By CASEY NEILL
SPRINGVALE caterer Glenn Coleman has cooked for Madonna, learnt from Michelin Star chefs – and turned down Jamie Oliver.
The 31-year-old counts Dancing with the Stars, The Footy Show and MasterChef among his clients, and it all started with his mum.
“From a little boy I always wanted to be a chef. Baking at home with my mother was always a passionate thing,” he said.
“I worked in a local restaurant when I was 14 and nine months, begged to leave school and become a chef.
“I worked in the school holidays, worked three or four nights a week during school.
“The day I left school was the day that I started my apprenticeship.”
That was at Crown Casino where he spent a year learning the ropes at the various restaurants.
Mr Coleman took a job with another Melbourne chef then headed to London where he worked in a Michelin Star restaurant and cooked for then-Prime Minister Tony Blair and pop star Madonna.
“I was just a kid. I was only 19 and 20,” he said.
“I can’t believe I was cooking Madonna’s dinner.
“I’ll never forget the dish. It was an Italian cheese called borata and it was just cheese with tomatoes.”
He moved to Ransome’s Dock under former Michelin Star chef Martin Lam.
“I learnt all my cooking and expertise in that restaurant,” he said.
Mr Coleman came home to Melbourne and worked in Jamie Oliver’s restaurant – for a day.
“Until I realised that his food wasn’t up to my standard,” he said.
“That was very disappointing and they were asking for far too many hours for what they wanted to achieve. That was a big learning curve.”
His catering company Going Gourmet all started with a simple request for canapes from a former employer.
Mr Coleman agreed to make one or two products in their kitchen on his day off.
“Then it was three products, then it was four, then it was five… ” he said.
“I ended up using the kitchen two days a week, and then three days a week, and then I’ve got people asking me to do weddings and stuff on the side.”
He was making 8000 canapes a week.
“I’d work a lot of late nights, juggling a full time job managing the Royal Brighton Yacht Club,” he said.
“Every single opportunity was there and I decided to take those opportunities and just really push the boundaries.”
Wallara provided him with a unique opportunity in January last year at Sages Cottage in Baxter.
The Dandenong-based adult disability services provider offered him a lease at the 145-year-old property and he saw an opportunity with an old tool shed, which he has since restored.
“We’re booked out this year,” he said.
“We’re struggling for any free bookings for early next year already.
“Wallara profit immensely out of that. They take a percentage of our takings.
“I think in November alone there was about $7000 for Wallara given back above and beyond our lease, and December likewise.
“There’s no use in being successful and making money if you’re not doing the right thing by the community, so that’s a big focus.”
Wallara also linked Going Gourmet with mental health organisation MadCap whose production kitchen in Frankston was running at a loss.
It supplied cafes where people with mental health issues receive training and help to get back on track.
“They couldn’t keep up with demand and the quality wasn’t there,” Mr Coleman said.
“We pulled their menu apart and worked out what’s profitable and what’s not.”
Five months on, MadCap was profitable and sustainable.
“Now the structure’s there for growth,” he said.