Cam Tay-Yap: 30 Under 30

Published on 15 June 2022

Photo: Cam Tay-Yap (photo: Clint Peloso).

Cam Tay-Yap found his way into the hospitality industry straight out of high school, after being given the choice of going to law school or cooking. 

After starting at Attica at 17 years old he stayed there for over four years. Using the yearly Christmas holiday to travel and stage around the world, he finally left Attica to travel but found himself back in Melbourne after eating his way through his savings. Eventually, he found his way into Amaru, and under the guidance of Clinton McIver, is now head chef, leading the team to create a dining experience that is seasonal, sustainable, unique and most importantly, delicious. 

Hi my name is Cameron Tay-Yap.

Currently I am the head chef at Amaru restaurant.

Before Amaru I spent most of my time at Attica under Ben Shewry and Matt Boyle. I spent four-and-a-half years there before returning in lockdown to assist with the takeaway for almost six months. After travelling around Europe and running out of money, I found myself at Omnia Bistro & Bar where I assisted in opening the venue.

I have been cooking for eight years with the majority of that time in Victoria, with little stints and stages around the world.

What I am really passionate about in food is sustainable, local and seasonal produce. Flavour is always the main focus with everything else falling into place around it. Wasting food is a huge problem and finding creative solutions in eliminating wastage in the restaurant is a benefit to all. From making cooks think more creatively, finding new methods of preserving and repurposing allows for a larger bank of flavours, it is better for the environment and also from a business standpoint it eliminates wastage. Finding local and seasonal produce is also key. I find that everything just tastes and works better the less it has to travel.

With this in mind, I like to make things like misos, ferments and different preserves. So trying to use fruit and vegetable scraps to make different vinegars or using leftover bread to make sourdough misos and kojis. I’ve also recently found more pride and joy in delving into my cultural heritage of being born in Malaysia. I’ve been playing off flavours that I can remember like using crab innards to make sambal, or making coconut and pandan tarts – a play on a kueh lapis.

At the 30 under 30 I will be making a dish of squid and chestnuts: a large bowl of squid and root vegetable noodles, very lightly cooked and then tossed through a sauce of fermented chestnut miso and koji. The sauce will be nice and creamy, almost making the noodles look like a carbonara. Finally, covering the bowl will be a large cracker made from chestnut miso, squid innards and starch to form a squid shape. It’ll leave the guests with no choice but to smash the cracker to get to the noodles.

The person I’m most looking forward to working with at 30 Under 30 isZackary Furst. I first met Zack when I was 17 and just starting at Attica. I only managed to work with him briefly, but I have always been inspired by him and what he’s achieved at such a young age. I’ve eaten at Bar Liberty a few times since he has taken charge and have always enjoyed my time there. I’ve always been a fan of his bold, yet refined flavours and plates.

At the moment what I really enjoy eating in Victoria is Hector’s Deli’s tuna melt. Dom is also someone I worked with right at the beginning of my time at Attica and their sangas are just so delicious. Simple as that. Nothing too complicated, just delicious sandwiches. With their new location in South Melbourne it’s the perfect market snack.

What I would like to see in the next 30 years in our industry is sustainable practices becoming more standard practice. There needs to be more kitchens and restaurants adopting this approach in order for the future of food and agriculture to be positive.

Catch Cam Tay-Yap at the 30 Under 30 Gala dinner on Thursday 28 July and at the 30 Under 30 dinner at Matilda 159 on 2 Tuesday August; follow his further adventures at  @cam_taysty

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