At 22, George Wintle has already clocked up an impressive resumé. The young-gun Victorian chef has worked in some of Australia's best restaurants, including Oakridge, the dearly departed Press Club, and Vue de Monde.
If that's not impressive enough, in 2018, Wintle launched an industry initiative called Eat The Issue – an annual fundraising event that aims to tackle the stigma associated with mental health by encouraging conversation and advocating for cultural change within the hospitality industry.
"It's a platform where we [hospitality workers] can start having frank and open conversations," explains Wintle. "Gone are the days where you grit your teeth and say 'Yes, chef' to every demand. We need to start making a more conscious effort in managing physical and mental health in the kitchen."
Wintle has recently packed up his chef's knives and migrated north to work alongside James Viles (ex-Biota) at Emirates One&Only Wolgan Valley luxury resort in the Blue Mountains. But it was his time at Oakridge in regional Victoria, under the guidance of co-executive chefs Jo Barrett and Matt Stone, which helped shaped him both personally and professionally.
"The culture they bring to that restaurant is remarkable," says Wintle. "Matt is, without a doubt, my biggest inspiration and mentor. His dedication to creating a more sustainable planet and food system is something I really admire, and ultimately want to continue."
In addition to finding new ways to minimise food waste, Wintle likes to experiment with fermentation; as seen in this rosemary syrup cake, which he usually makes with his own honey mead.
"Working so closely with the garden [at Oakridge] and learning about sustainability really helped me choose what kind of chef I want to be," says Wintle. "I think you should always cook for a purpose. My purpose is to educate diners and peers on how we can eat our way to a better future."
Below, he's shared his recipe for the rosemary syrup cake in question. "I don't have much of a sweet tooth, but I find a really good cake hard to beat," he says.. "I quite like adding savoury and earthy elements to desserts – I think it gives a bit more complexity rather than having layers and layers of sugar."
Words by Karlie Verkerk