15 June 2023

Five Minutes With Scott Clapham of Wagga RSL

| Claire Sams
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Kiwi-born and long-term Wagga Wagga local Scott Clapham is the Catering Manager behind Wagga RSL – and his team is looking for victory in this year’s Perfect Plate competition. Photo: Wagga RSL.

What are the key things someone should know about you?

My name is Scott Clapham, I am the Catering Manager at the Wagga RSL. I’m a qualified chef, parent and an avid forager. That’s pretty much me, to be honest.

What does a catering manager do, day-to-day?

A day can vary so much for me. Basically, a catering manager runs both the front and back of house for our catering option, as well as functions. Depending on the day, it could be anything from training my team, ordering, finding new products, creating recipes, changing menus, liaising with clients and creating menus for their functions, as well as making coffee, delivering meals and responding to positive and negative feedback. It could be in the kitchen, physically running a function or teaching the kitchen team. I also attend meetings here at the RSL, and I liaise with the motel closely, particularly in relation to the breakfast menu and functions.

It can be tiring, but I love the variety of my position.

How did you get involved in the hospitality industry?

I actually left school early, I was only sixteen or seventeen. I got first in my year for cooking back in Timaru, New Zealand, where I’m from. My mum was pressuring me into getting a job of some description, and I was like, ‘Oh, I’m going to do that. I’ll give it a go’, not really thinking about it too much.

It took me probably three to five years to really fall in love with the trade, but once I picked it up, I really haven’t looked back. I live and breathe everything food related. I worked in New Zealand for a while, before moving to Canberra.

You made your way to Wagga Wagga eventually, though; how did that come about?

I came to Wagga for my first head chef position. I’d been a sous chef at quite a few places in Canberra and Sydney. Just learning from some really top quality guys and, essentially a lot of them said you move to country towns to get your first real taste as a head chef and make a name for yourself, and then come back to the city. But instead I just stayed in Wagga.

What are the top three dishes that really show what your venue can do?

I’ve recently put pork ramen on our menu, which is also our dish for the Perfect Plate competition. In Japan, ramen varies from chef to chef, and for this, I’ve done a Korean fusion. We’ll be serving that for the next four or so weeks.

Our Henry’s chicken pizza, which is super popular. We use smoked chicken from our smoker, and we hand stretch all of our own doughs.

And you can’t go past some of the classics. I mean, the lamb cutlets are definitely a new addition for us, something that customers were asking for. As soon as I put them on, we started selling around 1,000 pieces per month.

bowl of ramen

Scott’s Japanese-Korean fusion pork ramen is the dish Wagga RSL has entered into this years Perfect Plate competition. Image: Wagga RSL.

The pork ramen is your entry into the Perfect Plate 2023 competition, which sees clubs submit a dish that the public can vote on until 9 July. How did it come together?

It came from a friend of mine who used to work here. He used to cook a lot of ramen and had a bit of a cult following. He left town and went to Melbourne, and there was a real gap in the market here in Wagga.

I just started playing around with things and experimented with knowledge that I’ve learned from other places. I eventually came up with the Japanese-Korean fusion that is our pork ramen. It costs $30, and is a broth cooked for 48-hours, put together with roasted pork belly, soba noodles, a poached egg, spring onion, kimchi, bean sprouts, coriander, sesame and crackling.

It’s always been my dish, but I think that I’ve really perfected it here at the RSL.

What response have people had to it?

The main response is ‘Wow, it is really spicy’. We used a fermented Korean paste in the base of it and I’m definitely not shy when it came to that. But overall, we’ve had a good response.

What is your favourite or must use ingredient when cooking?

Probably fresh herbs. I think they elevate a dish in a way like no other. Dried herbs are okay, but fresh herbs are better. I had an Italian chef that used to teach me, her name was Melina. She used to say, ‘If someone pulls out dried herbs at home in Italy, we unfriend them on Facebook!’

What do you want the public to take away from your menu, food-wise?

I want them to think there’s something for everyone. I firmly believe that veganism or plant-based dishes are a thing of the future. Every single menu that we’ve had, we have had a creative vegan dish on it that’s not just pasta or a salad.

We’re just trying to think outside of the box, so that there is something here for everyone.

What is Wagga Wagga’s best kept food secret?

There’s a catering company called Marbull Catering. I had them at the Christmas party last year and I’d never heard of them before. It was sensational what they delivered.

Wagga RSL is located at the corner of Kincaid Street and Dobbs Street in Wagga Wagga. Try their entry in the Perfect Plate 2023 Competition and make sure to vote before the competition closes on 9 July.


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