One of our favourite chefs, Kelvin Shaw from Warrandyte’s Altair Restaurant, opened up about what he likes to get up to on his days off.

Food, a chef’s best friend

We’re a unique breed – chefs – we will happily spend our weekends and days off immersing ourselves in food. One might ask how this differs to anyone of you out there that enjoys a lazy brunch, dinner with friends or expedition to find a cosy spot nestled next to a fire in a quaint cellar door.

The difference is simple. It is not unusual for chefs to visit five or six different venues over our weekend. We do it, not to keep tabs of our competition, but as a silent act of support, in solidarity with our peers, experiencing the passion and imagination of each individual.

Chef Kelvin Shaw restaurant

Chef Kelvin Shaw enjoys a good coffee on his day off.

So what do we like to eat and drink? After 14+ hour days, 80 hour weeks, and having lived off instant Ramen or fried eggs during those weeks, there are certain simple pleasures chefs seek.

Atop of any chefs’ priorities on any given ‘day off’ is a great coffee. We’ll seek out and travel far and wide for that perfectly aromatic cup. Often just the sound of the beans grinding or the smell of them roasting is enough to put one in a trance.

It is not unusual to spot chefs staring lovingly into their caffeine-filled companion on a Monday morning at Round Bird Can’t Fly in Lilydale. Laura and the kitchen staff produce an amazing breakfast to compliment the great coffee.

Life outside the kitchen

Often in search of a friend to update me on life outside of the four walls of my kitchen, I will find myself with Native Negroni in hand at Four Pillars Gin in Healesville. These guys really know gin and the attention to detail and love is second to none. Let’s be honest, a great Negroni is the key to many chef’s hearts. If one is lucky enough to be rostered off on a Friday evening, the bar at Four Pillars is often consumed by a brigade of chefs and other hospitality sorts.

As a chef, it always fills you with excitement when you stumble across a venue open on Mondays: for most chefs, this is our Saturday. There is arguably no better way to spend the day than at Hanrahan winery, abreast the hilltop with all cares or concerns from the week past left at the front gate, a bottle of chardonnay and an array of cheeses, cured meats and fresh bread that we have picked up from K&B Kitchen Butcher in Healesville on the way; Hanrahan do it well with their “reverse BYO”.

In a chef’s constant search for comfort food, The Independent in Gembrook becomes a regular haunt for many of us, simple and great-flavoured food and perhaps just as important the ability to say to the staff “feed me”. Sitting amongst friends, sharing in a rustic feast with wine in hand whimsically solving the problems of the world, now we have truly tapped into a chef’s weekend.

By Kelvin Shaw

Find out about what chef Kelvin Shaw and his team like to make at Altair Restaurant in Warrandyte.

Read more about what’s happening in the valley here.