For this week’s Chef’s Corner feature, we caught up with George Fouskarinis, a regional executive chef for Delaware North in Australia.
Fouskarinis, who joined Delaware North in January 2013, oversees the company’s culinary operations at Sydney Cricket Ground (SCG), Allianz Stadium, WIN Sports and Entertainment Centre, and the WACA Ground. His rise in the culinary ranks is a journey that traces back to his grandfather’s farm in Greece, where he learned a difficult lesson at the age of 7.
Words that describe you
Passionate. Creative. Dedicated. Motivated. Mentor. Hard-working. Resilient. Calm. Loyal. Funny! I am often told that I have a good sense of humor – even under the most stressful conditions, which is something I think you need as a chef.
Words that describe your food
AMAZING! No really – creative, comforting, delicate and delicious. One of the things I pride myself on is my skill in producing both great fine-dining food, as well as great everyday food. In a role like mine, it is not only the high-end food that counts but also the food that we sell to the general public. It is the general public who will come back game after game and buy that same burger that they loved again and again, and I never forget that.
Your favorite moment at Delaware North
I have honestly enjoyed every day working at Delaware North, although some are undoubtedly harder than others! My all-time favorite was probably my first Ashes (a test cricket series played between England and Australia) at the SCG. We had some challenges as we had moved into a new production kitchen only days before the Ashes started, but seeing the stadium full, hearing the roar of the crowd and knowing that I was responsible for feeding most of those people – that was a truly amazing and inspiring feeling. It made me want to work harder to succeed and produce better food.
The challenges of being a chef in at Sydney Cricket Ground
The SCG is an iconic venue in Australia, and cricket fans are particularly passionate about the history of the stadium. Working there has given me a real appreciation for that history and the desire to produce food for the crowds that is the best in Australia and lives up to the stadium’s reputation. Of course, there are always challenges and since I have been at the SCG, we have seen a new stand built and a whole new production kitchen. Moving into that kitchen only days before my first Ashes was a challenge, but I love a challenge and the whole Delaware North team did brilliantly dealing with the pressures of that move. As Delaware North’s stadium chefs reading this article will understand, delivering excellent food for enormous numbers week after week is a challenge, and since I have been at the SCG, I have worked hard to put in place systems and processes to ensure that the kitchen is always running as smoothly as possible –and one step ahead of what is needed. Only that way can we deal with the pressures and situations that inevitably arise on game days. Overall, I love it though and love the challenges.
Your favorite food(s)
For a chef, it is difficult to name just a couple of favorite foods as we are fortunate enough to be able to taste more foods in one day than many people will taste in years. It is one of the things I love about my profession. However, if I have to choose, jus is among my top picks. It takes time and love to make jus properly, and if done correctly, it takes the most simple piece of meat from good to amazing. I also love fish and seafood because I did my apprenticeship at one of Sydney’s top fine-dining seafood restaurants. It was hard work, but I developed a love for taking whole seafood, breaking it down myself and learning to cook it perfectly. There is nothing better than a fresh piece of Australian barramundi cooked well – it just melts in your mouth as you eat it.
Your least favorite food(s)
I actually don’t think I have any! However, I do really dislike meat or fish that has been overcooked until it is like chewing on an old shoe!
Hardest cooking lesson
My hardest cooking lesson was probably my very first one. When I was about 7 years old, I was staying with my grandfather on his farm in Greece. He gave me one of his goats as my pet, and I called him Zippy. I loved that goat and for nearly six months, saw him every day, was responsible for herding him and taking him out to pasture when my grandfather took his other goats and sheep. Zippy became my friend. When I was leaving Greece, my grandfather said he would hold a goodbye feast for me and invite all the village. The morning of the feast, I went looking for Zippy, but I could not find him anywhere. I asked my grandfather and he told me to look in the fridge. I did so and there was Zippy’s head on a plate – he had been butchered for the feast and was roasted by my grandfather on a spit for everyone to eat. Even though the smell of Zippy roasting was amazing, I could not eat him. It was a horrible day for me, but it was my first introduction to the reality of food and cooking. My grandfather said to me later (in Greek): “Son, this is a farm and the animals we keep are not pets. We raise them to provide us with food to eat and we say thanks to God for giving them to us to sustain us.” It was a good lesson for me as a young boy dreaming of becoming a great chef – and a good example of pasture to plate.
Heroes (cooking or otherwise)
My heroes would have to be Marco Pierre White and Escoffier. They are/were great chefs and have done so much for the profession. My parents are also heroes to me. Both my mother and father arrived in Australia from Greece as migrants after World War II and had nothing but a suitcase to their names. They worked so hard to raise me and give me the opportunity to do whatever I wanted in life. I strive every day to work hard to show my appreciation for that opportunity and so that my children will also have the same opportunity to choose their path in life.
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