PRINT POST APPROVED PP: 255003/07314 ISSN 1442-9942
Restaurant Catering July 2012 $6.95 GST incl.
Wisdom from Dave Campbell of Hungry Duck: “You have to own your market. It’s no use being a copycat. They’re the ones that shut”
ge 4 See pa
Something to sing about John Dudley of Bunbury’s The Singing Chef reveals how to survive (and thrive) when a fast-growing restaurant brand crashes head-on into a global financial crisis
<Back to the bar: how having a bar makes your restaurant better, page 23 <What to think about when you're thinking about selling up, page 11 <Does fancy technology de-skill your kitchen staff? <Common wine complaints, page 28 Official Journal of Restaurant & Catering
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July 2012 $6.95 GST incl.
In this issue ... Upfront 4
From the Association John Hart on what we hope to get from Fair Work Australia, and Brien Trippas on the dangerous recent slump in consumer spending and what it means
News and events
Singing lessons For five years, John Dudley’s The Singing Chef in Bunbury, WA, enjoyed success every step of the way. But the tough times of the past year have taught him the best lessons of his career.
Seems that in order to get a tax break you need a mining billionnaire on your side; customers are online; and more...
Sale away If you’re thinking of selling your restaurant, when is the best time to do it, and how should you prepare for the sale?
14 What I’ve learnt
The owner of Hungry Duck in Berry, in the NSW Southern Highlands, talks about being yourself and keeping your customers coming to you
23 Raising the bar
Does your restaurant need a bar? Kylie Fleming asks restaurateurs what a bar does for their business
Stuff 26 Automatic for the people
Does current kitchen technology de-skill your staff?
Fault lines Learning about the most common faults in wine can help when both buying and selling wine.
photography: richard Whitfield
32 New products
The latest and greatest stuff from Peerless and Meiko
Chef Geoff Lindsay stripped back a grungy Melbourne bar to create his new Vietnamese-inspired venue, as wife and co-owner Jane explains
RESTAURANT & CATERING 3
from the Association
Small victories Your Association is hoping for flexibility from Fair Work Australia for our industry to have any future
his month there was a victory for all of those businesses that work in tourism. The Government was forced to back down on their announced indexation to the passenger movement charge. This victory was brought about because those Associations in tourism (including Restaurant & Catering) banded together and took a public stance. The Opposition backed this and the Government realised they had nowhere to turn. This comes at a time when the Association has perhaps its most important reform proposal in front of Fair Work Australia. The important distinction is that this is Fair Work Australia’s call. It is unlikely that there is political pressure that can be brought to bear in relation to the Award review. The FWA review will likely be released soon. The Government’s response would, however, be some months away. R&C has said that the Individual Flexibility Agreement (IFA) process and the handling of unfair dismissals (among other things) really need to be changed in the Fair Work Act. These matters are vital to have addressed if we are to have any hope of workforce flexibility. Once the IFAs are made more flexible (and the award made more reasonable) there may be some hope for our industry beyond 2015—without both, there is not! John Hart CEO, Restaurant & Catering
Restaurant & Catering’s mission: To lead and represent the Australian restaurant and catering industry. Restaurant & Catering Australia Suite 17, 401 Pacific Highway, Artarmon NSW 2064 1300 RCAUST (722 878) Ph: (02) 9966 0055. Fax: 1300 722 396, Web: www.restaurantcater.asn.au Restaurant Guide: www.restaurant.org.au Caterers Guide: www.caterer.org.au Email: firstname.lastname@example.org President: Brien Trippas (NSW) Senior Vice President: Kevin Gulliver (QLD) Junior Vice President: Terry Soukoulis (SA) Treasurer: Richard Harper (VIC) Chief Executive Officer: John Hart R&C is a federation of the following associations, working together on national issues on behalf of their members. Restaurant & Catering NSW Ph: 1300 722 878. Fax: (02) 1300 722 396 Email: email@example.com President: Ian Martin Restaurant & Catering QLD Ph: 1300 722 878. Fax: (07) 3252 7554 Email: firstname.lastname@example.org President: Con Castrisos
Restaurant & Catering ACT Ph: 1300 722 878. . Fax: (02) 9211 3800 Email: email@example.com President: Fiona Wright Restaurant & Catering SA Ph: 8351 7837. Fax: (08) 8351 7839 Email: firstname.lastname@example.org President: Michael Sfera Chief Executive Officer: Sally Neville Restaurant & Catering Tas Ph: 1300 722 878. Fax: (03) 6224 7988 Email: email@example.com President: Phil Capon General Manager: Steve Old Restaurant & Catering Vic Ph: 1300 722 878. Fax: (03) 9654 5286 Email: firstname.lastname@example.org President: Matteo Pignatelli Restaurant & Catering WA Ph: 1300 722 878. Fax: (08) 9328 7366 Email: email@example.com President: Warwick Lavis
Restaurant & Catering magazine is published under licence on behalf of Restaurant & Catering by Engage Custom Media, Suite 4.08, The Cooperage, 56 Bowman Street, Pyrmont NSW 2009 www.engagemedia.com.au Editorial Director: Rob Johnson Creative Director: Tim Donnellan Sub-editor: Kerryn Ramsay Contributors: Sharon Aris, Nicole Azzopardi, John Burfitt, Ben Canaider, Kellie Morle, Kerryn Ramsey, Danielle Veldre Commercial Director: Mark Brown Sales Director: Cameron Boon Direct: (02) 9660 6995 ext 502 Fax: (02) 9518 5600 Mobile: 0416 205 965 Email: firstname.lastname@example.org For all editorial, subscription and advertising enquiries, ph: 1300 722 878 Print Post approved PP: 2255003/06505, ISSN 1442-9942 ©2012 Engage Custom Media. Views expressed in Restaurant & Catering magazine are not necessarily those of Restaurant & Catering or that of the publisher, editor or Engage Custom Media. Printed by Bright Print Group
7,874 - CAB Audited as at March, 2012 4 RESTAURANT & CATERING
photography: north sullivan
Restaurant & Catering
From spend to spent Recent data on consumer spending shows a precipitous slump in the last three months. Is worse to come?
