jake kellie and the opening of the lakeside mill

Jake Kellie’s dream is to one day open his own regional restaurant in Victoria. So when the offer arose to come on-board as Head Chef at The Lakeside Mill, it was an opportunity too good to refuse and takes him one step closer to his dream…. It has been an incredibly rewarding journey for the young chef from the central coast of NSW. Moving to Melbourne in 2011 after completing his apprenticeship, Jake has gone from strength to strength learning from some of the best chefs this country has to offer. His hard work and dedication paid off when he was awarded the prestigious title of Electrolux Australian Young Chef of the Year 2015 in the Appetite for Excellence hospitality awards program. He has since appeared on Masterchef Australia as well as being nominated for The Age’s Good Food Young Chef of the Year 2015. The Lakeside Mill in Packenham VIC opened in February 2016 and Jake takes us back of house for a sneak peak into the journey of opening the restaurant.


Jake heads out on his young chef of the year prize trip at the beginning of October, first stop Italy. We’ll be posting updates of Jake and his trip as it progresses on our Facebook page. Have a great time Jake!

what does hospitality mean to Danielle Gjestland?

What does the word hospitality mean to you and how has it changed since you started?

Hospitality means being in the moment with your client and your staff, taking the time to really be engaged, gracious and generous with your time. I think that’s really important from both a staff and client point of view.

The hospitality industry is less rigid than it used to be and the definition of great service in hospitality has shifted a little bit in that it can be more casual but still considered to be fantastic service and thus a fantastic restaurant, without being stiff.  Generally, people want to feel special and I think that can happen in formal and informal environments.

I also think the client is now much more educated and knowledgeable about food in general, about service, and has a much broader opinion about what that means to them. They have clear expectations of a restaurant experience.

Did you have a mentor?

We’re pretty out of the way [in Noosa] and I was really young when I started so I didn’t really have a mentor. So for me, because I was so young, I learnt a lot from my staff. A lot of people that I hired had more experience in the industry and I was open to that. I still find I am always learning from the people around me.

I think that when you’re young – as a waiter, restaurateur or chef – you have to be open to learning from other people to advance. You can’t let your ego get in the way. I’ve garnered a lot of great skill, knowledge and technique from my peers over the years, from people who have been really generous with their knowledge.

In financial terms, the man who is now my husband, was a great help.  He has a finance background and helped me to quickly learn that getting your financial house in order is key. If you can’t make your balance sheet work, you can be the best restaurant in town but you’ll be broke in a year. That mental shift is really important. When you are starting out, you know it’s really important to invest in your business, and it is. But you have to learn to assess if the cost of the item is going to give you a return – ie is spending the money going to make you more money? If I didn’t have somebody who was much more experienced financially, who pushed me to answer the hard questions, I wouldn’t be here today!

What was the goal when you opened and is it different now?

The goal when we opened wasn’t to be a two-hat, regional restaurant of the year at all. In the first year, it was all about survival. At the time I just wanted to do something that I was proud of and my clients were proud to have in their little town. And that was enough.

As a result of that, we’ve ended up where we are. And each year we try to improve on that by making our clients happier and that’s resulted in a better restaurant. But it’s been a process of chipping away at it. We didn’t open 13 years ago the restaurant we are today.

I’m not a person with grand desires to take over the restaurant world. My nature is more hone and refine; I’m really happy with my lot and focusing on that. We’ve expanded in that we now run a farm where a lot of our produce comes from and we have just launched The Cooking School Noosa and Ibento Boutique Event Space. When we opened I would not have thought of starting a cooking school but these new businesses have come on line because they are a logical extension of what we already do and help us communicate our message to a broader market.

Do you have a piece of advice for current restaurateurs starting out? Did you have a piece of advice that you’ve carried through?

“Time to lean, time to clean! – share it with all your staff” But seriously, I’d say that there’s no room for show-ponying in a successful business, just leave your ego at the door, get in and get the job done. There’s no room for nonsense.

I’d also tell people to get involved as much as you possibly can, to draw information from as many people as you can using the channels that are open to you. The more you know, the more capable you will be of really understanding your business and your clients.

Finally, never lose touch with what it is that makes your clients happy. Without clients, without happy clients, you don’t have a business.




the insider’s guide to eating/drinking in Canberra

Ever wondered where those in the biz head to for great eating and drinking? We’re often asked so we headed to our  #youngexcellence almuni for the lowdown and the insider’s guide to eating/drinking….Canberra with AKIBA & Sages Andy Day.

Where do you go for coffee before work/after work/not at work?

We’re spoilt for choice in Canberra with great local roasters. Right in the centre of Canberra is Coffee Lab, run by ONA Coffee, which is my favourite spot for a pre-work coffee. A bit further afield and a crazy-busy weekend favourite is Redbrick Espresso in Curtin who also do great food, and Highgate Lane in Kingston put their roaster on full display so is a fun and busy spot with great service.

Favourite places for breakfast and brunch?

Brunch is kind of my thing because I’m probably at work for most of my other meals! My fiancée and I really like the food at TwoforJoy in Kingston, it’s always changing and is really creative and generous. Likewise at The Cupping Room, I’m a sucker for Central American food and their dishes are always on point.

