreciation of it..

I am a cruising fanatic and I love it for lots of reasons. However, each time I am on the open seas, I am amazed at how the food just keeps coming – not only one or two dishes but multiple dishes on menus that change every day and for each meal period.

On my latest cruise from Tilbury, London to Sydney via the Caribbean and Panama Canal, the ship was at sea for 30 days which means there’s not a corner shop to drop into just in case.  All the time I am kept wondering how the chefs do what they do it as there is not ever a shortage of fresh fruits, salads, vegetables, meats in fact, all parts of the expansive menu were covered.

On the ship, MV Astor for the CMV, the crew in the galley was mostly Indian plus a couple of other nationalities. One of the many aspects of the ship I found so delightful is that it was an older ship and a classic liner. The wait staff was a delight to watch as they were European trained and truly excellent. Oh and the curries were sensational needless to say.

What I am saying it that it makes an old cook, like me, really proud and humble to see these guys, with their skills well and truly on show. Their pride was on show and rightfully so.

Thanks guys.

Happy Christmas to everyone and I look forward to seeing you all in the New Year.

– Peter Howard AM

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MinaAsk Peter Howard AM

Ask Peter Howard AM

Posted on October 2, 2018 , No comments

Spring is well and truly here and soon we will be heralding Summer and I will be thinking about ways of eating for the hot months of the year. So I start with looking at ways to eat more healthier to achieve weight loss. I always think of food in this country as being healthy and it is – until we start cooking and examining what we add to it.

As people who have to feed other people, let’s think about the amount of fat we add to the dishes we are cooking and let’s think about the balance of the dishes we serve up. Let’s think more about salads with complex protein and good dressings. What about using the variations of protein we can cook with? – sure I love meat as much as the next person and have spent much of my career in promoting it. However, more and more our clientele is requesting meatless meals.

When I wrote my first book on diabetic cooking (2006), I discovered Tempeh, an Indonesian fermented soy product which is high in protein and a good way to go for less fat. I was fascinated to see the use of this product in a recipe from the hands of one Sassy Chef, Alison Taafe called “Eat for you Life” an extraordinary book on really healthy eating.

Recently I was in Brisbane and was watching Alison cook at a trade show – I have watched and admired her for over 2 decades – she is an amazing Chef and presenter. She now heads up the Institute of Culinary Excellence and she is dedicated to making young people cook brilliantly – and she does. But back to her book and healthy eating, it is what I need to get myself geared up for a long holiday – by the way you can contact Alison and get her book on – do have a look.

Talking of young Chefs – how good it was to see Jessica York win the Peter Howard Culinary Scholarship for this year. The team of HTN provided another exciting dinner and the whole night, with Michael Bennett at the controls with Mina doing his magic as ever, was just brilliant.

Soon, I will take a break and go to London and while there, I will meet up with an old friend, restaurateur Caroline Taylor who runs the very fashionable Novikov Restaurant. I am hoping that Jessica will spend some time at this exciting restaurant in Mayfair. Caroline is a real adventurer in that her first restaurant was in London many years ago and called Sydney – some may know as she was GM at OXO for many years.

So while I am looking to eat healthier and watch my weight, I know I will up against it as I cruise back to Australia for 47 days. Oh well, I can but try. In the meantime, you can think about healthy alternatives for your customers.

By Peter Howard AM

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MinaAsk Peter Howard AM

R U OK? – By Peter Howard AM

Posted on September 6, 2018 , No comments

Stress, tension – being under the hammer! Recognise these terms? They are all a part of our being cooks and Chefs. There is nothing like a very busy service period to bring on those three pressures. Somehow we learn to deal with these pressures and sometimes that pressure takes its toll on us – it can be called burnout, it can be called many other things but basically it means we sometimes do not cope.

HTN is committed to looking after its apprentices with their mental health and their well being. There has long been a stigma attached to the term mental health but now days it is a term that we hear so often. And for people suffering with a mental health issue, it can be a very serious, debilitating issue.

For me, I have Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder and I have been able to learn to understand it this dreadful affliction which started for me in the Vietnam War in 1968; I did not know I had PTSD until 1998 when it was diagnosed and I started the long road to partial recovery. I soon learnt that there was plenty of ways by which I could be aided/advised to help me face up to what learnt is a mental illness – a term I have come to accept.

Given that the symptoms of PTSD can be confused with what we recognise as everyday parts of the cooking business – such as hitting the booze too much, drug abuse, mood swings and negative reactions to stress and tension, I did not recognise the symptoms of PTSD. Certainly, I was always drinking way too much alcohol, I was always overreacting to stress (my nick name was Peter Panic) and my mood swings made me not nice to be around.