estaurant & Catering continually sources data to back up its advocacy efforts. The most recent publication was a consumer data set that the Association purchased through its membership of the Foodservice Association of Australia (and great initiative of this Association of suppliers to our industry). The data is from BIS Shrapnel and shows very clearly that since April this year we have experienced a slump in consumer demand. Whilst interest rates are sliding downward (which usually provides a lift), there is underlying nervousness in the minds of consumers. This is affecting spend. The data does show a very significant increase in the overall spending in restaurants, cafes and caterers prior to that, with number of dining occasions per family nearly doubling between 2005 and 2010. This explains the significant growth over this period but also alludes to further consolidation in the near future when the cost increases are matched with reductions in revenues. The number of recent restaurant closures is the first impact of this scenario. I fear the worst is yet to come. Brien Trippas President, Restaurant & Catering
Diamond partner: HOSTPLUS
Platinum partners: OAMPS • American Express International • Bidvest • Westpac Banking Corporation
Gold partners: Australian Mangoes • Coca-Cola Amatil • Meat & Livestock Australia • APRA / AMCOS • Treasury Wine Estates • ALSCO • Lion • Vittoria Coffee
RESTAURANT & CATERING 5
News &events Restaurants grow, miners benefit It seems the only way to get the government to recognise a skills shortage in your industry is to have a mining billionaire on your side
Amex underlines importance of online channel
Despite skills shortages in hospitality, miners get a break.
he Federal government’s announcement at the end of May that particular projects in the mining industry will benefit from an Enterprise Migration Agreement (EMA) has drawn criticism from Restaurant & Catering, especially after chefs and cooks were left off the Federal Government's updated migration eligibility list, even though the market continues to suffer a crippling skills shortage that's forcing businesses to close. R&C Chief Executive Officer, John Hart, also said the outlook for the hospitality industry was “just terrible” in regards to meeting the demand for workers. He said recent predictions in research undertaken by Deloitte found that the industry was 7.8 per cent unemployed. “Which just confirms that things are pretty desperate,” Hart said. “We've got huge shortages, we've got them from coast to coast and we have no end in sight,” Hart said. “Australians just won't work those sort of jobs and they're certainly not interested in seven-day-a-week industries like ours. So, yes, we're jealous. We want to see the same applied to an industry in demand like ours as we see to the mining industry.” Hart said the supply of workers had dried up over the last couple of years as immigration changes were made that led to a dramatic fall in the number of international students arriving. In the examination of Australia's tourism potential to 2020 that was undertaken by Tourism Australia, it was found that 100,000 staff would be required by 2020 to meet demand. In addition over this period hospitality will need an additional 116,000 staff. But despite growth in the industry, businesses remain hampered by IR issues and the skills shortage. “Businesses are just not fully staffing everything, so that means they're either closed during certain days of the week, or they're shutting down parts of the business they can't staff.”
6 RESTAURANT & CATERING
Even a meal out is turning into an online experience with one-in-two Australians turning to the internet for reviews and advice before making a decision on where to dine, according to new research. Almost a third (30 per cent) of diners now use a web search engine to search for details on a restaurant, while another quarter use an online food guide to better inform their choices on where to eat. According to John Hart, CEO of Restaurant & Catering Australia, “In this day and age restaurants fight to attract diners in the online space, as well as in front of the restaurant on the sidewalk. The internet is the new front line in attracting and maintaining loyal customers. The boom in smart phones and portable tablet devices means diners have an excess of restaurants to choose from, and it comes complete with reviews, directions on how to get there, and the ability to make a fast and easy booking. According to the research, Australians are dining out an average of two or three times a month and the majority (63 per cent) say their dining decision is influenced by the reviews of other diners. It is not surprising the research found Generation Y are more likely to use an online dining review (60 per cent) compared to Generation X (52 per cent) or the Baby Boomers (36 per cent) when selecting a restaurant or eatery. The research, conducted by Galaxy Research on behalf of American Express, also found that restaurateurs don’t just have to rely on good reviews to bring in customers. According to the survey, 57 per cent of diners say a restaurant’s own website has at least some influence on where they dine. The survey found 42 per cent of Australians prefer that restaurants provide them with information on special events, meal specials and menu changes via the restaurants website, with another 25 per cent wanting restaurants to use Facebook to communicate with them. Mr Hart added, “With so many diners already on the net, restaurants can benefit from growing their online presence and making it easy for customers to book online.”
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News &events Dining out on data
Dimmi has released the first Dimmi Australian Dining Index, reflecting data the site has collated from over 300,000 diners and 2,000 restaurants to reveal a comprehensive insight into Australian dining habits. The grim economic outlook and spate of fine dining restaurant closures has been reflected in a drop in dining out at the high end over the past year. Only 16 per cent of diners now spend more than $90 per head, compared with 20 per cent a year ago. However, we are still spending an average of $60 per person when we head out for a meal. Diners in the ACT tip the scales as the most extravagant, spending 33 per cent more on dining out than the average Australian. While food and wine quality are still paramount, service and value for money are moving up the ranks when it comes to the most important part of a dinner out (22 per cent and 23 per cent respectively). According to Dimmi Founder and CEO, Stevan Premutico, the results reflect a clear shift in the Australian dining scene. When it comes to the hot topic of “no shows” it seems that the further in advance you book, the more likely you are not to turn up. According to Premutico, last minute tables are actually more courteous when it comes to turning up on the night. “According to our Index, if you make an online booking on the day, you will turn up 92 per cent of the time on time—however if you book a month in advance, there’s a one in five chance that you will change your mind. With 30 per cent of all online bookings made in the 24 hours before dining there’s a huge opportunity for us to capture those last minute bookings,” added Premutico.
R&CSA announces new board
The peak body for South Australia’s restaurant & catering industry has announced the appointment of a new President and newly elected board members. Michael Sfera from the Sfera’s Park Suites & Convention Centre was inducted into the role of President at the 2012 Annual General Meeting held at the Adelaide Oval Function Centre before 250 industry peers. He has been a highly successful operator in Adelaide for many years and brings to the board both a wealth of experience and great passion for South Australia and for the future of the hospitality and tourism industries. Other members of the board are Camillo Crugnale (Assaggio Ristorante & Assaggio Café), Barbara Derham (Barbara Derham Consultants), Roberto Cardone (Cibo Espresso), Tony Bailey (Rigoni’s Bistro), Richard Finlayson (Quality Training & Hospitality College & Quality Catering at the Zoo), Lisa Dowdy (Donaldson Walsh Lawyers) and Cath Kerry (Art Gallery Restaurant). Sally Neville remains Chief Executive Officer for SA. “We look forward to an exciting year with new directions for the organisation,” Ms Neville said.
