The Pilu Kitchen Perspective
Whether you’re the head chef leading the team, or the sous chef by his side, being part of the Pilu kitchen family makes coming to work a pleasure.
I started at Pilu the day after I arrived in Sydney,” says Sardinian-born Head Chef Federico Porceddu.
With his 30th birthday looming, Frederico applied for a working holiday visa to Australia. “I knew it was my last chance, so I started researching and sending CVs to restaurants.” Having enjoyed his early career working in two and three Michelin-star restaurants across Europe, including for Giorgio Locatelli, Frederico set his sights on two and three-hat restaurants in Sydney and Melbourne.
“I sent my CV to Quay, Sepia, and to Pilu, which appealed to me being Sardinian,” he explains. “Ten minutes after hitting ‘send’ I had an email from Giovanni Pilu, it said: ‘Call me when you arrive’, from then on, I didn’t even consider another restaurant.”
Yellowfin tuna alla carlofortina; Semifreddo al torronicino, pistacho cake and yuzu sorbet
Having landed at Sydney airport, Frederico took the train to Circular Quay, dragging himself and his bags down the escalators to the water’s edge. “I took ferry no.3 to Manly,” he remembers. “The ferry ride was incredible, like another world, and I remember getting off the boat, walking up the ramp with all my gear at Manly and thinking, ‘What do I do now?’
I had no mobile credit so I found a pay phone and called Giovanni. ‘Hi it’s Frederico, I’m here, when do you want to come to the restaurant?’” he remembers. “‘Come tomorrow, 9am’ was the answer, so I found myself a hostel, went to sleep and got myself to Freshwater the next day.”
He attributes his time at Pilu as having made him not just a better chef, but a better person. “Coming from 2 and 3 Michelin-star restaurants, you start developing a big ego,” he says.
“Your mentality every day when you walk in the kitchen is ‘all about me’, about showing off what you can do,” he explains. “I realised pretty quickly that if I wanted to be a Head Chef at Pilu, this was the wrong way to go about things. No one would listen to or follow me,” he says. “Giovanni does not behave that way, there is no ego. He taught me that I needed to park the ego in order to be a leader. The most important lesson I’ve learned from him is, ‘park it’!”
You are a part of a family, everyone is motivated for the same outcome, and that's not a feeling I have had in any other restaurant
Frederico now leads 20 staff at Pilu. “It’s not easy to be a good leader. It takes time to learn,” he says.
“Once I realised I need to lead by example, that humility is important, it became much easier,” he continues. “Every chef is different, each is an individual and you need to speak to them and treat them as an individual. The goal is always to work together to do the best for the business, but you also need to try to do the best for each person in that kitchen, and to lead while being one of them.”
A refreshing contrast
This is contrary to his experience in Michelin-star kitchens in Europe. “It was amazing to be surrounded by new techniques and creativity, but the environment was brutal, it was so competitive, a battleground every single day and I never felt positive going to work,” he says. “At Pilu, the whole team is positive. They all help each other and are respectful of each other, the strength of the team comes from everyone respecting each other. I’ve come to understand that if there is no respect, there is no team.”
Frederico’s initial plan was to stay in Australia for a year, then head back to Europe, but a year at Pilu and living on Sydney’s Northern Beaches changed that. “The lifestyle and the geography remind me of Sardinia,” he says. “Freshwater and the coast really feel like home.” But the most important factor in his decision to settle in Sydney was the sense of family at Pilu.
“Giovanni and Marilyn are very generous individuals and restaurateurs,” he says. “They have given me, and all the staff a lot of responsibility and that starts you thinking, suddenly, you’re not just an employee, instead, every day you feel like you are doing something to make the business better.”
“That trust from an employer is rare, suddenly you are part of a family, everyone is motivated for the same outcome, and that’s not a feeling I have had in any other restaurant.”
Murray cod, pencil leeks, shimeji mushrooms, chives & Vernaccia; Culurgiones of potato, black truffle and pecorino with Jerusalem artichokes
It’s a feeling shared by all of the staff, says 24-year-old Sous Chef, Luke Papalia. Born in Freshwater to a Calabrese family, Luke was aged 21 years when he started at Pilu.
“All of my colleagues are emotionally connected to their jobs,” he says. “The crew works like a family,” an environment he attributes to Giovanni and Marilyn’s work ethic and style.
“Growing up in the area, I had always known of the restaurant,” says Luke. “Giovanni arrived in Australia bringing his heritage and little to no English, and he and Marilyn have built an amazing business, not in the city, but here on
the Northern Beaches,” he continues.
“They are remarkable people, they treat everyone like family, not colleagues. “Every time I come to work, I feel like I’m coming home.”