Juanito Petticrew

With a VCE score too low to get into journalism, John Petticrew decided he’d repeat year 12 and take another shot at it – by the time his results had arrived, his mission had switched from pens, to pots and pans. Not long after, John found himself working in Michelin star restaurants and gracing the decks of a billionaire’s mega yacht.

What’s your job title, or a short description about what you do?

I am a head chef

What is your main specialty/expertise/niche?

Modern fine dining

Where do you work now?

Currently work in a cafe/restaurant called “Black Coffee Lyrics” in Surfers Paradise, Gold Coast, Australia.  I have been here since December 2011

What companies have you worked for?

Prior to Black Coffee Lyrics, I was working as a private chef on board private luxury super yachts, and also michelin star restaurants.

What type of clients do you have or do you work for?

The type of clients that I have serviced are usually the very wealthy e.g. royal dignitaries, C.E.O’s, prominent businessmen, celebrities and politicians.

What does your job involve?

Whilst on yachts, my job involved cooking for the owner of the yacht as well as the crew, preparing functions.  The yacht would often be in different and remote parts of the world, so sourcing products and ingredients were often a challenge.

What’s the funnest thing about your job?

The travel and adventure

How did you get into doing what you do?

I had friends who were in the super yachting industry and the desire to get away and travel.

Did you have to do some specialist study?

My employment background prior to yachts had always been with some of Australia’s best fine dining establishments, which helped me get selected

What are some of the most impressive things you have done in your career?

Plenty of travelling to exotic locations around the world

Tell us about your mot glamorous/impressive projects?

Creating dishes and cooking for many VIP’s and discerning clients and guests around the world

Have you won any awards? prizes?

I was captain of the cookery team whilst an apprentice and won a silver medal in a competition whilst in trade school.  I also graduated “best practical student” in my class.  I was also an apprentice for a competitor for the prestigious cooking competition, the Bocuse d’or.  We were 1 of two teams that represented Victoria to compete against other teams in Sydney to represent Australia in France.  I was also awarded a 3rd prize in a cooking competition in the Caribbean.

Have you been published in special publications?

I have been published in an international yachting magazine.  Since my arrival at Black Coffee lyrics I have also recently been featured in several different publications here are some:  here, here and here.

Worked with any famous people?

Yes, celebrities and also prominent politicians e.g. Prince Albert of Monaco

Have you been able to travel with your job (please provide some information)?

A lot of travel!  I have basically been a citizen of the world for the past 6 years.  The very first yacht I worked on was a 54 metre classic 3 masted gaff ring schooner that travelled extensively.  It was owned by a prominent Italian gentleman that often had discerning guests on board.  I was flown from Melbourne to Madagascar to join the yacht.  We cruised the northern Islands of Madagascar for 1 month, visiting many secluded areas and hiking jungles.  We then sailed north to the Seychelles exploring for a few days.  From there we sailed up the east coast of Africa and into the red sea stopping off in Egypt to see the pyramids and the museums.  We went through the Suez canal and entered the Mediterranean Sea and eventually stopped in Turkey for roughly 1 and 1/2 months.  In this time I lived in Istanbul and also worked in the owners private estates in Milan, Italy and also Camorino and St. Moritz in Switzerland.  We travelled extensively the Greek and Turkish Islands.  We sailed through the Corinth canal and paid the beautiful Corisica a visit.  From here we sailed to Mallorca in Spain.  It was here after about a month that I decided to return to restaurants and flew to San Sebastian in northern Spain to work as a stagier (meaning not paid) in a 3 michelin star restaurant.  There were approximately 30 chefs including myself who were working there unpaid and also living beneath the restaurant!  It was hard work, but I learned a lot, and made some lifelong friends.  Out of the 30 people I was the only one offered a paid position after 1 month.  It was flattering, but at the same time I was receiving lucrative offers to go back to super yachts.  So from here I was flown to San Diego, California where I joined my second yacht owned by a prominent American gentleman, a 50 metre motor yacht with its own helicopter!  We travelled the California coast extensively as well Mexico, Costa Rica and Panama.  I left the yacht in Panama and flew to France to visit my partner Kristen (now my wife).  By the way, throughout this whole time I would often visit Kristen (who also worked on a separate yacht in Europe) wherever she was e.g. Monaco, France etc  From here we eventually joined a yacht together, a 49 metre 2 masted gaff rig classic sailing yacht.  This was owned by a swiss gentleman.  As well as travelling extensively, we were also involved in many exclusive regattas around the world, which offered its own very unique challenges!  Among the places we would frequent were Italy, France, Spain, Corsica, Sardinia, the Caribbean Islands, the east coast of the United States, The United Kingdom, and also the Scottish Isles.  The majority of the time during the past few years I have primarily lived in Southern France, Antigua in the Carribean or Rhode Island in the United States.  Whilst in the United States I also worked briefly in a 2 michelin star resturant in New York.