Awards Events Calendar
Get in early and guarantee your tickets at this year’s Savour Australia™ Restaurant & Catering HOSTPLUS Awards for Excellence events. Go online to www.restaurantcater.asn.au or alternatively use your phone to call us on 1300 722 878. Region Awards Events
Northern NSW - Newcastle
Monday 16th July
Wests Newcastle, New Lambton
South Australia - Adelaide
Monday 30 July
Adelaide Convention Centre, Adelaide
Victoria - Melbourne
Monday 13 August
WA - Perth
Monday 20 August
Burswood Entertainment Complex
Southern NSW - Wollongong
Monday 27 August
Lagoon Restaurant, North Wollongong
Queensland - Brisbane
Monday 10 September
Brisbane Convention & Exhibition Centre, South Bank
NSW – Sydney
Monday 24 September
Doltone House – Darling Island Wharf, Pyrmont
Monday 29 October
Brisbane Convention & Exhibition Centre
8 RESTAURANT & CATERING
Seats, tables and all thing furniture are on display during Furnitex at the Melbourne Exhibition Centre on July 19-22. furnitex.com.au
Celebrating best practice and innovation in food and beverage processing, the Food Magazine Awards take place tonight in Sydney. foodmag.com.au
Savour Australia Restaurant & Catering HOSTPLUS Awards for Excellence for Northern Queensland is announced tonight. restaurantcater.asn.au
A little wine, a little art—the South Australian Living Artists Festival takes place throughout the Barossa Valley on August 5-28. salainc.com.au
Keep the ice water coming at the Hot & Spicy Food Festival in Toronto on July 20-22. harbourfrontcentre.com/summer/ hotandspicy
The world’s premier cocktail festival features the Bartender Showdown at Tales of the Cocktail in New Orleans on July 25-29. talesofthecocktail.com
Unleash your creativity and impress your patrons as they dine and wine between movies at the Melbourne International Film Festival on August 2-19. miff.com.au
Barista classes and sushi rolling are all part of Lunch!—a trade show for the food-to-go market in Sydney on August 6-7. lunchshow.com.au
If you’re planning to enter the Royal Melbourne Wine Show, today is the last that entries will be accepted. wineshow.com.au
Give in to the inevitable and install a TV where everyone can see it. The London Olympic Games starts today. london2012.co
Stay tuned—the South Australian Food Industry Awards are on again in 2012. Keep an eye on the website for details. safoodawards. com.au
Over 100 exhibitors tantalise the taste buds at the Food & Wine Expo in Newcastle, NSW, on August 3-5. foodandwineexpo. com.au
For 23 years, the Five Chefs Dinners has been the Starlight Foundation’s signature fundraiser. It’s Adelaide’s turn tonight. fivechefs.org.au
Young Chef, Waiter and Restaurateur national finalists in the Appetite for Excellence Program enjoy a produce tour on August 12-19. appetiteforexcellence.com
Monday night fever in South Australia with the state Restaurant & Catering Awards for Excellence tonight. restaurantcater.asn.au
Keep up to date on workplace health and safety issues at the WA Safety Show at the Perth Convention Centre on August 7-9. safetyevents.com.au
Judges will work their way through 1200 entries in three days at the Wrest Point Royal Hobart Fine Food Awards on August 10-12. hobartshowground.com. au/foodawards
Get in quick—only 3500 competitors are allowed to take part in the Winery Running Festival Hunter Valley. huntervalleymarathon.net
Coffee, tea, chocolate, spices— the Rocks Aroma Festival is like a party for your senses. therocks. com
Cool climate wines and produce from Tasmania’s Tamar Valley features at Taste of the Tamar in Hobart on July 21-22. tasteofthetamar.com.au
It’s NSW’s turn in the regional cook-offs for the Nestlé Golden Chef’s Hat Awards at Sydney’s Angliss Industry Training Centre. nestleprofessional.com/australia
It’s only the fruiting body of an underground mushroom—but it’s oh so delicious! WA’s Mundaring Truffle Festival is on July 28-29. mundaringtrufflefestival.com
Senator and anti-palm oil crusader Nick Xenophon talks at the Australian Institute of Food Science and Technology Convention in Adelaide on July 15-18. aifst.asn.au
One of the most thirst-quenching events is the legendary Darwin Beer Can Regatta at Mindi Beach. beercanregatta.org.au
Savour Australia Restaurant & Catering HOSTPLUS Awards for Excellence is announced tonight for Northern NSW. restaurantcater. asn.au
Keep your business safe and sound—visit Security 2012 Exhibition & Conference from tomorrow in Sydney. On July 25-27; securityexpo.com.au/
Rug up and enjoy a celebration of wine, food and community during Frost Fest in Orange, NSW, on August 3-12. tasteorange.com. au/frostfest
Today, participating cafes donate $1 for each cup of coffee sold to charities helping the homeless. Donate or join up at streetsmartaustralia.org/cafesmart
The Taste Kitchen is in full swing at the Australian Business Events Expo in Sydney on August 15-16. abeexpo.com.au
RESTAURANT & CATERING 9
The time to sell your restaurant is when everything is going well, and it’s at its most attractive to buyers.
If you’re thinking of selling your restaurant, when is the best time to do it, and how should you prepare for the sale? Andy Kollmorgen asks the experts he best time to sell your restaurant is when it seems like a really bad idea. You’re more likely to be thinking about squeezing in more tables. -Your customer base is growing; you’ve got a long-term lease and an accommodating landlord; and your budding chef has become a local star. In a business notorious for early flame-outs, you have arrived. Why would anyone put out a ‘for sale’ sign at that moment? The answer depends on whether you’re a clear-headed businessperson or a dewy-eyed romantic. If you’re forward-looking and keen on selling when the selling is good, you need to look at the situation through the pitiless eyes of a buyer.
