2013 Jan 09 Back on His Feet: David Pooley, Chef De Cuisine at Aria
Chef Pooley doesn’t fit in the kitchen and misses his motorcycle, but he’s loving Beijing as his new home. Learn more about his brush with foot amputation and his love for motorcycles – which are not related.
Who’s your favorite David?
David Bowie. He’s a total nutcase.
What was the first thing you ever cooked?
My mum took a photo of me and my little brother making chocolate cake. We’re covered in chocolate, and I’ve got a whisk. So I think chocolate cake was the first thing I ever cooked, but I don’t think it was good. And I don’t know why I was wearing those tiny little blue shorts …
You’re fairly new to Beijing. What’s surprised you the most?
I’m shocked by how early the subway closes. It’s crap. I finish work at a normal hospitality time, but the subway’s closed. And taxis. If you find one and you’re not going to Shanghai, they don’t want to take you.
What’s the most challenging thing about being the new chef at Aria?
Everything’s low. Counters are low, exhausts are low, doors are low. I’m 6’7”, too bloody tall for Asia. I already have a few dents in my head.
What’s the worst kitchen injury you’ve experienced?
A chef and I were cleaning up and a pot of hot oil hit my leg. I nearly lost my foot. After two skin grafts, six weeks in traction, four months on crutches and two years having to wear a pressure stocking, all is OK now.
What do you do for fun?
Motorcycles are my true love outside the kitchen. I raced in Australia for a number of years and rode on the streets every day. I went back for four days last month just so I could ride my bike again.
What’s one task in the kitchen you always want to delegate?
Onions. I hate raw onion – it’s the only food I won’t eat. Barbecued onion, onion jam, I can do that, but can’t do raw onions. I’m such a princess.
What’s one task in the kitchen you always want to do yourself?
Plating – I like seeing everything come together. Playing with food and getting paid for it, how lucky is that? Man, I am a princess.
See Chef Pooley in action at Aria at the China World Hotel.
This article originally appeared on page 34 of the January issue of the Beijinger.
Photo courtesy of China World Hotel