What does it take to become a head chef of a renowned Melbourne restaurant? For Head Chef of Matteos, Buddha Lo, it was plenty of passion and dedicated industry training. Starting his culinary journey at the young age of 14, he later went on to complete his apprenticeship through the Fonterra Proud to be a Chef program, before heading off overseas to work in international kitchens. Now completing a full circle, Buddha is one of the mentors for this year’s Fonterra Proud to Be a Chef program alongside another industry legend, Huxtaburger’s Daniel Wilson. We caught up with Buddha Lo to discuss his training and how the program helped him to get to where he is today.
Can you tell us was it always your dream to become a chef?
Yes, ever since I was 12 years old. I worked with my parents at their restaurant when I was 9 on weekends and my dad asked me to flip an omelette on the wok one day and I flipped it perfectly – from then on I never looked back loved every minute of it.
Can you tell us a bit about your background and your training with the Fonterra Proud to be a Chef program?
I started in the kitchen with my father at 12 then started a school-based apprenticeship at 14, moved to Melbourne at 17 and landed a job at Matteo’s. I competed in the Fonterra Proud to be a Chef competition and from there completed my apprenticeship. After my apprenticeship I left to work with Raymond Capaldi at 19 at his restaurant Hare & Grace and was his head chef at 21. I left Hare & Grace to go overseas and got a job with Gordon Ramsay at a 3 star restaurant in Chelsea, then came back to Melbourne and now currently head chef at Matteo’s Restaurant.
Why do you think the Fonterra Proud to be a Chef program is such an excellent opportunity for young apprentices?
This opportunity is once in a lifetime. It is an all-expense-paid program where chefs can learn and network with like-minded chefs and industry leaders, and create bonds that will last your entire career. This program was a huge stepping-stone to where I am today.
You mentioned at the Fonterra launch, that you are the youngest chef in the kitchen at Matteo’s despite being Head Chef there. Is this a challenge?
Every day is a challenge and I think being the youngest in the kitchen is the least of my problems; the team respect me and my leadership from the experience that I have gained and learnt over the last 10 years of my cooking career. In the kitchen, age doesn’t play a role – at the end of the day, if you can do the job, that’s all that matters. This is why I strongly encourage young apprentice chefs to apply for the Fonterra Proud to be a Chef competition. The invaluable experience can help you gain confidence and demonstrate your talent at a young age.
If you could work with any chef in the world who would it be? Who are you inspired by?
Corey Lee of Benu. I would love to work here because I feel like I can relate to this chef in many ways. He’s Korean-born, living in San Francisco, worked for Thomas Keller at the French Laundry as head chef for several years and now owns his own Michelin three-star restaurant doing modern American food with Asian influence.
Finally, can you tell us who does the cooking at home?
My Girlfriend Rebekah, she is a chef as well. I fell in love with her cooking at first, then her.
Applications for the Fonterra Proud to be a Chef program are now open to all apprentice chefs across Australia, and close mid-November. For more information and to apply, visit http://www.fonterraproudtobeachef.com.au/