Your business is buoyant and probably hasn’t peaked yet, which means you have plenty of goodwill. And if your ducks are in a row like they should be, you have the bookkeeping to prove it. The way a buyer sees it, the place has all the hallmarks of a bona fide moneymaker, which makes it an exception to most of the other restaurants on the market on any given day. It may not always be so. Restaurant consultant Michael Fischer of Michael Fischer & Associates says a big part of his job is helping restaurateurs achieve maximum saleability before trying to reel in the right buyer. He has seen too many get the timing wrong. “The big mistake is that people want to sell their restaurant five years too late, just as the business turns the corner from being successful to being less successful.” The all-important
“highly visible profit component” is often less visible when restaurateurs decide it’s time to let the business go. There are telltale signs. Equipment has not been upgraded or properly looked after; the lease is on its last legs; the latest town council ordinances have been overlooked. Less visible but even worse, the goodwill has started to fade. These are the factors that determine sale price, not a restaurateur’s benighted sense of what the business should be worth, even if you’ve recently paid for a sleek, copper-topped mahogany bar and fully automated bathroom fixtures. “The investment in a particular restaurant doesn’t equate to a selling point, and sellers are often unrealistic about this,” Fischer points out. “Sometimes the most successful restaurants have had very low levels of RESTAURANT & CATERING 11
unheard of. “You may need to change things, and sometimes that can take a long time, even a couple of years. But there’s no point in putting a bad idea on the market at the wrong price, because it will just sit there and people will think there’s something wrong with it.” Fischer also concentrates on “determining where the hurdles are” before going to market. A big part of that task is making sure the seller lays everything on the table. “Disclosure issues” that come up at the last minute can put the kibosh on a deal for good. If the prospective buyer finds out in the final hour that serving food upstairs is against council rules, for instance, the goodwill will be cut in half on the spot. In the first three months of this year, overall retail business was on the upswing, 0.3 per cent higher in February and 0.9 per cent in March than the preceding months, according to the If she’s just bought her business, she should start planning to sell it now, according to Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS). the experts—if you’re approaching it as a clear-headed businessperson. Leading the way was food retailing (suppliers), followed by cafes, restaurants and takeaway food services (up 2 per cent overall). It’s a significant ian restaurants, for instance—are iminvestment.” He’s seen more than a few figure, and it underscores what Close mune to the loss of the star attraction. bare bones eateries or pizza restaurants describes as a ripe market for buyers. Both Close and Fischer put prospecdeliver enviable returns on investment. “There are a lot of opportunities out tive sellers through a reality check that’s there. After all, it’s a lot cheaper to buy rigorously devoid of sentiment before onn Close of Close Encounan existing business than to agreeing to take on a case. ters, another brokering and buy one from scratch.” For starters, a selection of consulting firm, says about For restaurateurs critical documents are 60 per cent of sellers he’s who have the good put under the microworked with have required a “There are a lot of sense to be busiscope, including full-scale overhaul of both their expecopportunities out nesspeople as profit and loss histations and their marketing proposal there. After all, it’s well, it’s necessary tory, verification before their restaurants were ready for a lot cheaper to buy to keep two opof current revmarket. But that’s not really a surprise. an existing business posing thoughts enue, the lease, Who has time to stay dialled in to the than to buy one from in mind: running the liquor licence, big picture when you’re trying to run scratch.” a great restaurant and any developa restaurant? “Most people don’t know Jonn Close, Close Encounters in the here and ment applications. much about their own business, or now, and thinking Then it’s time to what is a realistic, achievable goal for about when to move on and talk seriously about the the business,” Close says. how to move on. The ABS business model, how the That’s especially true if you’ve earned recently delivered another figure: restaurant is financially structured a chef ’s hat but the star chef doesn’t sales at restaurants went up 13.3 per and, perhaps most importantly, how it’s come with the deal. “Hatted restaurants cent between March 2011 and March perceived. A seller needs to be able to are a problem,” says Close. “They’re 2012. In New South Wales, the increase explain the target market. about an individual. If all your good was 30.4 per cent. That’s a big jump, Hopeful sellers may not like what will is dependant on that, you have to and it means restaurants remain hot these consultants have to say, especially have an exit strategy. The business may properties. But they’re only as hot as sellers who have a quick and profitable have to be completely reinvigorated. the market will bear. And timing is evexit in mind. If there’s not an identifiYou may have to close and re-brand it erything. As Close puts it, “You should able market for what’s an offer, Close before you sell.” start planning to sell your business the will steer the conversation toward reOnly branded restaurants with name day you buy it.” invention. Complete overhauls are not recognition—Jamie Oliver’s line of Ital-
12 RESTAURANT & CATERING
What I’ve learnt
The owner of Hungry Duck in Berry, in the NSW Southern Highlands, talks about being yourself and keeping your customers coming to you
hen I started in the industry, I got an opportunity at Rockpool Group. Working with the best was very much the goal. I didn’t want to waste my time in cafes. I went and worked in the Millennium Hotel in Knightsbridge when Tetsuya opened there. Near where I lived in London there was a bookshop called Books for Cooks. I went there most weeks. I thought it was a great way of creating a community among chefs. The idea when I came back was to create a venue for chefs to come together and to put some really nice food on a plate. Starting up The Book Kitchen (in Surry Hills in Sydney) we said we’d try our best. But if it didn’t work, the worst thing that could happen was we’d go broke and have to work for someone else.
When we first opened the Hungry Duck people thought we were ‘the Chinese restaurant’, and looked for the honey prawns. But as they got to know what we were doing, they kept coming back. We already had a good reputation in Sydney, and locals were looking for nice restaurant to go to. Our staff can be quite persuasive. When people say “Oh, I don’t like that” having someone who says “well try it, if you don’t like it we’ll make you something else” makes a huge difference. They have a great rapport with the locals and it lets us keep doing what we do. 99.9 per cent of the time people enjoy it and come back more frequently. We had to work on getting the producers though. Farmers are very busy and a lot of the time they forget they have to sell it to someone. We had to chase them down. But once there is the relationship, they look after you very well.
We decided we would like to invest in a commercial property and we’re rebuilding one now. It’s at the northern “We learned quickly end of Nowra and is the only commercial you have to own your waterfront property on the whole of the market. It’s Shoalhaven River. It’s a fantastic area no use being a and very underserviced. There’s the copycat. They’re the Shoalhaven hospital, the city council, ones that shut.” Manildra group and right now they don’t have anywhere to go to have their private You never understand what it is to meetings so there will be two private dining run a business until you do it yourself. When rooms. At the Hungry Duck we’re constantly asked you’re a chef-owner, you’re also a plumber, and for private dining rooms that can seat 10-20 people. a repairman. The little things you can do yourself are But it’s going to be very different. The location lends what keeps a small business afloat. It’s not a huge margin. If itself to a steak and seafood restaurant and the centrepiece you have to get a plumber out just to change a tap there’s a callof the kitchen is a huge wood-fired barbecue. It’s being built out fee, labour and parts. It’s not hard to do it yourself. especially to properly cook Wagyu beef—it channels off 50 per cent of the fat. At the Book Kitchen we were always very focussed on produce. I went to the markets at least weekly but at Social media is really important especially since we’re Flemington you’re not really meeting the producers. I wanted two hours out of Sydney. I like to keep in touch with our to move closer to the producers. Sydney clients. The days of doing newsletters and mailouts are pretty much gone—people don’t want that much information. When we first came down to Bowral (in the NSW Now it’s posting up ‘this is an event, here’s a copy of the Southern Highlands) there was already a restaurant on this menu’ and that’s it. Twitter helps us keep up day to day like site. One night they were doing a yum cha special and I looked when an amazing piece of produce comes in—it allows us to around and it was full. I’ve had great training in Asian with Kylie capture that. Kwong, Neil Perry and Tetsuya, so I thought, “This will work.” We learnt quickly you have to own your market. It’s no use being a copycat. They’re the ones that shut. We were independently focused. Donna Hay used to send people in for shoots. All of a sudden our logo was in Vogue Entertaining.
