Italian born Matteo Zamboni has had an impressive career including the opening of his own restaurant Zambo previously located in Surry Hills, and prior to that, working as Head Chef at 2 Hatted Pilu in Freshwater, and 2 Hatted Ormeggio, amongst other experiences at Michelin starred restaurants in Italy.
Over our 90 years of operation, Jonah’s has won many awards for both the dining and wine list offering. With Zamboni at the helm since 2017, we have continued to uphold these high standards- retaining the Good Food Guide hat, winning Best Formal Contemporary Australian Restaurant and Best Tourism Restaurant at the Restaurant & Catering awards, and many more.
Find out more about Matteo, what lead him to Jonah’s, and what his plans are for the future:
1. What lead you to Sydney?
Since I was young I always wanted to go to Australia, USA, and Japan. I had visited the US and Japan already so Australia was next on my list. I moved to Sydney at the end of 2009 planning to stay for a year and I’m still here 10 years later. I fell in love with the culture, nature, easy going lifestyle and the restaurant scene of Sydney.
2. How does your Italian background influence your dishes today?
Italian food and the Italian style of cooking has been instilled in me. Even though Jonah’s is a more contemporary Australian style restaurant, there’s a lot of Italian influence that is intrinsic to my cooking.
3. What is the best part about working at a destination restaurant such as Jonah’s at Whale Beach?
The best part about working at Jonah’s is cooking for a variety of people. Whether they are regulars who live locally, international travellers, couples getting married, or guests celebrating special milestone occasions, there is always something different happening in our dining room. I feel lucky to be able to play a part in their special moments.
4. What dish from the Jonah’s menu would you recommend to a new visitor?
For someone who is new to Jonah’s I would recommend the ‘Frutti di Mare’ seafood platter for two. It’s our signature dish and is served on a three tiered timber and slate stand, showcasing Australia’s finest seafood. I think this dish is a good reflection of our food philosophy.
5. Do you have a favourite ingredient right now?
In Australia we are fortunate to have access to so much amazing produce. One of my favourite ingredients to work with is Chris Bolton’s wild caught fish. Bolton has recently been recognised for his excellence in fishing in the 2019 delicious. Harvey Norman Produce Awards. I like that Bolton’s emphasis is not on catching the most, but always supplying the freshest and best quality fish, while still fishing responsibly and respecting the environment.
6. Where do you see the future of the Jonah’s menu heading?
I think as long as we maintain our high standard for overall quality by sourcing the best possible produce, it will continue to be the winning formula for us.
7. What does it take to create a strong team in the kitchen?
It’s important to be a fair leader and provide clear instruction on what your vision is, without imposing your ego. Once you gain their trust, people will want to work to help you achieve your ultimate goal. I’m lucky to have such a great team around me and everything we achieve at Jonah’s is a credit to our team effort.
8. What might we catch you doing in your free time when you’re not in the kitchen?
Of course in my free time I love hanging out with my son but I also try to go surfing. When I first came to Australia I was taken surfing with a friend and almost drowned! With time it became one of my favourite things to do so I try to go out at Freshie when I can.
More recently I have discovered a whole new world in making cocktails at home. There’s a lot about mixology that is similar to the way chefs create dishes so I’m trying to explore this and learn more about the different combinations.
9. If you could have one last meal on earth, what would it be?
Sea Urchin. During my first trip to Japan I discovered this amazing ingredient from the Northern island of Hokkaido. The sea urchins there are very different to the ones you get in the Mediterranean. I’ve been dreaming of them ever since and every time I go back to japan I eat them with fresh bread and butter. For an Australian alternative you can get something similar from Tasmania.
10. Did you ever have dreams of doing something else before you became a chef?
I love sports and being Italian obviously I am passionate about soccer and a Juventus fan. I was never a very good player but before I wanted to become a chef I considered being a sports journalist.