“There’s a romance and nostalgia in cooking. That’s where I always get my inspiration from.”
Local institution the Clock is known for its food as much as its drinks list, according to head chef Fernando, who has been at the Clock for six months and is already on his third menu. Fernando combines much-loved pub classics with carefully thought out flavours and high quality local ingredients. Innovation is the motto, and Fernando achieves it by drawing inspiration from places many and varied.
Fernando’s love for the kitchen started at home as a young child. His culinary influences stem from his Chilean heritage, an Italian godfather and growing up with friends and neighbours from all over the world. “I’ve never been shy of the kitchen. When I was young I always preferred cooking with my mum, grandmother and uncle rather than be out playing soccer on a Saturday,” he tells me as we sit at a dark leather booth in the Clock’s whisky room.
Fernando joined Solotel group back in 2016, but has been working as a chef for fifteen years across various Sydney venues. He blends nostalgia and home cooking with contemporary food trends to create new takes on old favourites.
“I like to try and figure out what the customer wants before they know they want it,” says Fernando, who looks to the UK and the Unites States for the latest trends. “The UK is always six to twelve months ahead of us with food trends – you have to tread that fine line between what’s trending and what’s the next thing, otherwise you’re just copying what everyone else is doing.”
Now more than ever Fernando sees sustainability and supporting small businesses as cornerstones of running a kitchen. “Both of our meat suppliers are built to be fully sustainable, from the energy used to the wastage. And our produce is all locally sourced. A lot of people don’t realise how local all our products actually are. Solotel is a big company with a little guy mentality and I’m definitely all for that.”
“The thing I’ve learnt about the clock is that people come here to eat, and then they’ll drink. Whereas at other pubs food isn’t the main focus, here it is – and that keeps me on my toes. The customers expect good food, so I have to give it to them.”