Meet the chef: Jaclyn Koludrovic
The Dolphin Hotel has been a big hit since it’s renovation and reopening last year. Restaurateur Maurice Terzini has done a great job with rebranding this iconic venue and celebrating its heritage. Together with an all-star team of hospitality professionals, they have taken the Sydney scene by storm and have already won some significant awards.
When we visit the venue on a sunny Friday afternoon, the long lunchers are still lingering at their tables in the dining room, and the wine bar is starting to fill up with the first after-workers, who have snuck out for an Aperol spritz in the Sydney sun.
We make our way to the courtyard out the back to sit down with Head Pastry Chef Jaclyn Koludrovic. Jaclyn belongs to the Icebergs team that have been part of the opening of the Dolphin and is now dividing her time between the two kitchens. She has worked with some amazing chefs here in Australia, and we were interested in discussing what skills she thinks are crucial when becoming a successful pastry chef.
Jaclyn comes across as strong, determined, yet very relaxed and easy going. You can sense the fire glowing inside, a fire of perfection, persistence and passion. But this has not always been the case. Jaclyn tells us how, when she was half way through her first apprenticeship, she decided that working as a chef was not for her and stepped away from the kitchen.
“All my friends were at Uni and not working weekends; I felt I was missing out.”
Instead, she ended up spending the next couple of years behind and in front of various Sydney bars.
It was not until she reached her early 20’s that she started to consider giving the kitchen another go.
“I had this idea that I wanted to become a flight attendant, I though that would be a great job, but I’m glad that didn’t work out as I’m not very good with people”, she says laughing. “I had an interview with Virgin Airlines in Brisbane one morning, and that same afternoon I had an interview for an apprenticeship in a pub in Paddington.
“I told myself that at the end of that day I would decide on one or the other, ‘No more messing around!’ I didn’t get the Virgin job, so I started my apprenticeship again and loved it.”
When asked what she thought made her ready to commit to the kitchen this time around, she simply answers.
“For me it was age, I’m pretty young at heart, so it took me a while to decide what I wanted to do and I decided that if I wanted to be successful, I had to give it a go.”
Jaclyn originally comes from the Island of Lord Howe, a small island in the Tasman Sea outside of Port Macquarie. She left home at the age of 12 to attend a boarding school in Sydney, and this has been home ever since.
When re-entering her apprenticeship, she worked under head chef Emma Woods at the Lightbrigade in Paddington. Emma came straight out of Rockpool and was very produce driven and passionate, which spurred Jaclyn on to work hard. After a couple of years there, she went on to work for Damien Pignolet at Bistro Moncur, during its heyday in the early 2000’s – a time Jaclyn remembers fondly.
“Damien is such a passionate and flamboyant man, and his passion rubs off on anyone that comes close.”
Three years in at Bistro Moncur, Jaclyn felt it was time to expand her horizons and went to Melbourne for 18 months to work for Phillipa Sibley. Phillipa has earned the reputation as one of Australia’s finest dessert chefs. During the late 90’s she had successfully opened three 3-Hatted restaurants in Melbourne; Est Est Est, Luxe and Ondine.
This time was a true eye opener for Jaclyn, and Phillipa’s passion for seasonal, sustainable ingredients from local producers is reflected in Jaclyn’s cooking today. “That’s where I decided that pastry is what I wanted to do.”
Working with desserts has had a bit of a bad rep in the hospitality industry. A lot of chefs get to know all sections in the kitchen except pastry. We asked Jaclyn why she thinks this is?
“It’s very technical, although in saying that, I’m not a very technical person, so I don’t know why I like it.
“Working with pastry is very precise, and if you make a mistake, it’s a big mistake. But I think it should be fun and not taken to seriously.”
Jaclyn picked up a lot of techniques in Melbourne and Phillipa gave her the confidence to step out of the apprenticeship role and call herself a chef. Upon her return to Sydney, Jaclyn applied for a pastry chef position at Becasséand got the job.
“This was my first job as a ‘real’ pastry chef, and it took me a while to get my head above water, but Justin (North) and James (Metcalfe) were amazing, and obliviously this is where I met my husband, Monty (Koludrovic).”
At Becassé, Jaclyn got a lot of creative freedom and found herself embracing the produce-driven path that she was exposed to during her apprenticeship years. She focused on fresh seasonal ingredients, something that has become the cornerstones of her cooking, today they don’t use frozen berries, coulis or anything pre-made at either Icebergs or The Dolphin, “It’s all natural which means that we have to stay creative and flexible every day.”
To be a pastry chef, one needs to be precise, patient and organised, but what does Jaclyn thinks makes or breaks a good pastry chef?
“You need to listen and be switched on, and accept that someone might do things differently than what you have learnt, you should be open to different techniques. When I trial someone, I look for hunger to learn, someone who is observant, asks questions and can mimic how we work, soaking it all up like a sponge.”
What advice would you give to young chefs or apprentices that are in limbo and are not sure on whether they want to commit to the industry or not?
“Finish your apprenticeship, follow it through. You need to be happy with what you do; it will take up so much of your time. Do your research and seek out chefs and restaurants that you like and try to get in there. “Before you apply for a job make sure that what they do interests you, it’s a huge commitment for both employees and employers when we take people on. We give them so much of ourselves and let them into our techniques and passion and give them so much training. We want them to be interested and passionate about what we are teaching them.
“At Iceberg’s we strive to look after our staff, we know that people have a life outside of work and try to be flexible with work hours knowing that if we are flexible with them, they will be flexible with us.”
If you haven’t already tried Jaclyn’s Tiramisu at Icebergs, make sure you book now; it will take you on a journey of flavours and textures. You can tell that Jaclyn’s goal is to put a smile on your face as you finish your meal and to give you a memorable dining experience.