Matt Golinski has coffee on his mind even before his interview with BeanScene magazine begins. On an early morning call to the Sunshine Coast-local, Matt answers the phone while at his local fruit shop buying milk and coffee.
“Can I call you back? I’m just getting the only one-kilogram bag of beans on the shelf,” Matt says.
The tiny fruit shop in Pomona, two minutes from Matt’s home, stocks only local produce including Ewingsdale Coffee Estate, but generally Matt enjoys Auswana beans for home, produced and roasted at Bracalba on the D’Aguilar Range in South-East Queensland.
“Those guys are at the farmers market every Sunday. I’m pretty fussy when it comes to my coffee but those guys are really consistent,” Matt says. “My dad actually buys coffee from North Queensland Gold Coffee in Mareeba. If he’s doing an order he’ll get five kilograms at a time and we’ll split the freight and halve it.”
Matt lives in an area he describes as “God’s country”, a beautiful subtropical climate known for its beaches and thriving agricultural production, including coffee.
“The subtropical climate makes the region great for coffee production. I went up to Whitsunday Gold Coffee planation (in Proserpine, North Queensland) about three years ago. I remember seeing the coffee trees from the side of the road as you drive up. Sadly it got wiped out by a cyclone in 2017. The owners were so devastated they didn’t replant,” Matt says.
“Weather can be unkind here. About three weeks ago peach season started in Kumbia, west of here, with the most amazing peaches. Their season officially started on a Tuesday and by the Thursday a massive hailstorm had come through and devastated the crop. It was all gone.”
What’s also devastating, he says, is the lack of quality coffee he comes across when travelling overseas. “It makes you realise how lucky we are here in Australia,” Matt says. “It’s a totally different world out there, but we do have talented Australians doing well in places like New York. I don’t understand what people love about our coffee, but I’m proud they do.”
As for Matt, he simply looks for coffee that’s treated well and prepared to a high standard by the barista.
“I’m no expert, but if the coffee is bad, I just won’t drink it. I can’t hide my disappointment. It needs to be small and strong. I hate really big milky coffees. It’s not meant to be swimming in half a litre of milk,” he says.
“I’m a coffee snob. I enjoy two double shot coffees each day. Every now and then I have breaks from it but not at the moment – double shots all the way, every day. I don’t mess around. The first thing I do when I wake up each morning is turn on my Sunbeam coffee machine. I wait for the lights to come on, then away you go. There’s no trace of of instant coffee in my household.”
It’s no surprise then that Matt dived head first into his coffee obsession at a young age. His parents weren’t coffee drinkers, they liked tea in fact, yet for some reason stored an old Italian percolator in the kitchen cupboard – probably a wedding present, Matt thinks. At age 13 or 14 his curiosity finally got the better of him, and he decided to christen the percolator with a stale bag of beans he’d found.
“I remember one night thinking, ‘I might try this coffee’, and made an entire litre of percolator coffee. Well, I sat up watching Rage until 7am. It was awesome,” Matt recalls. “I loved it. I’d drink litres of coffee and stay up the whole night while getting into my creative mode painting and screen-printing t-shirts.”
Coffee’s adrenaline effect hooked Matt in from the get-go, which he first enjoyed for its insomnia quality, then as an apprentice chef, simply because “you’re not a real chef unless you drink coffee”.
“If I look back at the changes in hospitality, the knowledge we now have regarding coffee making and how to treat it is mainstream,” Matt says. “In the old days, front of house would come in and turn the grinder on and grind a kilo of coffee for the restaurant to use for the day. Today, people would gasp at that. Nobody knew back then how to get the best out of coffee.”
All Matt ever wanted to do as a kid was be a chef. He grew up on his parents’ tropical fruit farm in Palmwoods in the Sunshine Coast hinterland, surrounded by the best food, his entire childhood.
“I found great joy in creating stuff with what I had from the backyard, and the ability to make people happy with my food. I knew being a chef was for me – also because I could gorge myself on lollies and cakes by making them rather than asking my parents to go buy them,” Matt says.
He became intrigued by the science behind food, baking bread from a young age and brewing his own beer (not at a young age), just because he liked the chemical reactions involved. Matt got a job at a vegetarian restaurant in Brisbane as a teenager, his first taste of life in a commercial kitchen, in what he describes an “intensive work environment”.
“You first think: What the hell am I doing here? It takes about six months for the hustle and bustle to normalise, but I don’t remember anything else besides thinking my apprenticeship was awesome. Sure, you’re tired, stressed, and your feet hurt, but I loved it,” he says.
After taking 18 months to travel around Australia and overseas, cooking where he could, Matt returned to Noosa and took up a role as Executive Chef at Ricky Ricardo’s acclaimed restaurant.
It was in 2002, after he’d made a name for himself in Noosa’s culinary scene, that producers for a new TV cooking show called Ready Steady Cook came knocking.
“They rang me out of the blue. Someone in the production crew was from Noosa and thought it’d be good to have a chef in that area represented on the show. They wanted chefs from every state so I got the call and they asked if I’d like to audition for it,” Matt recalls. “I said no. Then I spoke to a few people, decided to do the audition, which involved using five surprise ingredients to cook four dishes in 20 minutes while someone was talking to you the whole time. They wanted to see if you could achieve the show’s brief, and I did.”
This article appears in the December edition of BeanScene. To read the story in FULL, subscribe now.