After all this, I have come to realise that so many of my mates were there for me and long before the marvelous institution of R U Ok? We mates did stick together as they became just that – supportive mates and after all the people we work with become our mates. As such we need to look at the people we work with and ask them if they are OK? it is what we do as decent everyday Aussies.


By Peter Howard AM 

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MinaR U OK? – By Peter Howard AM

Peter Howard AM | Trip to New York

Posted on July 9, 2018 , No comments

It is only 5 days since I returned from one of the most exciting and interesting cities in the world – New York City. It is a crazily busy city that never sleeps, and neither do its multitudinous visitors.

In amongst all the madness of a huge city, you can find extremely good food and wines in numerous ethnic restaurants and eateries – some seating 200 hundred and more and others seating just 12; needless to say, that in this tiny Cuban eatery on 10th avenue, there is a long line of people waiting to get in for their chance to try the very different fare that is Cuban. Around the corner on 52nd is a Ramen noodle bar that is even smaller than the Cuban place.

For fine dining, you need to look at Jean Georges near Central Park at Columbus; traditional French cuisine, the dishes served are immaculately presented and sublimely cooked – what an experience. Just brilliant and so good to see fine dining alive and living and well in this bustling city.

The takeout, for me, after a week in this exciting city is that the restaurant scene is as vibrant as ever in New York City and yet the business operators face the same issues as we do here, in Australia, like getting the right produce they need, finding suitable culinary staff (read cooks and Chefs), satisfying very savvy customers, battling high rents and finding wait staff that can handle the pressure of non-stop service.

Interesting really because even though that extraordinary city is thousands of kilometres away and the culture is so different to ours, the same issues apply and like always, Chefs and cooks are the ones who are asked to deliver professionally all the time…and that is what we do all around the world.

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MinaPeter Howard AM | Trip to New York

Peter Howard AM – Celebrations!

Posted on June 6, 2018 , No comments

Late last month I was at Government House in Brisbane to receive my official AM – two medals and a pin and the citation. My AM is ‘for services to the food and wine tourism industry and to education and to institutions like the ACF’ In handing me the awards the Governor of Qld., Paul de Jersey, congratulated me on my contributions to industry and then went on to say, “I am so happy to see your industry getting well-deserved recognition.” And indeed that is correct – while I was awarded the honour of being named in the Order of Australia – General Division, I am very aware that I would not have been named without being in the Hospitality Industry. It is an Industry that has given me all and that should be awarded.

Somehow it feels strange to thank an industry but I do and I also acknowledge the depths of experiences I have had in the vast conglomerate have delivered me a very happy and satisfied man. So thanks to the Hospitality Industry. These sentiments are extended to the marvellous event delivered by HTN Board and friends who gathered to celebrate the award last Tuesday. Again echoing my thoughts on the last blog, all my friends are in and from the Hospitality Industry and so I was overjoyed to see so many people turn up to enjoy the HTN friendship. Thanks, HTN.

My great joy and privilege was to be involved in the Australian Professional Chef of the Year Competition at Foodservice Australia, Sydney at the ICC. How amazing to see these young Chefs cook and present such outstanding dishes in 1 hour. They had to produce an entrée and a main course (for 4 persons – so 8 plates in all) and so of the most brilliant food around. If you want to see the dishes, they are on FaceBook and Instagram for the Australian Professional Chef of the Year 2018.

This competition has been running since 2008 and has had several very well known Chefs have won – including Neil Abrahams the current President of the ACF National. Over three days, the Chefs worked with pork products from Murray Valley Pork (sponsored by Australian Pork) Chobani yoghurt and ovens and grills from Unox; PFD were also sponsors along with Robot Coupe (and their Robot Cook) and Alsco. It was one big celebration of sponsors products and Chefs – what a time. The competition demonstrates the sublime ability of your Chefs from all around Australia and their passion and technical know-how was very much on show. The winner was Chef Jack Lee from Victoria.

Thanks so much to Specialised Events (Tim Collett) and the crew for having me in attendance at the Competition. A great time!

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MinaPeter Howard AM – Celebrations!

Peter Howard AM | Bill Galvin OAM – William R Galvin OAM

Posted on May 4, 2018 , No comments

The Industry, at large, has lost a very important man as Bill Galvin OAM – William R Galvin OAM – passed away a couple of weeks ago; he’d had an enormous input into the Industry in so many ways that it is impossible to separate out which part of the business he influenced mostly.

