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Meet: Chef Adam Woodfield of Coca Chu

Meet: Chef Adam Woodfield of Coca Chu

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The dining experience at coca chu is casual and sociable, the cuisine is modern Southeast Asian influenced. The dishes are designed to be shared, and each dish offers contrasting flavours of hot, sweet, sour and salty, resulting in a balance of textures, flavours and aromas.

By Christina Soong-Kroeger

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I recently travelled to Hamilton Island in the Whitsundays for Audi Hamilton Island Race Week, Australia’s largest offshore yachting regatta. On the first night I dined at coca chu, the island’s newest restaurant specialising in South East Asian cuisine. The food was fantastic that night — not one dish fell flat — and I wanted to learn more. So without further ado, I’d like to introduce you to cocau chu’s head chef, Adam Woodfield.

Adam, what inspired your interest in food and cooking?

My Mother and Father were both very good chefs; my mother cooks amazing Italian, so they inspired me from a young age.

Being able to travel to many countries also played a major role in my cooking. Before my wife and I had children we were traveling nearly every six months somewhere overseas. The people you meet on your travels can really inspire you, and a lot of my dishes come from small villages that we had a meal at or in the big cities just eating on the side of a street from a lady banging out the same dish for many decades.  

The other thing that inspires me and is very close to me is the people that work in kitchens; they are a different breed of people full of love and passion. I love the working environment of a kitchen; you have to give it your all or you will never last. I love how loud it is. I love the people screaming at each other when they are just walking through the line or during service to get them moving faster, and the bad language that is as normal as saying please and thank you.  As a teenager I always wanted to be one of those people.

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Where did you do your training and where did you work previously?

I started my apprenticeship in 1996 at William Angliss in Melbourne; during that time I worked at Stokehouse, Est Est Est, Il fornaio, and Marchetti’s Latin. After my apprenticeship I traveled to Scotland and England, where I worked as a Jr Sous chef in Bank Restaurant London and also did a stint in Scotland in the Highlands in a small town called Pitlocry. I also work as a Jr Sous Chef there in a British Trust Hotel, before returning home to Melbourne where I worked in my first Asian kitchen called Prodigy. After two years there I moved to Sydney to work as a CDP at Jimmy Liks, where after six months I was promoted to Head Chef and held that role for six years. After Jimmy Liks I moved to NYC where I was Chef De Cuisine at Public Restaurant for two years, and after that I open up my own restaurant in the West Village called Betel.

What is your cooking philosophy?

When it comes to cooking a cuisine from a certain region, I believe you should try and keep true to its origin. Use the freshest, local ingredients and never follow trends.

coca chu_steamed pearl balls w sriracha & soy

What are some of your favourite dishes on the current coca chu menu?

I love the Lobster betel leaves, they are packed full of flavor, from the freshness of the lime leaf & saw-tooth coriander to the nuttiness of the betel leaf and the fleshly poached lobster that completes the dish.

I also can’t go past the aromatic curry of beef cheek with potato; this is a dish that you can’t stop eating. It has an array of wonderful flavors of spices such as mace, fennel seeds, cumin seeds & cardamom. The cheeks have been braised in the coconut broth for 3-4 hours, so it is very tender & you eat this dish with pickled wombok that lifts the dish with its sweet and sourness.

Do you have any fave Australian restaurants you’d like to share?

See Also

It has been some time since I lived in Australia, but in Melbourne I love going to Golden Fields. I think it is a beautiful restaurant to look at and I really enjoy Andrew McConnell’s take on Shanghai cuisine. David’s in South Yarra for Yum Cha is always a must on a Sunday morning and Attica to really treat yourself to something unique.

In Sydney, I really enjoy the energy at Mr Wong and Porteno; I love the atmosphere at both these establishments and the food is something else. I always enjoy going to Longrain, they really have the formula for success down pat.

coca chu_chicken & crab salad, chilli peanuts, lime leaf & caramelised nahm jim

What do you like to eat on your days off?

Anything that’s not Asian; I love Italian and I’m a sucker for French cuisine.

How would you describe the coca chu experience for someone who has never visited?

The dining experience at coca chu is casual and sociable, the cuisine is modern Southeast Asian influenced. The dishes are designed to be shared, and each dish offers contrasting flavours of hot, sweet, sour and salty, resulting in a balance of textures, flavours and aromas.

coca chu
Hamilton Island, Whitsundays
Opening Hours: Monday – Saturday from 5.30pm till late; Sunday – Yum Cha from 11am till 3pm
Tel +61 7 4946 8580

Christina Soong-Kroeger visited Hamilton Island as a guest of the island. 

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