Tomislav Martinovic is the chef and owner behind Sydney restaurant Tomislav. His work with Heston Blumenthal is evidenced in a menu that fuses flavour with innovation, creating playful food like rice crackers that come with DIY vinegar spritzers.
Ten Questions with Tomislav Martinovic, Head Chef and Owner, Tomislav
1. When did you know you wanted to become a chef?
I decided to do food technology at high school. At one point I was put on work experience and I was working at Ashfield RSL. The head chef at the time walked out of the cool room with a bottle of cream, and literally a few minutes later it was whipped ready for a desert. I remember standing there in shock and excitement over what he had just created. It was then that I knew I wanted to be a chef, a creator.
2. What was it like working with Heston Blumenthal? What's the atmosphere like in his kitchen?
At that point I had been cooking for 8 years; It was then I realised that all the basics I had learned up until that point would go out the window and I would have to start again even with a simple act of blanching green beans. As for the kitchen atmosphere: quiet, precise, meticulous and I realized that you could produce amazing food without copious amounts of course language and aggression.
Tomislav as a child
3. What's your philosophy when it comes it food, and your restaurant Tomislav?
A few words come to mind, simple, unintimidating, approachable and surprising.
4. What inspires you? How do you come up with ideas for the dishes in your restaurant?
Growing up in Sydney and looking back, anything that is Australian gives me inspiration. Supermarket shelves with Aussie products inspire me whether it be Kraft cream cheese spread (poached yellow fin tuna); salt and vinegar chips (our rice crackers with salt and vinegar spray); or the Sara Lee cheese cake (vanilla cheese cake with rhubarb sorbet).
5. What's your favourite dish on the menu and why?
Apple Crumble - it ties in well with our philosophy: a simple dish that most mothers have made. The key is in our contemporary approach, from the sous vide apples poached for 1 hour at 70 degrees, to the extraordinarily light macadamia sponge, the salted crumble mixture and of course the popping surprise that takes me back to when I was kid. I bloody love it!
Tomislav growing up in Australia
6. Do you have any vivid or memorable food experiences that impacted on you as a child or as a young chef?
I was very fortunate as a child to be brought up in a household where my mother baked every weekend and still does to this day! You can taste the love then, and you still can today. Three individuals, my mother, grandmother and my aunty, instilled this into me. It’s in my blood. It’s who I am.
7. What do you know about, or think of food bloggers?
What I thought was just a growing trend is now a major influence on where Aussies dine out and why. It's a humbling process to meet bloggers that are truly passionate about what they do.
8. Is there a particular dish you crave when you're sick?
My mother’s braised cabbage rolls which are stuffed with pork and veal mince and braised with pork ribs. It's finished with a light tomato and paprika sauce, and served with her homemade bread.
Tomislav Martinovic and his kitchen team
9. Do you have any tips for budding chefs or restaurateurs?
Try to leave the expectations of the restaurant and your ego at the front door and just focus on the individuals on a daily basis.
10. What's your favourite movie?
Stranger Than Fiction.