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Top Canberra Chef: 'I just want to give back'

Published: 03 May 2017


"I've learned a lot and just want to give back," one of Australia's top chefs explained as he prepared to deliver CIT culinary students a special lesson in preparing a superb, Japanese inspired seafood dish.

NZ-born Johnon MacDonald is Executive Chef across three Canberra city restaurants - Akiba, the popular Sage and soon-to-open Kokomo. Between them the restaurants employ about seven CIT apprentices.

"I'm here to give back. I trained at tech too and found it very valuable," Johnon said. "I've been doing this for 17 years and have been lucky enough to work at some of the best restaurants in the world."

Johnon's worked with world-famous Japanese chef Masaharu Morimoto in New York, Ben Shewry, Head Chef at top Melbourne restaurant Attika and with one of Australia's best known chefs Neil Perry.

"I grew up in NZ and moved to Sydney by myself at 16 because I knew I wanted to be a chef and luckily enough as a second year apprentice I knocked at Neil Perry's door and jumped into his kitchens and it just took off from there."

For the seafood module of the CIT student's culinary course, Johnon showed them how to prepare a Thai sauce he first made 16 years ago.

"We mass produce it now because we use so much at Akiba. I'm going to show them how to break down a whole king fish and turn it into a sashimi cut. But I wanted to show them the condiments we serve with it so they have a complete dish."

Johnon's very clear that his vocational education has delivered him a brilliant career.

"I've travelled the world. Got to experience new cuisines, new cultures. It's my life, I love what I do. It's not just a job."

Across the Canberra restaurant group Johnon manages three head chefs, three sous chefs and more than 50 kitchen staff.

He's has four CIT culinary apprentices learning their trade at Akiba and another at Canberra' popular Sage restaurant. Three more are about to start work at Kokomo but Johnon's looking for one more, lucky apprentice chef.