Hailing from France, The Playford Hotel Executive Chef Kevin Martel has overseen the menu and concept behind the hotel's newly-renovated Luma Restaurant & Bar on North Terrace.
Three minutes with Luma chef Kevin Martel
BEN Where did you grow up, Kevin?
KEVIN I was born in the north of France in Champagne and my family moved to Versailles when I was young. It’s a very beautiful city next to Paris and we lived five minutes from the famous Palace of Versailles. I lived there until I was 18 when I moved to England to pursue my career as a chef in a very high-profile venue in West Clandon.
BEN What are your earliest experiences of cooking?
KEVIN My mum used to cook a lot for my two brothers and me. We’d sit down to beautiful food at dinner, but I had no idea how she brought it all together, so I became very interested in what she was doing. I loved sweets when I was younger, so when she’d make crepes or cakes, I was always asking her for recipes so I could do it myself. Now I make crepes for my two sons every Sunday morning using her recipe. I’m very proud of that.
BEN Why did you become a chef?
KEVIN I wasn’t very good at school, but I started an apprenticeship in the kitchen. Straight away, after just a few days, I really loved it – the heat, the knives – I know it sounds crazy, but it was the pressure that you have in the kitchen and all the delicious produce we had in France. I was fast, I was doing everything properly and when I started cooking school, I was the best in class. I wanted to get better every day.
BEN What’s it like working in the kitchen of a five-star hotel?
KEVIN Working in a five-star environment gives us the opportunity to work with superb local produce, such as wagyu beef from Mayura station, fresh roasted almonds from Papershell and Port Lincoln kingfish. It allows us to be creative. We have a large kitchen, and highly skilled chefs producing excellent food. We’ve got 182 rooms – it’s a busy place. We all work hard and are very dedicated to providing excellence. We’ve won many awards and I was over the moon to win Chef of the Year in 2021, especially after all the hard work of the team behind me.
BEN Greatest challenge and success of your career?
KEVIN The greatest challenge I’ve faced came about when I first came to Australia and began working at Magill Estate. Not only was there a language barrier, but I needed to change everything about the way I cooked: using different products with different names, even the way you chop is different. Luckily, I had a very good French executive chef who helped me. My greatest success was starting the position of Playford Hotel Executive Chef at only 29 years old and now the opportunity to open a new restaurant.
BEN The Playford Restaurant has re-opened after significant renovations. What are you most excited about?
KEVIN We have opened a very exciting new concept called Luma Restaurant & Bar. The menu is a love note to Europe, using mainly local organic produce. I have really enjoyed going back to the pressure and routine of service, working with the team, and just the pleasure of cooking for people and seeing their smiles. That’s what have missed and it’s been a pleasure to show our guests the love that we have for food.
BEN What’s life for you outside of the kitchen?
KEVIN I love spending time with my family. I’ve got two little boys and a third one on the way. During the week, I try to spend as much time with my partner as possible. I’ve learned that work-life balance is very important and we no longer do those very long shifts. It means you come to work in a better frame of mind to interact with your team and enjoy cooking.
BEN What’s the inspiration behind your tattoos?
KEVIN I’m pretty sure that deep down, chefs love the pain of tattoos, but chefs are also very creative. I love creating something that is perfect on the plate, and I wanted to reflect that in my tattoo. The geometric shapes reflect me.
BEN What’s your secret to a great crepe?
KEVIN Put a little bit of crème fraiche into it. Crème fraiche, eggs, flour, milk, and salt – it’s very important to put in a little bit of salt to bring up the flavour.
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