Kitchen Spy: Chef Martin Heierling

German-born, New Zealand-raised Martin Heierling became a chef so he could combine his love of food with his hankering for travel.  It worked. He's cooked widely in Europe and the US and taken his skills to sea on the Saudi-owned superyacht Lady Moura. Michelin stars twinkle among his many honours but when he comes home to Sydney, he likes simple food, loads of vegetables and gutsy, chilli-charged flavours. He was recently appointed group culinary director with the Urban Purveyor Group.

The staples

My pantry: We always have all sorts of chillies, especially chipotle chilli in adobo sauce. My wife, who's from southern Arizona, always makes me a soupy stew called posole with it when I return from a work trip. Cholula Hot Sauce you can have with eggs for breakfast, with hollandaise – it goes with anything. Old Bay seasoning has become so fashionable and is great on fries, in dressings and dips. I like Squid brand fish sauce because it's gutsy, with a great depth of flavour. I use Jarrow Formulas coconut oil, but only for Asian cooking – the flavour's too strong with anything else. We eat a lot of vinegars for seasoning and balancing flavours. The A L'Olivier raspberry vinegar is great with shaved red cabbage.

My fridge: I use a lot of lemongrass. I like it as skewers for chicken mince on the grill and flavouring food along with kaffir lime leaves. I used to live in Switzerland so I love Swiss cheeses. The Tete de Moine is my favourite. We cure and smoke this American streaky bacon in our production kitchen. It's fantastic and smoky – a real life changer.

I'm cooking

Last dinner at home: 

It might be controversial, but the only TV cooking show I like is Gordon Ramsay because it's real. Everything else is fluff.

Martin Heierling

We had strip loin steak with asparagus, spring onions, red capsicum, all on the grill and served with a whole lot of different chilli sauces.

Secret vice

Pineapple Lumps. That's where my Kiwi background comes in. I love them room temperature or straight from the freezer, where they become really crunchy.

I'm drinking

My morning ritual is my one cup of coffee, a double shot macchiato. I like Illy coffee, dark roast. Nobody has a coffee culture like Australia and New Zealand. I drink a lot of herbal tea – Sweet Harvest Pumpkin tea, Tazo sweet cinnamon spice, that sort of thing. I'm a big gin lover, especially Tanqueray. I like the citrus-y gins, not the botanicals. If we have a dinner party we always start with champagne. Absinthe is a very occasional drink, approached with caution.

My toolkit

I can't do without my Japanese mandoline, for shaving vegetables for salads, garlic, onions. I have three, actually, so there's always one clean ready to go. The Gefu spirelli is great for making spaghetti out of zucchini. And the Bamix is super powerful for pureeing and grinding. I use them in all the restaurant kitchens, too. The girolle shaves a wheel of Swiss cheese into delicate petals. It's always at the centre of things when we have friends over.

Favourite

These spoons have great sentimental value and I cook with them all the time. In Germany we don't use tongs but I can do anything with these. These are laser-engraved for my first restaurant opening in Las Vegas.

Inspiration 

I really like cookbooks. Where Chefs Eat is great, firstly because there's people in it I know and secondly because it covers the fancy spots as well as those places they go at 2am to get grub. When I go on a date with my wife, I don't necessarily want to go to the pristine places, I want interesting, mom-and-pop, authentic food. Eleven Madison Park: The Cookbook is all about ingredients and the stories behind them. And I love David Thompson. He's the only non-Asian person who's ever been able to get to the essence of Thai food. He's my biggest inspiration.

Kitchen highlight

I do like the induction cooktops, they're very powerful, but really, I'd like more space.

Most memorable meal

It was at Le Jules Verne in the Eiffel Tower and I was with my wife, who was five months pregnant. Alain Ducasse had invited me there to offer me a job, which I didn't end up taking. There were 13 courses, simple ideas perfectly executed, and at the end a trolley came with jars filled with all kinds of house-made confectionary – it was like being in a chocolate factory. The food was amazing, but it was the total experience. Just going up in the lift was magical.