Chefs Malcolm Gill, Stuart Davidson and Gene Moore dish on 2020 and beyond
Let’s face it, 2020 has been a weird one.
We’ve had the devastating wildfires in Australia, Brexit, Megxit, Carole Baskin, Trump impeached, Trump acquitted, Trump saying he’s won election, Trump losing the election, #blacklivesmatter, the Olympics postponed, the death of an NBA icon. We also lost a real life superhero and a legendary guitarist as well. There has been “Murder Hornets”, X Æ A-12, Parasite, Tik Tok, a Michael Jordon doco, UFO videos from The Pentagon and of course, COVID-19.
Now… if you had told us all of that would happen this time last year, we’d have said you’re crazy! It’s also the reason why we’re not about to make any bold predictions for next year. Instead, we talked to a couple of culinary legends to hear how they fared in 2020, as well as what they expect for the new year.
1) What has 2020 taught you?
Malcolm Gill, Owner & GM, Shady Palms (QLD)
Make the most of everyday! You never know when you'll get locked down! See the people, do the things and most of all enjoy life! As a business owner- you can't control everything.
Stuart Davidson, Head Chef, The Vineyard (VIC)
I have learnt that a little bit of pressure can make a few noisy people crazy but that most people are pretty even-keeled in a crisis.
Gene Moore, Junior Sous Chef, Higher Ground (VIC)
Things can change in an instant. We need to stay on our toes and be ready for anything the world throws at us. Stay strong and look after one another. We are all in this together.
2) How did you keep busy during lockdowns? Learn any new skills?
I picked up a new fitness regime, learned 1-string guitar songs and Tik Tok taught me how to shuffle!
During the first half of the lockdown I was at Monichino Wines in North Central Victoria, pruning vines, fishing in irrigation canals, shooting hares and sitting around fires drinking wine and eating homemade salami, it was magic. Following that I moved back to the city for a two-week cooking gig, TV and some more wine. So a bit of a mixed bag I guess.
Thankfully I was able to fly home to New Zealand for a couple of months to see friends and family. During this period I actually got a job doing some landscaping for a friend’s parents’ business. I learnt a tonne of things about that industry and had a load of fun (first time working outside in 9 years).
3) What did you miss most during lockdowns?
Socialising with friends and the wider group at work mostly. It was easy to forget the importance of a good chat prior to this year.
I missed my friends mostly, you take it for granted that they're always there when you need them and vice versa. I missed deer stalking season too which is a big one for me but also just being able to get the f**k out of town for a camping mission.
Busy services, full restaurants, and the joy of being able to have a cold beer with the team at the end of the week.
4) What do you think will be the biggest challenge for next year?
As the world opens back up, I think pandemic fatigue will be a huge issue. We’re seeing it a little bit up here in Queensland already. Some customers forget that most restrictions are government rules and not our own.
The loss of international tourism will have a huge impact for us here in St. Kilda, who knows when that's coming back! Availability and pricing of imported ingredients that can't be locally sourced could be a challenge as well. I don't think there is anything we can't deal with though.
I think it will be adjusting to the pace when the regulations change again. We can’t allow ourselves to become comfortable with smaller numbers and forget how busy our venue can be. Finding good staff and piecing them into the right areas can often be tricky but also very rewarding when you see newer members progressing.
5) Any big 2021 plans at your venue?
Shady Palms enters year 8 in 2021! We will be looking at adding more healthy ingredients into our menus and drinks. Kombucha and fresh juice-based cocktails anyone?
Summer in St. Kilda is always pretty busy, so I think getting up and running with a team ready to take it on will be enough for me. At The Vineyard there’s always something afoot, but running a smooth operation after what was a long lockdown is top priority.
There’s some exciting things being talked about but at this stage we will be focusing on dealing with the new guidelines here in Victoria. It’s easy enough to get people through the door so we’re focusing on giving those guests our best efforts. Efficiency, quality, wait times, vibe and smoothness of service is what we will be looking at.
6) What are you looking forward to most?
Can 2021 come fast enough!? I think if anything a return to some form of normality would be refreshing. Food wise I think a lot of people will be mindful of their health and wellness and the role diet plays. Boost those immune systems!
Hopefully with the end of restrictions there will be an end to chronic no shows. I have been talking to hospo friends around the country and it is a huge problem at the moment. If people don’t respect the booking process or have the courtesy to call up and cancel, it makes it all that much more difficult in an already difficult industry.
I’m looking to forward to further develop my kitchen management skills. I took the leap from CDP to Junior Sous Chef in 2020 which has been a great challenge for me. I’m excited to work with our staff and really try to focus on efficiency/quality during busy services.
7) Any bold predictions for the hospitality industry in 2021?
A big bounce back with a bunch of new venues popping-up from newcomers taking advantage of all the pandemic closures. Lots of indoor plants as a fit-out feature as well – they’re the new neon!
Almost every venue will be using an online booking system that deducts a fee for a no shows or cancelation within 24 hours of the booking.
It’s hard to make any sort of prediction for me about the way it goes. I think that people will think twice about taking the industry for granted again. We work extremely hard to make sure our guests are happy when they leave. I expect there to be a greater respect from customers for hospitality professionals.
8) What makes you proud to be working as a chef right now?
Following months (maybe years!) of speculation it’s great to finally be recognised as an essential industry!
Probably the team I will be working with in the kitchen, I have two wonderful Nepalese men that I hired as kitchenhands three years ago who I am training to be cooks. Hard working, polite and cheerful, they are among the finest gentlemen I've met. Myself and our long-serving Sous Chef have enjoyed watching them grow so far.
Seeing everyone sustain a sense of mateship and passion in the kitchen, despite the challenges. I think it’s our time to show off our skills and the new tricks we’ve learnt over this last little while. It’s exciting to be back in the kitchen with our close colleagues and putting food back on plates. The industry has taken such a hit and it’s our turn to help rebuild our employer’s business.
At Tip Top Foodservice we’re looking forward to 2021 as we move into a new age of foodservice. If we had to make a bold prediction, we think that the industry will thrive through togetherness and learn much from recent times. We always appreciate industry perspective though, so if you have a story to tell don’t be afraid to reach out and say hello on either our Facebook or Instagram accounts!
A massive thanks to our culinary contributors Mal, Stu and Gene for their expert opinion!