I first met Bill in 1970 at East Sydney Food School where I went to study catering in a three- year certificate course – it was there I met so many other people that became mates and my great mentor Grahame Latham OAM.

Back to Bill, I then worked with him at Ryde College of TAFE in the 1980ies and it made me think that so many, if not all, of my many friends and mates, have come from being in contact with them by working with them in some part of the Hospitality Industry. It is a truism that we form such good relationships with people with whom we work.

To me, Bill was always a mate and was very supportive of me in my early career both in teaching and in the media. Thank you, Bill, for all you have done for the Industry, for HTN and for me personally. With HTN, Bill has organized the return flight tickets with QANTAS for the winner of the Peter Howard Culinary Scholarship since its inception. There is only one Bill Galvin OAM – we will miss you, old mate.

Before I started writing this, I sent off a number of emails to mates and friends I have met throughout the years. The only schoolmate I know from 1960 is in New York City and so I will stay with him while I am there in the upcoming visit in June. Other mates there include so many people from when I worked the G’Day USA promotion – buddies from the catering company we used there called Food for Thought; Marlene Poynder from the Park Hyatt on the Harbour who is now the GM in an international Hotel there and then, from my days in the 1990ies of promoting Australian Lamb at the National Restaurant Association show in Chicago for 5 years, my boss -Frances Cassidy.

And so, I could go on but it only reminds me that our mates, our friends and associates mostly come from the places we have worked in and do work in during our journey in this marvellous world of cooking. Somehow, we have so much to talk about as we stop working and that is the fascinating part of being involved in the Industry.

By Peter Howard AM

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MinaPeter Howard AM | Bill Galvin OAM – William R Galvin OAM

Ask Peter Howard AM

Posted on April 3, 2018 , No comments

Just recently I have been to New Caledonia and its capital, Noumea, the Paris of the Pacific as it was once known. There be no doubting that the French influence in this Island paradise is still so very strong from the ever attractive accent in their speaking to the many ways they enjoy themselves. It is so odd to be so close to Australia (only 2 hours from Brisbane) and yes to have such vibrant French culture – which I love.

Naturally, I had to observe the food and the drinking habits – and so a beer (Number 1 is the local brand and damn fine beer at that) at mid-afternoon was crucial before settling into one of the many eateries on Anse Vata, the beach and tourist part of Noumea. The dining at the Hilton was first class with excellent food and very French service at The Terrasse. I was trained in French cooking and have loved the French forever and so, I am overjoyed to have had such an experience so recently.

It would seem that I could not get away from the French as I travelled to Western Australia and to the Margaret River where I stayed one night at the exclusive and stunning Cape Lodge on Caves Road in Yallingup.The General Manager is Drew Bernhardt and the staff, including restaurant manager and sommelier, were both French. Boy, the service was excellent. However, it was the food from the hands of Executive Chef Tony Howell and his dedicated team that was outstanding. Heavily featured was Margaret River produce and seafood.

No matter where I went with my host, Ian Parmenter (famous for his TV cooking shows called Consuming Passions on ABC TV for 9 years and for having kicked off Tasting Australia and subsequently, G’day USA) and his partner Ann, the emphasis was on local produce and all restaurants and pubs featured MR produce. The apprentice Chefs at the local TAFE have an exercise where they design the menu and cook the dishes for 30 people at the Harvest Lunch, held monthly at the small dining room in the campus.

As Drew Bernhardt pointed out to me, the array of produce in the MR is second to none – a proud boast and certainly proven at the Cape Lodge Restaurant. That regional attitude is alive and living and well in Perth too where excellent restaurants and loads of fun abound.

I came away from WA thinking just how brilliant a destination it is and with so many varied dining experiences showcasing the excellent produce of the WA and also the very fine cooking skills of the people who use them. Long may regional foods and attitudes reign.

By Peter Howard AM

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MinaAsk Peter Howard AM

A Question of Titles

Posted on February 19, 2018 , No comments

Language evolves. Words gradually shift their meanings, and “chef” is no exception. The term chef now appears to be applied to anyone who can cook in a commercial or domestic situation.

The five million evening meals prepared daily in homes across Australia, many TV celebrity chefs, numerous magazines and even the film “Ratatouille” clearly demonstrates that anyone can cook, so by fashionable definition, the word “cook” equates to a “chef”, consequently anyone who can also be a “chef”.

However, they are not “professional chefs”, as a professional chef’s core business is planning, preparing and supervising a commercial kitchen.

The professional cookery industry has a problem with the number of people who are “pretenda chefs”, and who really believe that a legitimate professional chef is only based only on the ability to place food on a plate.