14 RESTAURANT & CATERING
For five years, John Dudley’s The Singing Chef in Bunbury, WA, enjoyed success every step of the way. But the tough times of the past year, he reveals, have taught him the best lessons of his career. By John Burfitt
lessons 16 RESTAURANT & CATERING
for the first time since Dudley and his young family emigrated from the UK and settled in Bunbury in 2007. After years of booming business, customer numbers halved and the Mexican Kitchen closed and combined with the World Kitchen, which will soon be renamed The Singing Chef. It has marked a dramatic change for a business that was more used to celebrating good fortune than pondering wrong moves. “The past eight months have been the worst since we moved to Australia, so we’re a bit humbled by our growth,” he says. “When things are going really well and you’re opening a new restaurant, a new function centre and all these things happen, you feel unbeatable because the money is coming in, you’re hiring new people and the phone keeps ringing off the hook.” While Dudley has watched as some of his competitors in Bunbury have closed their doors, he has no intentions of following suit. Instead, he is putting every area of his business under tough scrutiny, determining what elements have made the Singing Chef brand a strong one, and what areas need to change with the changing times. “We are basically looking at our business in its entirety and asking what are we doing really well and what aren’t we doing
“It’s making us re-evaluate absolutely everything—from what we pay for things, what we produce through to how we produce it.” John Dudley, The Singing Chef, Bunbury, WA
photography: ben Yew
n the restaurant game, John Dudley of The Singing Chef in Bunbury learnt his lessons later than most. At age 31, he threw in a successful career in advertising, began an apprenticeship as a chef and started learning the ways of the hospitality industry. Thirteen years on, it seems the biggest lessons were waiting for him over the past 12 months when he found expanding The Singing Chef empire into three restaurants, a catering company and a function centre was met head-on with a downturn in business. Dudley, whose company has also earned two Savour Australia™ Restaurant & Catering Awards as Best Regional Caterer, reveals The Singing Chef has been hit with a 50 per cent drop in business over the past year. The Singing Chef is singing a very different tune in 2012 than he was in 2011, and while Dudley, 44, may sound a little bruised, he insists he is far from broken. “If we’d spoken nine months ago, you’d have had a very different chat with me,” he admits. In just five years, Dudley has built The Singing Chef into something of a dining landmark in Bunbury, just south of Perth. In 2007, he took over the original Singing Chef restaurant, began a catering arm, opened Grill Boy Gourmet Burgers, and opened the Mexican Garden. In spring 2011, he opened World Kitchen along with the Water’s Edge Function Centre on Bunbury’s waterfront. And that is, he explains, when everything began to change,
Dudley’s response to tough times? “I’m back in the kitchen every day and night to make sure the product is good again.”
really well,” he says. “It’s making us re-evaluate absolutely everything—from what we pay for things, what we produce through to how we produce it. “So it does come back to that old adage that a recession is good because it makes your sharpen your game and it is never truer than for us.” While Western Australia is being held high as the golden land of opportunity where there is no such thing as economic problems, Dudley paints a very different picture of an economy he has been waging war with at the cash register.
“I tell my staff every day to greet every customer as though they are the most important customer in the world.” John Dudley, The Singing Chef, Bunbury
“No, it is a recession,” he says. “It’s all about confidence and people are just hanging in there because they don’t know what their future holds and that’s because of the world. And here, we are affected because, at the end of the day, eating out is a discretionary expense. “In the first part of a recession, you’re constantly analysing what you’re doing and finding holes in your product. But if your product is the same and the prices are the same and people are still giving you feedback that you are doing a great job, but you’re only taking half of what you did before, then that is a recession.” Spreading himself too thin between all his businesses is another factor Dudley is focusing on during this period of intense 18 RESTAURANT & CATERING
reflection. As a result, the chef is now back in charge at the stovetop. “I’m back in the kitchen every day and every night to make sure the product is good again,” he says. “I’m having to win the customers back one at a time into the new place. So, we have got to just ride it out and hope that we we’re doing the right things.
e’re staying put, we’re going to work to make it work and we are going to do what we have done from the beginning,” he says. “If we had done things a little bit differently and took some professional advice, then we may have gone a bit slower. “I tell my staff every day to greet every customer as though they are the most important customer in the world. We have to make sure they have a nice time with us and their food is lovely, so that when they leave, they tell somebody they had a good time and it was worth it.” Taking gambles is nothing new for John Dudley. He was born in the UK, but his family immigrated to Canada when he was eight. He then moved back to the UK when he was 25 and landed a job selling airport advertising. At age 31, while living in Dublin, he threw in his $85k annual salary to instead follow his dream of becoming a chef, and landed an apprenticeship paying $100 a week. “From that very first day when I put my whites on in training college, I knew I had made the right decision,” he says. “I’d always had a fondness for cooking, and so when I went to the jobs centre with my CV and I was asked what I wanted to do, I just replied, ‘I like cooking’. That was it. But I knew in my heart there was more to being a chef than being a good cook.” Tenures followed in a range of eateries in Dublin and Birmingham, before he opened his first business, the Foundry
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“We’re just as enthusiastic about the new opportunities we have. Some of it has been thrust upon us, but we’re still keen that we’re going to get through all of this.” John Dudley, The Singing Chef, Bunbury Café, in Cornwall. Next was the Take Me Home gourmet deli, which he ran for four years before selling up and deciding to travel the world with his wife Tamsin. The couple now has two children, Juliet and Patrick. “We just figured we had to make a change, and my wife said she’d gone to Australia when she was a teenager and thought we should check it out,” he recalls. “We spent six months driving around, and ended up in Western Australian, with our eyes wide open, making a list of what we thought were the best places. “Once we got to Bunbury, we knew we had found the right place. We spotted this lovely little restaurant with an outside garden in the centre of town, and we both thought it would make a great evening restaurant. I said to the owner, ‘If you are ever interested in selling, email me.’ Eight months later when we had our visas, she emailed and said it was for sale. “So it seemed like fate I should get this restaurant, which was
the original Singing Chef,” says the chef and restaurateur. The name also struck a chord with Dudley, who had been singing on stage on the amateur theatre circuit back in Cornwall. “I took that as a sign, and just decided to keep the name,” he says. “And so I took on that moniker and became the chef who does sing! “So I do sing at various theme nights and I sing if they ask me nicely at weddings and birthdays,” he adds with a laugh. “But when you have been in the kitchen for 12 hours straight working on a big function and you’re hot and sweaty, the last thing you want to do is go out and serenade a bunch of drunk wedding-goers—but I usually do anyway!” As for what tune The Singing Chef is singing at this point of the company’s development, Dudley laughs and harks back to his musical theatre roots. “It would have to be ‘Luck Be A Lady Tonight’ (from Guys and Dolls),” he exclaims. “We’re just as enthusiastic about the new opportunities we have. Some of it has been thrust upon us, but we’re still keen that we’re going to get through all of this. “We have a beautiful location on a beautiful stretch of water and a brand new function centre that everyone who walks into says, ‘Wow, this is just what Bunbury needs’. We’re only a few months in this new location, so we’ve still got plenty of time to get it right. It is a challenge, but one that we’ll meet as we will still be here next year.”
