Andy Evans has carved out a long, successful career at Rockpool Dining Group, beginning with his first-year apprenticeship at Rockpool on George in Sydney at the age of 19.
That was in 1994. A country boy from Berowra, Evans confesses to having cooked nothing except toasted sandwiches prior to this Rockpool days. He went from toasting sarnies at Asquith Golf Club in Mt Colah, NSW to working alongside luminary Neil Perry and chefs such as Kylie Kwong, Mike McEnearney, Amanda Gale and Kahn Danis, who have gone on to be respected names in the industry.
Evans, now Executive Chef at Spice Temple, had an epiphany of sorts when he tasted Perry’s
master-stock poached pigeon, which was wok-fried and served with braised eggplant stuffed with prawn mince. The humble bird’s moist, crisp, twice-cooked carcass was served alongside its severed head, which was doused in Sichuan salt and pepper and fresh lime juice. The bird was carved at the table. The head could be popped into the mouth in one, single, daringly-decadent bite.
Evans recalls his introduction to the dish. McEnearney passed him a pigeon head and said ‘try it’. The young apprentice did as he was told. “When a chef you know and respect gives you something to eat, you have to try it,” Evans says. “You try everything.”
This was Evans’ light-bulb moment. A chef he was meant to be.
Rockpool was a creative powerhouse for modern Australian cooking and Evans was elated to be part of it. He relished the “collaborative creativity” that saw the Perry-Rockpool team break culinary boundaries and the comradery that saw restaurant “food swaps” for staff dinner with Chef David Thompson from Sailor’s Thai along the road in The Rocks.
Evans chalked up nine years with the Rockpool team, crediting his compatriots with embedding a fierce respect for exceptional produce, innovation and creativity that continues within the Rockpool premium restaurant stable today.
After Rockpool, Evans worked at Perry’s restaurant XO in Potts Point before leaving the Rockpool fold for several years, during which time he worked at China Doll in Woolloomooloo.
In 2008, after a stint travelling through South America, he was seconded by Perry to assist with research and development for his next restaurant – Spice Temple. The pair spent several weeks in Hong Kong, Shanghai and Beijing, drawing inspiration for the new menu.
Spice Temple opened in January 2009, with Evans as Head Chef. He’s been tossing the woks and manning the chopping blocks at the Bligh Street digs ever since.
A key milestone was the opening of Spice Temple Melbourne in 2011. Evans assumed the role of Executive Chef, overseeing both restaurant kitchens.
Another milestone is Spice Temple’s 10th anniversary this year. Evans says he’s lucky to be surrounded by many chefs and team members who have been with him for eight to ten years.
“It sounds corny, but we’re like family,” he says.