Meet Tom Walton
Date Posted:1 August 2018
Tell us a bit about yourself - I'm a 33 year old father, partner, chef, business owner, health and fitness enthusiast currently living at Bondi Beach. I grew up in the Blue Mountains with a Lebanese lady as my neighbour and acting grandmother for 21 years. This influence has rubbed off on my style of cooking, as I often lean towards these Middle Eastern accents combined with my classic French training and my own personal style of less fuss, more flavour plant driven food.
Tell us about your road to becoming a chef / restaurateur - I left school early at 17 to begin working in the industry. I won't lie - it was hard and there were often times when I was wondering what I was doing. The food and kitchen part I loved but I was still living in the Blue Mountains and commuted to Sydney on the train every day. It was a challenge but it was the excitement of the kitchen that kept me coming back.
I quickly worked out where I wanted to head and created my own style and food. I got involved in cookery competitions where I managed to make it to a world stage and came third in the world in that competition against 24 countries. After working throughout Sydney, I was just not interested in being a chef - I wanted to reach and inspire a wider audience through multiple platforms and still have time for family and a balanced lifestyle. I needed to take the next step so I went into business with partners to open The Bucketlist at Bondi Beach. From there, I've created numerous other venues and a muesli brand, Dux Nutts. I also consult with other brands and venues.
What's your food philosophy and why? While I'm not completely vegan (yet), I do cook and eat around 80% plant based for a multiple of reasons. I find it a much more exciting way to cook and eat when the veggies are done right. Simple but cooked, or not cooked, is the best way to bring out the flavours nd textures. Nutritionally, I love a plant based diet and have never felt better. Also, financially, eating plant based is very affordable.
I love to cook and eat quite simply. Less fuss, maximum flavour and nutrition. I like to prepare food with minimal intervention and gt the best out of it. Food should be fun for the diner and the cook. I've moved away from the somtimes strict rules around food that are placed on the industry which has allowed me much more freedom creatively and the results are fantastic.
How does this philosophy translate into your overall lifestyle? I think it goes hand in hand in terms of overall health with food having such a direct effect on us mentally, physically and emotionally. It also needs to be fun.
I try to simplify my lifestyle as much as possible. Sometimes this doesn't happen but with multiple business and a young family, I try to push away the fuss and drama and keep things simple, active and enjoyable. I never get it completely right but you can't beat yourself up about it - just be accountable to yourself and grow and learn.
What does a typical day look like for you? I'm up early around 5.30 or 6am with my youngest son. I then get my kids breakfast and I'm out the door by 7 most days where I try to get some sort of exercise in to clear the head, get things moving and manage stress. I find I'm most creative in the mornings so this is a really important time of the day for me.
I'm in one of my businesses each day depending on staffing levels and priorities. I need to be organised to be able to balance everything. I try to make some time to stop and just be. Often, it's during this time I problem solve as I'm giving myself the space to connect to various challenges.
What's your favourite thing to cook? I don't have just one and it changes all the time. I cook mainly plant based at home. I love whole cauliflowers and eggplants topped with braised greens, tahini and herb dressings. I'm also cooking a lot of flat breads at the moment.
Death row meal? Vitello tonnato with crusty bread and a bottle of red. I love this dish but I don't eat it often! Vitello tonnato is an Italian dish of cold, sliced veal covered with a creamy, mayonnaise-like sauce that has been flavored with tuna.
How do you find balance in life? When I find it, i'll let you know! I think I've come to the realisation that you'll never find perfect balance but you need to prioritise and be flexible. I try and worry less, let things go and remember that most things I think are important or others tell me are important, really aren't. Having a great partner and family helps as well as giving myself enough time to relax and decompress.
How do you ensure your kids eat healthy nutritious food? We eat this way as our kids are our biggest influence. We don't really keep sweets or sweet drinks in the house or in their lunch boxes. We cook everyday and they want to join in so they have that connection with real food, vegetables and where and how food is grown and prepared.
Favourite holiday destination? I loved Barcelona and would love to go back. Warm weather, great food, people, amazing architecture and a great place to run in the mornings and afternoons.
Why do you love hemp foods? I love the nutritional benefits, their versatility and ease of use. I can work them into so many recipes from sprinkling seeds onto a salad of through yoghurt, to dressing a salad in hemp oil, or using the flour in breads, biscuits and smoothies.
What's your favourite hemp recipe? I love using hemp in flatbreads, pesto and in my peanut butter fudge.
Five words to describe you - Stubborn, driven, obsessive, kind, creative
Summer or winter? Summer. I love the outdoors and running, swimming and exploring. I love thw warmth and also the Summer produce.
Sweet or savoury? Savoury and sour. Growing up with a Lebanese influence, sour is something I crave and creates such excitement for me in food when used well.
City or country? Used to be city but now shifting more and more to country and coast.
Five dinner party guests, dead or alive? - Just 5? That's hard! To be honest, with so many things going on I don't see as much of my close friends and family who are all spread out now, so I'd invite them over and spend an evening of the best food, wine and conversation.
Follow Tom @cheftomwalton