Brogan St John Morton is just 23 but has a grand plan – to revolutionise “pub grub” in Newcastle.
The ambitious young chef at The Premier Hotel in Broadmeadow told Food & Wine the food scene had evolved and matured to the point that people had to think outside of the square.
“Gone are the days of just heading to the pub for a schnitzel. Don’t get me wrong, we still love a good schnitty, but you also need to change with the seasons,” he explained.
“At the Premier we are still honouring the traditional meals but with a twist, with some personality.
“More and more people are open to trying new things these days. It’s kind of exciting to anticipate what our guests will like and then putting it all together on the plate.”
Born and bred in Newcastle, St John Morton completed his schooling at Bishop Tyrrell Anglican College.
“My first memory of cooking was around the age of 10 when my grandmother said it was time for me to start learning how to look after myself – so off to the kitchen we went to cook some scrambled eggs,” he said.
“From then I cooked a lot with my mum, and every Christmas Eve we would all be in the kitchen as a family. I have such strong memories of preparing and cooking the food together.”
He was 15 when he landed his first job in a kitchen at “a tiny Korean takeaway place” and decided on a career as a chef. Apprenticeships at the Minmi Hotel and The Duke of Wellington in Lambton followed.
“I was lucky to be inspired and have some great mentors along the way,” he explained.
“My first sous chef, Belle Whipper, was a drill sergeant of precision, cleaning and kitchen etiquette. She set the bar to a level I wanted to maintain. Dean Jackson, a master of his craft, put the final touches on everything I knew. The chef I am and the passion I have today is mainly due to them.”
St John Morton’s food philosophy is based on a simple premise: “happy chef, happy food”.
“How you feel translates into the dishes you create. Food made with love and happiness always tastes better,” he said.
“I want to put the Premier on the map as a great place to eat. We have such a great local community right on our door step and I want them to come into my kitchen and feel like part of the family. This is the spot I want to make a name for myself at.”