People Pleaser: An Interview with Drew Bolton

by Drew Bolton

How often do you switch up the menu at Vine?
We have, I suppose, a structured change every season, so we promote that to customers. That's our big change, but we make a lot of tweaks and changes throughout that time as well. It’s fairly organic, when it happens it happens. I always say that you can't rush inspiration, you can't rush creativity, it just happens. I guess I'm like most chefs who get inspired by the seasons, the produce and what's around.
Do you iterate and keep refining dishes?
Absolutely! Sometimes it's because an amazing ingredient comes into season or something is only available for a short amount to time. You can't not use it, you've got to do it.
I guess your true creativity comes through when you’re presented with an opportunity and can take advantage of it. It must be crippling for a chef, when they see an opportunity but someone says, "Well, stick to what you know, stick to what you do." That's a really great thing that you can be creative.
Yeah, being able to take something amazing and keep pushing forward, doing new things with it, not settling back into your comfort zone. Finding new ways to harness the same amazing ingredient year in and year out, I think that's the real challenge and it's the thing that I get inspired by.
I always find it amazing that I can go to so many different countries, they have the same ingredients but end up with completely different flavours.
Yeah, totally. I always think if you were to give the same four ingredients to four or five different chefs, especially quite creative chefs, you'd get the craziest stuff. It's amazing when you draw on different influences. A lot of the time it's not just where you’ve worked, it’s where you grew up and your contacts through food. What you can create from that, it's pretty interesting.
That's creativity, connecting the dots in different ways.
Yeah, that's a good way to put it.

"I always say that you can't rush inspiration, you can't rush creativity, it just happens."

Is it exciting to exist in a place that is one of the best eating cities in the world and do something that is relevant.
Yeah, it's amazing. I don't think there's any bigger high than having people come in, love what you do and enjoy your food. That's why I do it, I’m probably your classic people pleaser in that sense I suppose. I’ve been cooking since I was young.
You always cooked? What age did you start?
From 12 years old. I always had this real interest in it. I was probably about 15 and I think that's when it all started to click. Then in my later teens, that's when I was like, "Yeah I can't do anything else with my life." I used to cook meals for my family and do all sorts of weird and wonderful stuff. When I cooked, my heart would be in my throat waiting for them to take that first bite and then give me that look of approval.
People pleaser.
It was such a buzz for me, when people really enjoyed my food. It just sort of grew from there.

"When I cooked, my heart would be in my throat waiting for them to take that first bite and then give me that look of approval."

Obviously, I'm a home cook, to me there is no better feeling than just cooking for people, that's what food is about.
Yeah absolutely. I don't differentiate that from the fact that it's now my profession and I have my own restaurant.
Do you cook at home?
I do, but not as much as I would like these days. I still really love it and when I do it I sort of go all out, probably do a little bit too much for my little home kitchen to handle. From back in the day when I used to cook for my family and stuff like that, when I cook for friends I sort of still take that same attitude into cooking here. Each customer is so important to me and I want everything to be perfect for them and them to enjoy it and love it and have a great time.

I think a lot of restaurants, and a lot of chefs feel a divide that’s very much like, I have a business and you're my customer, rather than them just wanting to give people a great time.

"This is my business and you’re my customer," is a really old school way of looking at any business. I think that no business should exist only to make money.
Money comes if you’re doing something good. I didn't really answer your question before but in regards to having some relevance in the Sydney market, it's highly competitive and it's cut throat. We've got, which is a great thing, a really fickle customer base. It’s a great thing because it keeps you on your toes and if you do hold some weight in this industry, you're doing a good thing. I'm really proud of that.
You should be.
I'm really proud that we're doing well here.
It's crazy in Sydney. More good restaurants open than I have a chance to go eat at.
Yeah, it's tough so you've got to do something that's really inspiring and has a story that people can relate to. The second you give up, it's over. You have to believe in what you're doing.
Drew Bolton has 5 recipes for you to try at home:

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About the Author

Drew Bolton

Drew Bolton is Executive Chef at Vine Double Bay after a culinary career that has seen him work at acclaimed restaurants in Sydney, NSW and Worldwide. Drew grew up in a family that had a deep respect and love for food. Taught to cook from a young age by his father, Drew’s love for food quickly... Read Full Bio

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