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Nick Hildebrandt (left) and Brent Savage of the Bentley Restaurant & Bar in Sydney always wanted a bar.
Images of brent savage and Nick hildebrandt from Bentley: Contemporary Cuisine by Brent Savage, published by Murdoch Books, RRP $69.95
Does your restaurant need a bar? Kylie Fleming asks restaurateurs what a bar does for their business estaurants that have their own bars are bang on trend these days. Patrons love the casual, communal vibe of perching at a bar to drink and eat while the cocktail crowd thinks nothing of splurging on pre- or post-dinner drinkies. Bars-within-restaurants are also becoming necessary as ‘waiting rooms’ for the growing number of venues adopting no-bookings policies. Think Chin Chin and its Go Gar Bar in Melbourne or Porteno in Sydney with Gardel’s Bar. Most restaurant owners agree—a bar is a trendy accessory and great for a high turnover of bums on seats but the food remains all-important. The Bentley Restaurant & Bar in Sydney is owned by sommelier Nick Hildebrandt and chef Brent Savage. Hildebrandt says, “Our bar was always part of the business plan. We never wanted it to be just attached to the side of the restaurant like a third leg. We get really busy, we turn tables a lot, and the bar helps out the restaurant by being a holding area but also works as a separate entity for a drink or snack. “I can’t see the bar trend changing,” says Hildebrandt. “It’s almost an expectation these days.”
In South Australia, d’Artagnan Restaurant has also been purposely designed to combine a dining room and bar. “I personally love the idea of having a drink at the bar before or after a meal at the same spot…and a place that offers this usually has some kind of cool vibe about it that appeals and makes me want to spend more time within its walls,” co-owner Bianca Tropeano says. Tropeano, who also co-owns Sparrow Kitchen & Bar, says the potential to make money in a bar can only help a restaurant’s bottom line. “Your expenses (in the bar) are considerably lower than the dining room and the odds on spend-per-head are in your favour, as is the turnover of guests,” she says. “In my 12 years in hospitality, I’ve never seen someone flinch at being asked to pay $20 for a cocktail, and a vodka lime and soda at $9 a pop can be ordered two to three times in an hour. For some reason, spending $100 on alcohol seems more justifiable than the same amount on food.” Tropeano believes patrons and business owners will continue to embrace the bar-within-a-restaurant trend. “People love choices and that’s exactly what it offers—the freedom to plan and tailor your night out—and it’s also a great opportunity for people to visit a venue even on booked-out nights where a table isn’t available,” she says. RESTAURANT & CATERING 23
“You can spend a million dollars on an awesome layout, have the best of everything—a venue others would be envious of—but without good food and great service, no one’s going to come back...with or without a bar.” Chef and co-owner of Maha Bar & Grill in Melbourne, Shane Delia, originally designed his award-winning restaurant around the bar concept. “I thought my Middle Eastern style of food suited a bar—that was my main focus—and then the bar trade died off and the restaurant side of things boomed so we had to find a balance,” he says. “We’ve cut back on the bar trade. It wasn’t viable for us, and we have expanded the restaurant as the whole venue but we still have a real bar focus when it comes to our range of cocktails and drinks.” Shane says many operators add a bar hoping it will be a cashcow but this can result in an identity crisis for a restaurant. “People who come in for the restaurant don’t necessarily want to be in a bar setting…it can get a bit muddled when you mix the two demographics in the same venue,” he says. “Restaurant trends move quickly. Everyone’s wanting to do the latest thing, but when you steer away from your original business model, you confuse clients, your staff and the whole message of your restaurant. Plus, bar food has to be good food, you can’t just do it solely to make money.” SA restaurateur Matthew Trim recently sold fine diner The
Manse and Sparrow to concentrate efforts on Grace The Establishment which blends restaurant and bar. “In tight times like now, people are happier spending money on drinks but are much more particular about how they spend it on food,” he says. “We saw the writing on the wall and thought there would be a big move away from fine dining or restaurants perceived to be expensive. It is really hard to make money from just food alone as so much labour goes into it.” Trim uses an example of a recent food festival where Grace sold Wagyu burgers alongside a beer tent—the beer and burgers were the same price. “Our chefs had been preparing the burgers all week, hand mincing the meat, making the bread, and we were cooking them fresh on the day, whereas the beer tent bought their kegs in and then poured them with minimal staff. “We worked out our cost of goods sold was about the same but our labour cost was triple theirs…and then we had people questioning the price of our burgers while they were happily drinking the beer.” Trim says its interesting to observe international trends such as London restaurants which have just a couple of food items but a big focus on beverages. “These places are packed out—restaurants like Meat Liquor, Burger & Lobster and Mark Hix’s latest, Tramshed,” he says. “For me, even though liquor is where the money is made, the food is still crucial to getting customers in the door.”
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RESTAURANT & CATERING 25
Do kitchen staff need basic skills now technology can do everything?