This has led to a substantial number of people in commercial kitchens calling themselves a “professional chef” when in reality they are professional cooks.

The tragedy is that these “pretenda chefs” actually believe they are entitled to be legitimately titled a professional chef and unfortunately con the public into believing this as well.

The measurable difference between a genuine professional chef and a pretenda chef is not only the level of their responsibility but also an intrinsic professional attitude to protect their vocation. This attitude is also very much associated with their use of their commercial kitchen title.

We all know the organisation of a commercial kitchen has changed. The classical brigade was washed down the sink long ago. However, a number of titles remain and must be used correctly to maintain the trade’s image as a specialist vocation.

So here is my opinion on titles:

Apprentice chef – No, it is still an “apprentice cook”.

This is a major factor where the industry, led mainly by “pretenda chefs” continue to take the wrong road by believing that once a cook obtains a level three-piece of paper from a TAFE, while in all probably also being disloyal and changing their employer usually to work for a few more dollars or, even just working in a commercial kitchen preparing food and “Walla” overnight they have metamorphosed into a real professional chef.


Here are some facts:
– You simply cannot be an apprentice “chief”

– It’s not the trade of cheffery it’s the trade of cookery

– When you meet someone who uses words like “are you still cheffing”, “I am cheffing”, “Where are you cheffing”, etc, you immediately realise they do not know what they are talking about.

– Even after completing basic training, they are still a professional cook.

The industry desperately needs to bring back the title of apprentice cook and return learners and young cooks to their reality.

The TAFE education system and Secondary VET colleges are as much to blame here as anyone. In TAFE’s and Secondary schools rush to appeal to their clients, they falsely promote the status of teaching chefs.

Even teachers have taken on false titles such as chef educator” or chef teacher to promulgate the problem. They have forgotten, or worse, do not realise they are professional cookery teachers.

A substantial number of professional cooks should also face their reality. Cooks who call themselves a chef are living in a pretentious world and have become the new age pretenda chef.

The title “chef” when correctly used, very much depends upon the situation.

It is a description, title and compliment that can only be bestowed upon you by others to acknowledge your skills, knowledge and attitude. No one has the right to call themselves a chef. You were trained to be a cook, you are a cook and even when you lead a brigade you are still a cook. Be proud of that fact.

There are titles that can justifiably include the term “chef” and include professional cooks who manage a brigade in a commercial kitchen and have a professional “attitude” towards their vocation. Even then, the correct title should then be Chef de Cuisine. As usual, there are a few “Chef de Quizines” People who work in a commercial kitchen without a professional attitude towards their career and therefore as described are questionable?

There are also new titles in the new age kitchen, the most common is e “Pretenda chef”. (Used to be called “cowboys”) Because calling oneself a chef while not being the chief or responsible for a brigade and/or not having the right professional cookery attitude in reality is only being pompous and arrogant.

I am sorry for you, girls and guys, a lot of you are really commercial cooks and there is nothing at all wrong with that either. In reality, you should be very proud to be a cook. What is tragic, is that so many do not understand the difference a cook and a chef and how valuable a good professional cook is.

Another title that includes chef is “Celebrity chef” – Not actually a professional chef use a recipe approach to food preparation. Excepting those who dress and act like a professional, many are “pretenda chefs” backed up by scriptwriters.

I have always said, that “before you can become a chef you must first realise that you are a cook”. So I say cheers to all the genuine cooks and professional chefs and to the other “pretenda” chefs, as I said once before, keep going and committee suicide.

Then, how many “sou” and “Sioux” chefs do you know who do not even how to spell Sous chef.

Executive Chef.

It also fails belief the number of executive chefs actually outnumber the number of establishments with multiple commercial kitchens.

The title “Executive chef” can only be used by a person who is responsible for multiple commercial kitchens in an establishment and who has “Chef de cuisines” reporting to them.

I know of people who only have one apprentice cook and a kitchen hand and call themselves an “Executive Chef”. Ask an Executive Chef how many kitchens they supervise to test their real authority and attitude and easily identify that they are really a “Pretenda Executive Chef”.

What can be done to reverse this situation?

– Return to calling, advertising, training and calling “apprentice cooks”

– Look suspiciously at anyone calling themselves a chef, if they do, in all probability they are not. A genuine professional chef will always say they are a cook first.

– Laugh at adverts for second and third-year apprentice cooks placed by establishment’s intent on poaching apprentices, mainly because the pretenda chef does do not have the ability to train their own.

