Interview Joe Pavlovich Executive Chef, The Mangan Group

Joe Pavlovich is Executive Chef of Luke Mangan’s restaurant group. Joe is also a proud father of three young children, leaving no time for anything else.

The Mangan Group includes the ‘Salt’ restaurants in Japan, Jakarta, Bali, Surfers Paradise, Singapore and Tokyo. There is of course the iconic Glass in Sydney’s Hilton Hotel as well as the P&O Cruise liner partnership.

Throw in the fact that the Group continues to be cautiously expansive (the Mangan Group will operate all F&B outlets in the highly anticipated Amilla Fushi Resort) and you understand that Joe’s skill sets go well beyond being a chef.

BISTRO: Can you give us a brief run down on your journey so far

Joe Pavlovich: I was born in New Zealand and trained there. I started at one of NZ’s top fine dining restaurants then came to Australia in 1997 and joined Serge Dansereau at Kables. After three years I went to work as Chef de Partie at Est. In 2001 I joined Luke Mangan’s Bistro LuLu as Sous Chef and worked my way to Head Chef. When Luke opened Glass I went there as Head Chef.

BISTRO: Can you give us a run down on the components of your job?

Joe Pavlovich: I am responsible for staff hiring at the higher level ( Head Chefs, Sous chefs, managers), menu planning, training programmes, food costings and ‘keeping it together’ for all our restaurants in terms of staff moral, attitude and a culture. No matter where our venue is we want our clientele to feel they are in a Mangan establishment.

BISTRO: The job you have is very diverse and is just as much about people and business management as it is about cooking. How did you acquire the skills to be able to do this job?

Joe Pavlovich: When I started with Luke we had only one restaurant and we steadily grew from there. The growth has been over time and carefully planned so I had time to grow into it as we went forward. As the Group got larger my skill set got broader.

BISTRO: You received your formal training in New Zealand. How does it differ from the training programmes in Australia?

Joe Pavlovich: In New Zealand it is far more intense. For the first six months it is full time course. For the next twelve to eighteen months you enter the work force and then do another six to eight months intensive course to become fully qualified.

BISTRO: Who has been your greatest influence?

Joe Pavlovich: In your journey in this business you are influenced by people along the way. Business wise it would have to be Luke, cooking wise from different people, not just one person.

BISTRO: What training do you provide your staff?

Joe Pavlovich: Most of our Managers, Head Chefs and Sous chefs come through Glass.

Through Glass they get taught mine & Luke’s style of food first, then we start to teach them the business side of things, ordering, food cost, staff control, liaising with business partners, and supplier relationship. Maintaining a leave of professionalism while controlling the kitchen and talking and dealing with situations regarding staff and patrons.)

BISTRO: You have worked at Kables in the old Regent Hotel Sydney and now Glass at the Hilton. What are the skills you obtain working at a Hotel/Restaurant as opposed to a standard restaurant?

Joe Pavlovich: We position Glass as a restaurant away from a hotel. Kables was positioned in a similar way. In fact Kables was probably the first restaurant within a five star hotel to position itself separately. Kables in many ways led the way in this regard. So I wouldn’t say that Glass is a ‘hotel restaurant’ at all. When we came in here Luke made it clear that the restaurant had to be seen separate to the hotel for the obvious commercial reasons. So there really aren’t that many differences. We have to undergo the Hotel training HACCP programme. That’s the biggest difference along with a small amount of structure.

BISTRO: What are the big challenges in being Executive Chef of restaurants in different countries?

Joe Pavlovich: Different cultures will dictate a different way of managing staff. In Asia staff don’t cope with the loud, verbose, aggressive type of management you sometimes see in Australian kitchens. You have to be put your expectations to them in a more quieter and direct way. Remember that a lot of the social issues you see in young people in Australia don’t exist in Asia. Most don’t drink, there are no drugs and young people don’t go out all night and turn up next day with a hangover. So a lot of the performance problems we see in Australia just don’t happen in Asia. On a micro level you need to understand that people are different no matter what country you are in. So it’s also about knowing the individual and pushing the appropriate button.

BISTRO: You run the Salt Restaurant on the P&O Cruise Liners. How does this differ from the rest of the restaurants?

Joe Pavlovich: Guests on a P&O are different from our clientele at say Glass. They are typically working class families and older generation and save during the year looking for a value holiday. Cruises provide this. At Salt P&O we provide a really good value three-course meal for $45 plus wine. Cruises go for two to twenty five days. For safety reasons all our meat and seafood is supplied from Australia. Fruit and vegetables are also supplied out of Sydney with a small top up from the islands.

So in answer to your question smart planning is essential. Obviously with seafood we use frozen product after about day two for safety reasons. We can’t avoid this, we won’t / cant ‘top up’ meat or seafood outside Australia. Having said that we all know you can get great frozen fish products these days.

BISTRO: On the subject of supply where do you source produce from for your overseas restaurants?

Joe Pavlovich: All our meat is sourced from Australia. Most of our fish come from Australia also. We do source some produce and other products locally or from Europe. In Tokyo we get our vegetables entirely from Japan. It’s a bit expensive but not over the top.

The big challenge is Bali. The local producers aren’t much to write home about. We took over an existing restaurant to establish Salt Bali. Before we opened I went on an extensive tour of the suppliers. I got rid of most of them. Safety, quality and handling were well below par so we now bring everything in from Singapore of which the produce comes from all over the world.

BISTRO: In 2012 you won the AHA’s Tourism Accommodation Australia Awards of Excellence Chef of the Year. How does that change things in terms of market value?

Joe Pavlovich: I wouldn’t know. I’ve never had to test it!