Thomas Balmer

Place of employment

Le Calvados

Restaurant Owner

Mantons Creek Vineyard Born in Wilderswil Switzerland in 1959, my interest in cooking and hospitality started early. At the tender age of ten during school holidays, I started working in a local hotel as a kitchen hand then moved into the pastry and Garde manger section. That’s where the inspiration stared to become a chef. I enjoyed the fast paced environment and so with 16 years of age I commenced my three year apprenticeship at the Hotel Du Nord in Interlaken.

After a brief stint in the Swiss Army and a couple of commis positions, I decided to travel overseas. What was out there? I arrived in Melbourne Australia in 1981 not speaking any English and knew hardly anyone, but fortunately European chefs were being sought after at the time. I gained a position as part of the opening team at the newly built luxury hotel, The Wentworth. I quickly worked my way up to Chef de Partie and then in charge of Entremettier.

But after a year the travel bug took over again and I decided to go to America with some new Aussie Chef friends and then back to Switzerland to see my family. After a month back home, I received a phone call from an Austrian Chef and friend, Manfred Lippold. He had an enticing job offer of Sous Chef working alongside him at the “Grand Old Lady” The Windsor Hotel in Melbourne. That was the opportunity that bought me back here and following that I was promoted to Executive Sous Chef, a position I held for nearly four years.

During my career at the Windsor I met my wife and after we got married we decided to go back to Switzerland. Back home I held a couple of positions as Head Chef in various establishments, but the one most exiting was being Executive Chef on top of the Schilthorn (Piz Gloria) , a stunning revolving Restaurant set high in the Swiss Alps at approximately 3000 metres. It was a popular tourist attraction and James Bond film, “In Her Majesty’s Secret Service” had been filmed there. It was a challenging experience serving over 1000 meals per day, every day, for seven days a week. The work environment was often demanding with only a small brigade and weather conditions being so variable.

After two years in Switzerland we decided to come back home to Melbourne, where after many varied business ventures I finally realised my dream of running my own restaurant, “Le Calvados”. After 6 years and situated in Blackburn South, my little “taste of France” is popular with locals and customers from all over. I’m still enthusiastic and passionate about food and really love to see people enjoying what I can create in the kitchen.

Highlights and achievements:

  • 1981 Hogaka in Karlsruhe Silver Medal (Show platter)
  • 1983 Salon Culinaire (Melb) Gold Medal ( Show platter)
  • 1983 French Food Festival (Melb) worked alongside Pierre Alexandre Maitre Cuisinier de France
  • 1984 French Food Festival (Melb, Adelaide) Worked with Paul Louis Meissonnier Maitre Cuisinier de France
  • 1985 French Food Festival (Melb) worked alongside Roger Clevenot Maitre Cuisinier de France
  • 1988 Course in Su Vide and cook chill in France, worked alongside Jean Bardet Maitre Cuisinier de France
  • 1989 Cooked and prepared Buffet for James Bond Producer Albert J. Broccoli in Switzerland
  • 1984 One of the original founding members of Les Toques Blanches (Victoria Chapter)
  • 2000-2002 President of Les Toques Blanches (Victoria Chapter)