Does current kitchen technology de-skill your staff? By Jenny Dillon
he range of equipment that has become standard in the modern commercial kitchen over the past 10 years is dazzling, from sous vide machines, chocolate temperers and blast chillers, to internet enabled combi-ovens and anti-griddles that freeze instead of heat. But just one small piece of equipment, which is now becoming ubiquitous in high-end restaurants, can chop, beat, mix, whip, grind, mince, grate, juice, emulsify, mill, knead, blend, cook, stir, steam, heat, melt— even weigh—all within the confines of an appliance hardly bigger than a standard domestic blender. This particular piece of equipment, the Thermomix from German company Vorwerk, is so versatile that a company representative says it does as much cutting and vegetable presentation as a first-year apprentice chef, and more. It’s a claim that threatens to put an end to the image of young chefs speed slicing through vegetables, bench punching balls of dough, or whipping up a tempest with a fork in a bowl of egg whites. But rather than consigning apprentice chefs to the scraps bin, the high-tech kitchen is opening up a veritable buffet of new work opportunities and fuelling young people’s desire to be more adventurous with food. 26 RESTAURANT & CATERING
Award-winning pastry chef and teacher at Sydney’s Le Cordon Bleu school Andre Sandison says technology advances mean that new techniques, applications and a greater array of considerations, such as sustainability, can be applied in the kitchen. While he is deeply immersed in Le Cordon Bleu’s 500 years of classic French culinary arts, he says new technology is expanding the possibilities of “Chefs no longer food processing, cooking and spend most of their presentation. “Depending on time slaving over where one works, and what a hot stove; many individual apprentices desire are now part of and understand of the industhe front-of-house try, there are great and more ‘gastrotainment’.” diverse professional opportuEmmanuel Benardos, manager, nities available,” he says. Concrete Blonde, Kings Cross He says there is no way young chefs lose essential skills when they work in a modern kitchen. Understanding the fundamentals of cooking, such as the basic chemistry, especially how shape and form change under temperature or pressure, is the essence of training, he says. “I would go so far as to say that technology requires not only an expansion of aptitude, but attitude as well. A person’s willingness to embrace change is as important a trait today in the
kitchen as it is to be good at what you do.” You can’t get away from the technology, says Emmanuel Benardos, manager of new Kings Cross eatery Concrete Blonde. “Good cooks always aspire to do wonderful things with food and the technology helps them do that.” His kitchen has all the latest whiz-bang gadgetry, among them a fan-forced Rationale oven, which can send temperatures scorching from 100 to 200 degrees within seconds, a process important for cooking consistency. There is a Thermomix, also a sous vide machine, where food is sealed in a vacuum bag and immersed in water that is held at a steadily controlled temperature—sometimes for as long as three days—to ensure all the flavours are retained and the final product is tastier and more succulent. And there’s the Pacojet, “the fastest food processor in the world”, says Benardos, which rather than churn frozen products into crystals, shreds them to make a finer textured and grained pâté, sorbet or mousse. He says chefs no longer spend most of their time slaving over a hot stove, with many now part of the front-of-house “gastrotainment”. Concrete Blonde reflects this trend with its kitchen an intrinsic part of the restaurant, with just sheets of clear glass separating the diners from the chefs. In pride of place are the huge state-of-the-art, open-flamed rotisserie cooker and the equally impressive monstrous round grillers that bring the restaurant’s eclectic Mediterranean, Asian and Mexican-style cooking ‘show’ right up to the diner. Xavier Mouche, a designer with Dreamtime Australia Designs, the company behind Concrete Blonde’s high-drama, high-tech fit out, says the advances he’s excited about include the results achieved with a sous vide machine, or the more sophisticated spherification process, where liquids are shaped into tiny spheres that look like clumps of caviar or liquid olives. The process was created by chemical giant Unilever in the 1950s, but brought to the table by the executive chef at el Bulli, the creative genius Ferran Adria. Swiss-born Mouche says kitchen innovations not only reduce food waste, they also make the food taste better. “For example, there is equipment that keeps meat and fish at a temperature that can maintain its freshness, stop it drying out and improving its flavour,” he says. He also doesn’t believe high technology is de-skilling young people in the industry. While he agrees with the Australian Thermomix distributors that if there were a vegetable slicing competition, the machine would win over an apprentice, “you find other things for an apprentice to do”. “Technology in the kitchen is just advancing skills in other directions. They are taking cooking to the next level.” And young Australian cooks get to play immediately with this equipment rather than fuss around with the fiddly stuff. Cordon Bleu’s Andre Sanderson believes a high-tech kitchen means young Australians in the industry have a great future ahead of them. He says when students ask him about new equipment, their applications and their uses, he sometimes needs to do some research before he can answer. “The internet is allowing students to do far-ranging research on techniques, methods of presentation, etc, that makes learning much more of a collaboration where the teacher can act as a mentor. So, de-skilling? I have enough trouble trying to keep up with my students.”
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*Go ahead, if we are wrong we’ll gladly send you an iPad 2. But don’t hold your breath. P.S. Part jelly beans count as one whole jelly bean.
RESTAURANT & CATERING 27
The colour of white wine can be an indicator of whether it has started the spiral towards oxidation.
Learning about the most common faults in wine can help when both buying and selling wine. Ben Canaider explains replacement bottle or glass. You then charge the floor loss back nce upon a time in a far away galaxy to your supplier. That’s easily understood. called ‘Australia-in-the-1980s’, there But while this method is standard procedure, it shouldn’t lived a happy nation of beer drinkdiminish your own professional developers. Then one day one of them went ment. How wine faults are typified both to a place called Europe, saw a in terms of smell and taste can be a Frenchman in a beret drinkuseful tool for anyone buying or ing red wine outside a cafe, pouring wine. and—thus infected— How wine faults are returned to Australia typified both in terms Oxidation where ‘wine’ quickly spread. As a result we now have of smell and taste In the era of the screwcap (of 20 million Australians obsessed with wine; how to can be a useful tool which more will be discussed serve it, what food to match it to, and what faults the for anyone buying or below) coupled with a general wine might have… pouring wine. move towards more wine BTG And to anyone selling wine on-premise, this last (by-the-glass), oxidation has bepart of the obsession—wine faults—is the trickiest one come one of the biggest problems to massage. Empowered by their supernatural ability to for on-premise wine wranglers. Wine can tell red wine from white wine, a lot of customers now enjoy start a spiral towards oxidation thanks to telling hospitality industry professionals what is wrong with too much exposure to free oxygen during the grüner veltliner, the nero d’Avola, or some such other grape winemaking; similarly, a damaged screwcap or imperfect cork variety d’jour. (These wine fault-finding people are invariably seal can introduce oxygen; or once the bottle has been opened architects, school teachers, or C-grade celebrity chefs, by the and then too long unprotected by SO2, oxidation occurs. Oxiway, so keep a look out.) Of course, we have the fail-safe Rule #1. The equation of dised wines lose their keen fruit aromatics, and they taste a little customer + wine fault (real or imagined) has to always = a lifeless, or flat. Nutty or sherry-like smells take over. ‘Madeirised’
28 RESTAURANT & CATERING
