Adam D’Sylva has established an enviable reputation as one of Australia’s most prominent chefs. Co-owner and Executive Chef of award-winning restaurants Tonka and Coda, Adam’s Indian-Italian heritage has given him a foundation in contrasting cuisines. With this and his formal training, he has become one of the best and more innovative chefs in Melbourne. In 2008, Adam won The Age Good Food Guide’s Young Chef of the Year and as part of his award travelled to New York to work with Thomas Keller at Per Se. Adam was also twice awarded Lexus Young Chef of the Year award for Victoria. Coda and Tonka were both awarded, and have maintained, One Chef’s Hat in The Age Good Food Guide since opening.
We were thrilled when Round Studio and Adam D’Sylva approached us to furnish their latest project, BOCA Gelato. Round Studio, an award-winning creative agency, has had a long working relationship with Adam. Together, they developed the concept, brand and designed the space for BOCA Gelato. BOCA’s design concept started from the motion of scooping ice cream. From the curve details, contouring and colours – ice cream and the nostalgia that surrounds it plays a big role in the overall design intent.
BOCA gelato has a unique offering of classic Italian flavours alongside unexpected flavours. At BOCA we like to think of our creations as the perfect balance of the expectation you crave and the surprise you didn’t know you wanted.
We sat down with Adam to find out more about his childhood, background and his plans for BOCA.
Where did you grow up? Tell us a bit about your childhood?
I grew up in Templestowe … brought up in an Indian Italian household. I’m first generation Aussie.
My nonna grew everything on their property from chickens to every vegetable and fruit under the sun and making their own wine and salami.
My father was a butcher, so growing up around food was a natural thing.
A bowl of pasta and curry and rice was the norm growing up. Hence the inspiration to do Tonka which is Indian and Boca Gelato, obviously Italian.
Who taught you how to cook and where did your love of food come from?
My Nonna and mum taught me when I was little. Gnocchi being one of the first things I learnt how to make. It’s still one of my favourite things to make and eat.
Food was always the centre of conversation and business. It consumed our lives and still does.
You own the highly successful (and two of our favourite!) Melbourne restaurants, Coda and Tonka. What do you think makes your restaurants so successful and keeps people coming back time and time again?
Consistency is the hardest thing in restaurants … I cook food that people want to eat time and time again. It’s about having really tasty food and a relaxed, fun atmosphere.
Best thing about your job?
I don’t call it a job … it’s a way of life. I’m very fortunate to love the industry I’m in … it relates to everyday life.
You’ve just opened your latest venture, BOCA Gelato in collaboration with pastry chef Monika Frkovic based in Ivanhoe, Victoria. Can you give us some insights into managing Coda and Tonka and opening new venture in a global pandemic?
I also opened Lollo restaurant at the new W in Melbourne. I have great people I work with like Monika and my other colleagues at the restaurants. It’s all about having a great team …
We have pivoted to survive in this pandemic; for example our take home food packs. We supply many grocers with our products.
Pictured: BOCA Gelato Ivanhoe featuring our Didier Bombala Out Low Stools.
We recently collaborated on your latest venue, BOCA Gelato designed by Round Studio featuring our Didier Bombala chairs, stools and custom tables. What is the most important thing you look for when choosing furniture for your venues?
I look for comfort and design, they both need to look right and feel right. I want people to feel both. Price also comes into it when working on a budget.
Are there any plans to expand BOCA? (We want that coconut sorbet widely available please!!!)
There are plans to take over the gelato world and expand to at least 5 stores around Melbourne.
What are you most looking forward to once life goes back to ‘normality’?
Dining out and going on a holiday. I have had a lot cancelled since the pandemic. Especially the food and wine festivals I was supposed to be involved in.
First place you will visit post pandemic?
In Australia, probably Port Douglas.
International, Singapore with the family or Italy with the wife.
Favourite piece of furniture you own?
Our 10 seater kitchen table, made of American oak …
It’s where all the meals are shared and is the centrepiece of my kitchen.
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