Kitchen spy: Shaun Presland

Shaun Presland did his chef's apprenticeship in the Army Reserve, which may have prepped him well for running  Sake restaurants in three states, but his sushi skills were learnt in more sophisticated surrounds — working in Tokyo, at Sydney's Unkai and for Nobu Matsuhisa (twice). His success belies earlier struggles. Though he has a business degree, Presland, 41, found self-employment — running a failing catering business that sold pumpkin soup to Hooters — wasn't for him. The father of two (Sebastian, 8, and Sascha, 6) lives with his girlfriend and now focuses on what he does best — sushi with a contemporary twist.

Most memorable meal

It was probably the first time I went to Tetsuya's in the late 1990s. I was working at Unkai, the sushi bar at the top of the ANA Hotel, and hearing all the hype about it from customers. I saved up and had lunch because it was cheaper than dinner. It was amazing. Everything I was expecting came true. It was the first time I'd had a preconception of how good something could be, and I wasn't let down.

I'm cooking

Last dinner at home We had a barbecue; vegetable skewers with tofu, quinoa cooked in kombu dashi, prime rib steaks for the kids and salmon for me, which I cooked sous-vide then finished on the barbie for a bit of char.

Secret vice Liquorice bullets. I limit myself to one small pack a week.

I'm drinking

If I drink coffee it's only instant, for the caffeine. I have two shakes from the jar, hot water and soy milk. I love my teas, all kinds, and I like to make my own blends. At the moment I'm mixing rose and pomegranate teas.

Saturday night tipple A cup of tea. Any time's a good time for a cup of tea.

The staples

My pantry There's always quinoa in the cupboard. It cooks faster than rice. Baked beans are a regular standby for the kids, for me. Manuka honey for pouring over Greek yoghurt. Roasted dandelion and vanilla tea, it got me sober three years ago. My fridge: I swear by kombu dashi, it's a seaweed stock and a really good vegetarian substitute for chicken stock. Medjool dates, which are my version of fun-size Mars bars. I'm eating Hopkins River beef at the moment; they're happy cows. I mix sour cream with chilli sauce (below) and put it on fish instead of tartare sauce. I got addicted to habanero chillies in the Bahamas.

My toolkit

My sous-vide machine is a whole lot easier than using a little pan on the stove to get perfect temperatures. The rice cooker has seen me through 15 years, it still has its Japanese adaptor. Global knives, I'm sold on these now. I use handmade carbon steel knives at work so I was doubtful about these but they're nice and light, thin and stay sharp for ages. There's a Mundial knife I shaved off to make one-sided in 1995.

Favourite My chopping board is nice and solid. I prefer chopping on wood to plastic.



The River Cottage programs on the LifeStyle channel; I really like Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall. The book I go to time and again is Japanese Cooking: A Simple Art by Shizuo Tsuji, which is very traditional. And I regularly refer to the kitchen handbook of Modernist Cuisine by Nathan Myhrvold, which is a condensed version of a big set with just the recipes and ratios.