Chef Jo Ward
“Plating up is a favourite part of the job, I love that my experimenting with food has the ability to make someone’s face light up because of something I’ve created, It doesn’t get much better than that”
From humble coastal beginnings to working with award-winning chefs in Michelin-starred restaurants and cooking for the stars, Om Nom Kitchen Executive Chef Jo Ward is no vanilla slice.
Jo credits her love for food and creation to her upbringing on the coast where she spent much of her younger years learning to fish with her step father who was a professional fisherman.
As a teenager, Jo started out her career as a “dishy” at the local pub, and through her hard work and dedication she quickly earned respect of the kitchen team. Her passion for food and creating was the drive in taking on a dual apprenticeship of commercial cooking and patisserie and the rest is sweet, sweet history.
Through the years she has accumulated an impressive collection of contacts, having worked alongside culinary heavyweights Albert Roux, George Calombaris, Gary Mehigan, Raymond Capaldi, Michael Lambie, Tony Twitchett, Perry Schagen, Stuart McVeigh, and working in some of the world’s leading restaurants, including London’s The Square restaurant, Taxi Dining Room, Qualia, and Fenix.
With a flair for innovation, Jo has been likened to Heston Blumenthal – presenting multi-sensory, theatrical dishes designed to engage the senses.
For the past few years, whilst running Om Nom Kitchen with trail blazing gusto, Jo and her undeniable skills have been recognised by the masters at Valrhona Chocolate, whom recently invited her to attend their elite academy in Tokyo.
Highlighting her love of pairing sweet favourites with savory classics, Jo recently teamed up with different Australian MasterChef alumni to run a series of cooking masterclasses merging fantasy with reality.
Further cementing herself in the within Melbourne events scene, Jo partook in the 2019 Apollo Bay Seafood Festival and the 2019 Melbourne Food and Wine Festival bringing diners interactive Under the Sea themed dessert table to engage all senses through liquid nitrogen, dry ice and quirky theatrics.
Jo’s presence has graced screens through her partnership with Dairy Farmers Thick & Creamy, taking part in a national campaign showcasing some of the most indulgent dishes around Australia. Drawing on her childhood love of camping and the outdoors, Jo has also collaborated with Matador BBQ’s to create a delicious dessert using their Boss BBQ as part of a video series.
In 2019, Jo was a finalist in the Australian Gault&Millau Awards in the ‘Pastry Chef of the Year’ category.
At Om Nom Kitchen, Jo is able to release her inner artist. Although focused on dessert for much of her inaugural year at Om Nom Kitchen, Jo is keen to spend more time casting her magic wand over other sections of the menu in the coming months
“Plating up is a favourite part of the job, I love that my experimenting with food has the ability to make someone’s face light up because of something I’ve created, It doesn’t get much better than that” she said.
“I am excited to put my own unique twist on the savoury menu at Om Nom Kitchen – drawing inspiration from my upbringing with a focus on seafood, whilst also incorporating traditional pastry flavours and techniques.”