is another term for this fault. In severe cases, the colour of the wine will also be affected: white wine looking too yellow and red wine too brown, despite the fact they may be recent vintages. Heat-stress With the advent of screwcaps (Australian wine is now 90 per cent sealed by screwcap) a lot of wine pourers and drinkers alike imagine screwcapped bottled wine is now faultless. A screwcap may eliminate the problem of cork taint (see below once again), but a screwcap will not protect a wine from being cooked. This is the ‘wine-stored-on-top-of-the-fridge’ syndrome. Too many restaurants still keep their wine inventory in conditions that are too hot, or fluctuate in temperature too wildly. Screwcap or cork, it does not matter. Keep a bottle of riesling in a +18ºC environment for more than three months and the wine will become cooked. The effect is markedly the same as oxidation: limp, flat, dull wines with no purity. And while you might keep your own stock in the right environment, has your supplier or logistics company done the same? Did you have 12 cases of fresh white wine delivered on a Monday following a three-day period of 35ºC+ degrees? Cork taint Like dragons, cork taint is slowly becoming a mythical creature. At least here in Australia. But if you sell older wine or sell Old World wines—French, Italian, Spanish—then you’ll still have cork taint issues. Rule of thumb is that 10 per cent of all wine sealed under cork is cork-tainted. Cork can introduce a compound to the wine called trichloroanisole, or TCA. It is a mould, and wine infected smells musty. A bit like old wet hessian or wet cardboard; it also tastes stripped of fruit flavour. Dull. At a threshold level of perception of two parts per trillion, it is equivalent to one drop of water in 20 Olympic swimming pools—to ruin the pools. ‘Corked’ remains the complaint of any cranky wine customer, however, the truth is that while 10 per cent of all cork-sealed wine is corked, 90 per cent of all customers who claim “corked” have no idea. That is in its own way an immutable law. Brettanomyces While recognised as a fault, a lot of Old World wine styles are also characterised by Brettanomyces, or ‘Brett’. This is a yeast spoilage that usually occurs in barrel, hence red wine can be the victim. Brett wines smell like bandaids, and the fruit flavour is diminished. The wine also finishes with a metallic ring—like chewing on a piece of aluminium foil. Brett is serious wine-connoisseur stuff. Indeed, if a customer starts complaining of ‘Brett’, consider changing industries… Reduction This is the trendy wine whinge of the moment. Reduction is the opposite to oxidation. Keeping your wine (during winemaking and then sealed under screwcap) free of any oxygen can cancel out oxidative problems, but it can also lead a more assertive and active environment for sulphur compounds. These can present smelly smells, as the technical phrase goes. Rotten eggs, burnt garlic, old cabbage, burnt rubber… This is why some sommeliers are now decanting and aerating young bottles of aromatic white wine. Rule #1 will always remain the best way to handle wine fault complaints on the floor. The only upside to this issue is to be aware of the faults—and good at assessing them—and then using that knowledge to agree with your more wine-savvy customers. “Yes, it is quite reduced, isn’t it?” They will like the way you substantiate their wine knowledge. More wine will be ordered. More money will go through the till.
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RESTAURANT & CATERING 29
New products The new Meiko M-iQ range The latest new models from Meiko, unveiled to the Australasian market just last month at the Food & Hotel Asia 2012 Show in Singapore, boast a number of technological advances on previous models that can deliver serious savings to operators. The new Meiko M-iQ range of flight type and rack conveyor dishwashers, which is now installed in more than one thousand food service facilities throughout Europe, is being promoted as the most advanced in the market today in terms of the water and energy savings and built in smart technology. Meiko Australia Sales Manager Laurie Hickey says, “MEIKO’s revolutionary M-iQ improves on virtually every facet of dishwasher engineering and construction, for unparalleled washing results and economical operation.” The M-iQ series of machines are among the most efficient dishwashers in the world, with this low water consumption it dramatically reduces heating energy, detergent, and rinse aid consumption. Advanced engineering features take these advantages even further. A standard integrated blower dryer works with the airflow management system and improves drying results. The M-Filter system actively and continuously removes food soil from the wash water to improve soil removal from the ware, and further reduce detergent consumption by up to 50 per cent. An innovative airflow management system redirects heat inside the machine to a single ventilation connection. The warm waste air is then used to preheat the incoming rinse water, reducing energy costs and cooling the exhaust air. Exhaust emissions are also reduced in volume, by as much as 90 per cent. An active tank management system continually
monitors and adjusts water levels in the machine automatically for optimum level control and soil distribution. The higher-pressure wash system has modelled water flow using computational fluid dynamics for optimum washing results. Even cleaning is simplified—M-iQ includes an automatic self-cleaning mode, an automatic load-deck flushing system that washes soil into a scrap basket, and colour-coded areas indicating components that need manual cleaning to save time at the end of the shift.
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30 RESTAURANT & CATERING
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Chef Geoff Lindsay stripped back a grungy Melbourne bar to create his new Vietnamese-inspired venue, as wife and co-owner Jane explains
32 RESTAURANT & CATERING
Dandelion 133 Ormond Rd Elwood, VIC, 3184 T: (03) 9531 4900 W: www.dandelion.ws
AC/DC from the ’70s, and we often get comments from male customers. “The kitchen is quite small and open so customers can see all the action. There’s also a bar that overlooks the kitchen that we call our Wrap-&-Roll Bar. That’s where our staff prepares rice paper rolls for the customers. “We put Dandelion together by working to a really strict budget. Our interior designer Sarah Dowling (tel: 0417 384 350) and myself had a great time sourcing really interesting things that we probably wouldn’t have found if we had more money to spend. “Dandelion is a restaurant that embraces the hustle-and-bustle. We like the place to be filled with lovely boisterous people having a great time. The design was based around that— really fun, open dining.”
words: kerryn RamsEy.
hen Geoff and I began searching for a site for Dandelion, we didn’t want anything that was city based. We were looking for somewhere that was a bit out of town and we found this great spot in Elwood. “It was originally a single shopfront, just under five metres wide and over 30 metres long. It had previously been a bar and was pretty grungy. However, when we removed all the plaster, we discovered these beautiful old brick walls that ran through the entire building. It took us four months to complete the refurbishment and we opened in April last year. “Even though Geoff ’s background is in fine dining, we wanted Dandelion to be more of a fun experience. The cuisine is Vietnamese but it’s a modern take. With that in mind, we wanted the interior to be contemporary and free of clichéd Asian artifacts. “We divided the restaurant into three sections. The bar area is in the front section. The middle section has a beautiful vertical garden that brings in light and creates a feeling of space. The back section is our dining area and open kitchen. We’ve left the walls exposed in the bar but the main dining area is painted white to help demarcate the distinct zones. “The building is so long and narrow, we took out the ceiling in the mid-section. This left a pitched roof of timber struts that helped create more space. And all the tables were purpose-built to be slightly slimline so as to fit nicely without overcrowding. “Along with Eames chairs and Jean Prouvé bar stools, we also have timber stools made by Geoff ’s cousin. They’re from fallen logs at his farm outside Warrnambool. It adds another layer of texture to the restaurant. “The artwork collection is by [the late] Melbourne artist David Band. About 15 years ago, Geoff collaborated with David on a book called 10 Plates. Geoff created 10 dishes and David interpreted those dishes as 10 limited-edition lithographs. We’re really happy that we’ve been able to put these up. “We’ve also added some interesting art in the bathrooms, such as the Vietnamese propaganda art in the women’s toilets. In the men’s room, Geoff hung his favourite photo of
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Published on Jul 14, 2012