Sydney chef Nathan Tillot reveals what Australians are hungry for this Christmas

Life in a busy restaurant The kitchen is often portrayed as a chaotic and scary place that is not for the faint of heart.

The pressure of putting dozens of restaurant-quality meals on the table every night can be too much for some. However, e.g Coogee Bay Hotel and Cruise Bar Executive Chef, Nathan Tillot, there’s no place he’d rather be on a 7pm Saturday night.

The internationally renowned veteran chef told 9Honey Kitchen that the hospitality industry has changed drastically – and for the better – since his apprenticeship nearly 30 years ago.

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Nathan Tillot is Executive Chef at the Coogee Bay Hotel and Cruise Bar. (Supplied)

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“The training today is very different from ours. It’s much nicer what’s happening now,” he jokes about his beginnings as a chef.

“The only thing is, like it was back then, you learned a lot faster. You learn so quickly not to make mistakes, but it’s not something I or my kids want to go through right now.

“The industry is much better, there are better working environments, it is much more fun. But I wouldn’t change it because I’ve learned a lot.”

After years of working behind the scenes in a commercial kitchen, 48-year-old Tillot knows how to keep a cool head during busy rush hours.

He says restaurant kitchens are “organized chaos, which is where he really thrives.

“You have to be in control because if you get out of control, everyone else will,” he says.

“It can be organized chaos. Just like we have here [at CBH], we have separate areas so it’s easy and trusted for everyone to do their jobs. There is no yelling or yelling – we are also an open kitchen!”

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Tillot says he’s learned to keep a cool head in busy times. (included)

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Tillot is an old hand at creating delicious Aussie classics across its two Sydney locations.

He has worked his way up from apprentice cook to chef over the decades and is now able to create his own menus.

“This menu was probably the most difficult menu I’ve ever had to prepare,” says Tillot of the new CBH menu.

Training today is very different from ours. It’s much nicer what’s happening now

“It’s designed to make every customer who walks in happy. You want something for someone who likes good food, or someone who walked in straight from the beach hoping for a burger.”

One surprising menu item that the Coogee Bay Hotel has quietly removed from its menu is the classic Aussie chicken parmigiana.

Tillot says “nobody noticed” when they stopped offering this pub classic.

“I expected some backlash,” he laughs.

“So far we haven’t had a single request for it. It used to be a hit in CBH’s garden department, but no one has asked for it yet. We have a nice schnitzel anyway.”

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One of his favorite items on the menu is this Fried Chicken with Salsa Verde. (included)

For Christmas, CBH’s newly renovated Mara Bar & Grill has revamped its menu and added a new selection of dishes – some with a fun twist.

One of Tillot’s favorites is the classic free-range chicken with salsa verde, as well as a whole baby trout.

Summertime is approaching and seafood is king, he says. But inflation and natural disasters have a huge impact on the products he sees in the kitchen.

“Everything’s gone up about 30 percent in price,” he admits. “It affects us because we buy the highest quality products. And once we have a menu, we need to bring those products in.

“It should calm down a bit for Christmas but we will see a lot of things change in price and there is nothing we can do about it.

“But in the last few years that we’ve had, that’s the least of our worries.”

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CBH has renovated its Marra Bar & Grill just in time for Christmas. (included)

In the wake of the COVID-19 lockdowns, Tillot has seen an increase in Australia’s appetite for fresh fish.

“It’s fascinating for us to see the numbers we’re making with it,” he adds. “And it’s great for us because we can easily make grilled fish.”

Marra Bar & Grill at Coogee Bay Hotel is now open and offers guests a mix of indoor and outdoor seating.

Starring the new menu are grilled Josper meat and fish, a gourmet willow board, rotisserie salmon salad, and burrata with focaccia.

This writer dined as a guest at the Marra Bar & Grill at the Coogee Bay Hotel

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