– Insist on Tafe and secondary schools returning to teaching apprentice cooks

– Educate the general public to recognize the difference between:

  • An apprentice cook and a pretenda apprentice chef
  • A professional chef and a pretenda chef
  • A professional Executive Chef and a pretenda Executive Chef

Last but not least, take on board and accept the Australian Culinary Codes of Practices. By accepting this simple code you will demonstrate that you have the right professional attitude so that we all can you a chef.

Reprinted from

  • Chef Jock Stewart
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MinaA Question of Titles

Peter Howard AM | Australia Day Honours Awards

Posted on February 5, 2018 , No comments

Everyone likes a pat on the back and to be told they have done well. There are many ways by which that can happen including the boss saying to you how well done you’re doing your job. Maybe you’ve just left a school where you excelled and were awarded a prize for excelling. So, you know that feeling.

So, for me to receive an honour in the last Australia Day Honours Awards was an extremely large pat on my back. As such, I was awarded the AM (Australian Medal) for my significant service to the food and wine tourism sector as a commentator, TV presenter and author and to the hospitality sector. What an honour to be granted such an award. Was I surprised? Yes, indeed and still pinch myself.

I am left to think what did I do get the ‘gong’ as it sometimes referred to in our larrikin Aussie way. I do know that what I did do for near on 50 years (49 years and 10 months) as I worked in an industry that used to be called the Service Industry and is now Hospitality. I always loved it. It was the basis of all I ever did regardless of the lofty jobs I got from it.

Like everyone, I didn’t know the purpose of being told how to wash pots and pans (in the Army where I was for 2 years it is called Dixie bashing) or learning how to chop parsley forever, cleaning out after service in the restaurant dining area and of course, in the kitchen. From being able to cook on top equipment and also on make-do barbies in the bush, gas to wood-fired, or catering for two to two thousand. When I represented my country as I did countless times, I was always proud and sometimes not completely prepared. When I was cooking Australian lamb in the National Restaurant Association show in Chicago, the big day out of the 6 days was Sunday where I and the team had were to have 6000 samples ready for the crowd to come by and taste. I did that promotion for the ALMC (now MLA) for 5 years both in Chicago and LA or San Francisco.

Trying to tell you of what I think I did to be able to be rewarded with an AM would take forever and would be a little self-congratulatory – but to sum up, I can say that just about all I ever did in those years of working in so many aspects of the Hospitality Industry, I totally enjoyed. Sure it was hard work and the mates I formed in those years are still my mates. Accolades are nothing without being able to say Thank You to an industry I love and thanks to HTN for letting me be their Patron.

Now that’s an honour!

– By Peter Howard AM


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MinaPeter Howard AM | Australia Day Honours Awards

5 Things on Peter Howard’s To-Do-List for 2018

Posted on January 15, 2018 , No comments

Like so many of your fellow cooks or chefs, you were most likely working on the big night of celebration to see 2018 in. However, I send you all belated best wishes for the New Year and hope it will be sensational time for you. I have established five things I want to do this year.

Firstly there are about four different recipes that I want to perfect that I have identified as my being deficient from cooking over the Christmas period. One of them is to cook turkey better than I did this year. Also, we have had a glut of prawns and I want to expand my recipe ideas for cooked King prawns. Any ideas – I would appreciate them.

Secondly, I need to do more exploring of local produce and to see the new products coming up in the new delis in our area. There can be no doubt we are getting more and more new and interesting products. We have a rich dairy culture in our region and more new cheeses coming into our markets. I need to enrich my product knowledge.

Thirdly I will be doing more reading in purpose written magazines and online about the increasingly new manufactured products I see in our supermarkets. I am fascinated by the new presentations and flavours around smoked meats and also the numbers of outlets popping up that process and sell smoked items. There are products coming to us from all over the world reinforcing the rich multicultural product range that already exists.

For the fourth one, I am determined to make the best basil pesto ever. I have been researching some of the recipes online and there is a real variation – including the nuts that you can use. It seems that it is possible to use cashews and not pine nuts. I am convinced that the Parmesan cheese chosen has a huge influence on the resultant flavour (see point 2). Do I do it traditionally using a mortar and pestle or do I blitz it with a Robot Coup? Such delicious decisions to make around the huge crop of basil I have growing right now – alongside the bumper crops of tomatoes. Gotta love Summer!

My fifth promise if you like – yes you guessed it. I need to lose weight/ Ugh, I hate this one. Perhaps I should find another promise!

During 2018 I will be doing some appearances at various trade shows and if you see me, please say hello and have a chat. More of that later through the year – in the meantime, make the most of 2018. Happy New Year.

– Peter Howard

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Mina5 Things on Peter Howard’s To-Do-List for 2018