Lulu La Delizia’s Joel Valvasori on Why Attitude is 90 per cent of the Job.

We speak to the lauded chef behind perth’s premier pasta bar about what it takes to make it in a top restaurant, no matter how experienced you are.

Skills and training are one thing, but when it comes to landing a job at one of WA’s top restaurants, a good attitude and an appetite for betterment can go just as far as a piece of paper. Lulu La Delizia chef Joel Valvasori, WA Good Food Guide Chef of the Year for 2021, breaks down what turns his head when it comes to new candidates.

When it comes to landing a gig at a top restaurant, people might think there’s a high entry barrier in terms of skills, but you’re convinced attitude can play an enormous part. Why? 

Hospitality really is a like a team sport, and attitude is such a big factor in building a great team. People with bad attitudes can hold a team back from developing, add to a greater turnover of staff or have a negative effect on the customer experience. Like with any football team, you can stack a team with well-paid players, but it doesn’t guarantee success if some of the players have bad attitudes.

Do you require all your staff to be fully trained? Or are there other pathways?

It does sound clichéd, but the kitchenhand role in a kitchen is still the best training ground and place to get a foot in the door to any restaurant. We try to hire cookery students to fill kitchenhand roles and then gradually try and work them into cooking positions.

What kind of on-the-job experiences can people expect from a place like Lulu La Delizia?

I believe well-run restaurants should be geared towards ease of service, but not at the expense of quality. Our menus at Lulu’s are very prep heavy; a lot of craft goes into our food before the customers have even arrived. Our greatest on-the-job experience is the realisation that a service doesn’t have to be hard. That you can perform a craft in a calm, well-organised manner. It just takes the right people to respect the process.

Marco Pierre White has said it takes three things to succeed at the top in this field: punctuality, discipline and focus. Would you agree? 

They’re all great attributes to have for any job. The hospitality world has changed a lot over the last 20 years and in particular the last five years. As work conditions continue to improve across the industry, it’d be nice to start seeing people seeking out good employers and showing more commitment. Sometimes the grass isn’t greener on the other side. Commitment is a strong trait.

It helps being a good student, but you don’t need a degree to practice being on time or being disciplined. How much does that factor in to what you’re looking for?

Punctuality is about respect. Being continually late really says a lot about a person. It’s not just about not being organised enough, it’s more about the lack of respect you have for the people around you. The idea that you think you and your time are more important than anyone else’s.

Any success stories in your own ranks who’ve come to you with little experience but gone on to carve out a distinguished career?

Our head chef James Higgs is in his 5th year with us. He started with us as a commis chef back in 2017 and has really grown with the business as he has progressed through the ranks. James could have left and gone anywhere through the process, but he showed commitment and growth and was rewarded every step of the way. James is now the leader of our kitchen team and he epitomises the Lulu’s attitude to excellence.

What advice would you give to young people, or people making a change in their lives, wanting to start a career in hospitality?

I don’t think there has ever been a better time to start in hospitality in Australia. The opportunities are countless, conditions and pay have improved considerably, and the quality of our restaurant scene is world-class.