any other special perks you’re willing to share?

The perks were very cool.  If the owners were not on board, or if it was not chartered out to other guests, it was just like a normal 8 – 5 job, but in an amazing place e.g. Carribean, South of France etc.  We would sometimes be docked for months at a time with no guests, so we could live basically a normal life, e.g. having an apartment a car etc and exploring the surroundings.

I was living the high life, getting flown around via private helicopters, travelling extensively.  It was very adventurous e.g. scuba diving in the warm waters of Mexico, Hiking in the jungles of madagascar, exploring the Pyramids of Egypt on horseback, finding secluded reef and areas to snorkel in the Caribbean, surfing in Barbados and the seychelles, wining and dining in the monaco, and new york yacht clubs, swimming in waterfalls in puerto rico, too numerous to list them all!

Where did you grow up in Gippsland?


What are your fondest memories of living here?

The lifelong friends I made, and the sense of community that the area gave

What school/s did you go to?

St Michaels primary school and Catholic Regional College

Were there any special teachers that made a lasting impression on you, even into your career?

Yes, I was fond of a year 9 teacher Mr. O’Sullivan and in the senior campus I was drawn to teachers like Ms Needham and Mr Mesaric

What subjects did you do at school that led you to this career?

My original goal was to be a journalist, so the subjects I chose were not at all related to cooking.  Cooking came about by pure accident

Tell us about when you first left Gippsland and why?

I left gippsland because when I first realised that there was a difference between cooks and chefs, I knew I wanted to be the latter.  And I knew that to be the best I could be I would need a certain level of training and experience that only could be achieved outside Gippsland.

Please tell us about how your life changed after you left Gippsland?

Because I grew up in a country town, I felt in a way a little sheltered, so upon leaving Gippsland, my world opened up more and I discovered other ways of looking at my surroundings.  This included, discovering different types of people, cooking, music etc.

What kind of things in Gippsland helped lead you to the career path you have now?

When I was repeating year 12 to gain a better score to enter journalism, I was working part time in a cafe as a dishwasher, it was here that I discovered the kitchen world.  This cafe is now called Neilsons Restaurant but I can’t remember what it used to be called (cafe 55 maybe?).  The current chef/owner of Neilsons was an apprentice back then.

What is the biggest thing Gippsland is missing?

A space or forum where people can be creative. Perhaps a school primarily focused on the arts?

How could our area improve to support creative people?

An avenue where creative people can strive to better themselves in their chosen field and be recognised for it.  Perhaps a festival that focuses on the arts, which could showcase and celebrate local talent.  It could include competitions and mentorships.

What things were missing when you lived here to help support your interests?

I guess I found that there was a lack of innovation, originality and high standards in terms of cooking, for that I had to move to the city.  Places like Neilsens in Traralgon and some other restaurants around Gippsland are now changing that.

Do you still have connections with Gippsland?

Yes, my family and close friends still live there

Do you come back and if so how regularly?

I still come back, but not very often.

Where do you get inspiration from?

For me the conception of a dish can be quite involving or it can happen very quickly.  Inspiration may come from a random thought, a smell, a sound or a memory.  The dish I’m trying to create has to also be justified by having an accompanying philosophy behind it.  It has to reflect the surroundings, the seasons and myself in some way.  Most importantly this all has to also translate and evoke something in the diner, because it is for them that it was conceived

Who are your heroes?

My parents and my wife.  They are inspirational beyond words.

What advice would you give to someone who might want to get into a career like yours?

To be a good chef takes plenty of sacrifice and hard work.  If you are doing the long hours and sacrificing make sure you do it for a master.



Posted on April 5, 2013

Leave a Reply