Words by
Food Meet The Team State Library Victoria
6 minute read

Chef Ryan McVeigh – State Library Victoria

Meet Ryan, Showtime Event Group’s Head Chef at the State Library Victoria also looking after events at the Old Melbourne Gaol and offsite catering.

A wry sense of humour and a dedicated passion make Ryan a chef to admire while running a tight ship.

Tell us a bit about yourself, where are you from and what interests outside of work do you have?

I’m a new dad, I love days at home with my daughter shaking a rattle and making stupid noises.

I enjoy spending a lot of time in Warrnambool, it’s peaceful and relaxing which is what you need outside of the kitchen sometimes. It’s also got great fishing and culture.

How long have you been a chef?

About 15 years now.

What was it that made you pursue cooking for a career?

Food was a big part of family nights, with share plates, or take out or even just a BBQ, seeing everyone gather and enjoy themselves was when I made the connection with food/emotion. Food makes people happy, and for me, it brings back memories from holidays and good times.

What’s the most enjoyable part of being a chef?

I love seeing guests reactions when we constantly exceed expectations.

What’s the most stressful part?

Being a part of such a big kitchen and managing multiple venues can be challenging.

The kitchen can certainly become a heated environment at the best of times, is there a way you like to diffuse tensions or have a laugh with the crew?

I pride myself in being very calm under pressure and I think that rubs off on my team, although when it does get overcrowded or busy the easiest thing to do is remember the individual’s, a lot of the time all it takes to keep the kitchen calm is a few kind words or reassurance.

What’s your favourite style of cuisine to cook and what’s your favourite cuisine to eat?

I wouldn’t say I have a favourite cuisine to cook but I love cooking for weddings, knowing we are contributing to their special day with amazing food is perfect motivator. Broadly speaking, my favourite cuisine to eat would be Asian food.

If you’re having guests over for dinner at home, what’s your go-to meal to please family and friends, or do you try something new every time?

I find doing a sharing or feasting style dinner is always a winner, I mix it up with different cuisines but always have at least 5 dishes to share from, it’s more interactive and less formal.

If you could share a single piece of knowledge or advice for the average joe in their kitchen what would it be?

Patience, from what I have witnessed they are always in a rush to cook dinner. A great example is cooking meat or protein and not letting the pan get hot enough, or turning the meat too much.  Slow down and trust the process. Invest in a few cookbooks and honour the steps in the recipes.

Ryan with our suspended edible dessert board

How long have you been a part of the Showtime Event Group team?

Since December 2017 – 1.5 years

What brought you to work at Showtime Event Group?

I saw a lot of room for personal development with great leadership and a fantastic reputation, I loved the idea of working outside the box in unique venues and challenging myself along the way.

What does your job entail?

As one of the head chefs for SEG I am responsible for the Old Melbourne Gaol and State library Victoria. It’s my job to manage, teach, and guide the junior staff and controlling the kitchen operations

How does working in an Events setting differ from a usual restaurant setting?

Working in events you always have to plan ahead a lot more, which gives you more time and freedom to create and explore new recipes or food design

What’s your favourite menu item we currently have on offer?

My favourite item on the menu would have to be the kingfish ceviche, its light, fresh and easy to eat which is a perfect pre-dinner canape before your event, it also shows technique and skill.

What is an idea/meal you would like to see on a future Showtime menu and why?

Zucchini flowers, coming from the Yarra Valley it was a staple part of our spring summer menus.

Catering for up to 300 guests for a 3-course dinner at in the Cowen Gallery must be hard, what do you have to do to get it right?

Communication is key in larger events, having an open dialogue with front of house and back of house is important, at the beginning of each event I brief my staff on all the critical points of service. Sticking to timings is essential.

Canapes are often a style of food people don’t get to experience in their own home and are often a way to express a lot of flair and flavour to a guest, what do you think is the crowd favourite Canape?

What I have noticed is at the start of an event guests will go for a canape that seems to be the most familiar to them, like an arancini or tempura prawn. But as the event progresses you see more of the unique canapes get eaten, like the ceviche or salmon tataki.

The kitchen at the State Library looks really impressive (as we saw in MasterChef), what makes it such a good commercial kitchen to work in?

The best thing about the kitchen is having the extra space. As well as utilising the bratt range of equipment like the bratt pan, flat top grill, soup kettle, rational ovens. Knowing the machines and their abilities is a great advantage.

In the continuously evolving food industry, what’s a trend that you think will become popular in the near future?

Working with SEG for the past year I have noticed guests becoming more and more interested in the chefs and the food stations, which are really popular now. I think the next craze will be chefs plating a seated dinner in the dining room while interacting with the guests and clients. Or themed dinners, for example, booking an event with a 3-course dinner all themed in a particular cuisine.

Ryan Head Chef

Conversely, what’s a trend you’ve seen come and go?

I have seen them all; superfoods, sharing style, brunch for dinner, there is always something new people want to try.

What has been an event with Showtime you have really enjoyed cooking for?

AIME 2018 when we opened the Old Melbourne Goal, and launched Showtime Event Group! The food was great, the atmosphere was buzzing, and I got to be a part of our big launch.

To learn more about what Ryan has to offer at the State Library, contact us and find out what great menus are on offer or have a custom menu created for your next event.

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