HAVING commuted up to five hours a day to work in Sydney, Sanju Singh loves his Border tree-change.
The head chef at Kiewa Street eatery Cafe Escala since it opened in March now only has a short drive from Thurgoona.
“With delays it could take two-and-a-half hours to get to work in Sydney; a good five hours a day in total,” he said.
Indian-born Singh trained in Adelaide before he fine-tuned his craft in giant hospitality outfits in Sydney and Dubai.
He was executive chef at Panthers Penrith, Q Station Retreat at Manly and Vibe Hotel Rushcutters and worked for Crowne Plaza Dubai over 20-plus years.
“Crowne was a massive operation; we’d cater for 1500 to 2000 at a time,” he said.
Having met his Chinese-born wife Li-er in hospitality, the couple moved to the Border to raise their daughter Mia, now 6.
“The local produce is very good around here,” he said.
“The cafe sources all our meat locally, seafood fresh from Melbourne, veggies grown locally and free-range local eggs. The menu has an emphasis on Asian-fusion.”
Singh said three women had influenced his cookery.
“My mum used to make homemade yoghurt and cheese in India,” he said.
“My wife and daughter are my biggest food critics; my daughter loves getting in the kitchen at home with me.”
Gayle and Don Driver opened the revamped Cafe Escala, which caters for Albury Club.
What's your favourite dish?
Steamed fish – generally salmon – with ginger and shallot sauce.
What are the staples in your pantry?
Cooking wine, soy sauce, sugar, salt and cumin.
What is your recipe standby?
Seafood and curries. My mum used to make amazing chicken curries; what she can make I cannot replicate even with a recipe. Her chicken curry is to die for.
What's the biggest product discovery you have made in cooking?
What is your most unforgettable meal and where was it?
Tetsuya’s in Sydney. My wife and I had the 12-course degustation.
What's your best tip?
Use fresh ingredients and go with the seasons.
What's your favourite cooking utensil?
Shun chef’s knife.
What did you have for dinner last night?
What are you drinking?
Green jasmine tea
515 Kiewa Street, Albury
Phone: (02) 6021 3271
Open 6.30am-3pm Tues-Sat; 7.30am-2pm Sunday.