Favourite restaurants in your home state for special occasions?

Canberra punches well above its weight for fine diners and good places for that special time. I love Pod food out at Pialligo; it’s charming, seasonal, has a great wine list and Brent leads a crack team of service professionals. Brunch at Pod is about as fine-dining as brunch can get and it is spectacular.

I also love the dinner experience at Courgette in the centre of Canberra and it’s the go-to for birthdays and anniversaries. The wine list makes celebrating easy!

Best bars to head to after work and on your days off?

A number of small bars have popped up in Canberra over the past few years and getting a glass of something interesting is easy and always relaxing. My new favourite is Vincent, in Barton, which has a daily list of wines – almost all by the glass – that always has something I haven’t tried before. The fun vibe and scrabble-pieces menu is light entertainment to match. Also good for a glass of wine and a snack in the afternoon is Parlour Wine Room in New Acton with a beautiful vintage fitout and sunny terrace is super relaxing. A big nod to local producers and a crafty cocktail list make it a good Sunday afternoon. For an after work beverage the best place for me is Monster. A great wine list, an extremely good negroni, and a kitchen closing at 1am means I can get a second dinner in if I want in the comfort of a fireplace and either my thoughts, good company, or choice banter from the service team.

Where do you go for fresh, seasonal produce and market bargains?

Canberra’s Saturday morning farmers markets at the showground is a highlight of the city. Producers come from all over NSW and Victoria bringing great quality, fresh produce. The markets are separated into those who sell, and those who grow and sell, so if you’re mad keen on knowing the origin of your food you can ask the person selling it to you and they can tell you when they plucked it from the farm. To me that’s the best.

Also good and certainly if your stocks from Saturday run low there are the Fyshwick fresh food markets which house most of Canberra’s fruit & veg suppliers, butchers and fishmongers, so getting quality produce is always easy there. If it means I have to walk via Plonk, one of the country’s best boutique bottle shops, as I shop then so be it!

Where have you had the best interstate dining experiences?

It’s tough to choose between Cutler & Co in Melbourne and The Bridge Room in Sydney. The first time I went to Cutler & Co there were at least three dishes that made the hairs on my neck stand on end, while the service was impeccable and fit-out so comfortable and classy at the same time. I felt so looked after and just shell-shocked by how good a place they had created.

Meanwhile my first, second and third experiences at the Bridge Room took place within a fortnight. I loved it so much on my first mission (a solo birthday lunch) that I rebooked for later that week for my management team and then the week after with my family. When a venue gets everything in harmony like they do its addictive and hard to keep away!


Floriade 2016 runs from 17-Sept to 16-Oct 2016. You can check out the full program here

See where else our #youngexcellence alumni go to in ACTNSWNTQLDSATASVICWA

This is the Gurnard recipe you have to try!

Gurnard, nettles, artichokes, toasted cream & crab head sauce by Aaron Ward

Preparation time: 2 hours

Skills needed: Medium

Serves: 4


2  Gurnard fillets 400g each

400g picked stinging nettles

500ml pouring cream

400g Jerusalem artichokes

250g unsalted butter

2  live blue swimmer crabs

3 eggs

2 lemons

1 clove garlic

2 sprigs thyme

100g macadamia nuts roughly chopped

2tbs virgin olive oil


  • Ask your fishmonger to scale, fillet, and skin the Gurnard into 4 x fillets and keep the frames so you can use for fish stock at home. Make sure they are at room temperature before cooking – about 30 minutes.
  • Wash the artichokes, and steam for 20 minutes or until soft. Once cooked cut in half place cut side down in a frying pan, add 150g butter, garlic and thyme, place in the oven and slowly cook at 160°C for about 30-45 until golden and allow to rest in the butter.
  • For the toasted cream, place the cream in a large saucepan and boil making sure that the cream doesn’t stick to the bottom or burn by stirring frequently, every few minutes. Continue to reduce until the cream splits into a yellow butter and milk solids which is like a granular golden brown in colour. This takes about 35 minutes. Be careful not to cook it too long or it will burn. You need to have a buttery & nut colour and nutty aroma
  • For the Nettle Sauce. Chop the nettle finely. Fry in a shallow pan in a little olive oil on a medium heat until soft which takes about 5 minutes.  Add macadamia nuts and continue cooking for another 2 minutes. Remove from heat and squeeze juice of 1 lemon into nettles. Set aside and begin cooking the fish
  • In a non stick pan, warm the pan on a medium heat and add olive oil. Fry the Gurnard and cook about 2-3minutes each side. Remove from heat, leave in fry pan to rest for 2 minutes.
  • To finish coat the fish generously in the pan first with the toasted cream sauce, then baste with the nettle sauce. Place the fish onto warmed plates. Season artichokes with salt and lemon zest placing a few on each plate. Serve immediately.

Chef’s tips

  • Don’t discard the left over crab, use to make chili crab or a curry or freeze the shell and meat to use at a later date.
  • Nettles are hard to handle so wear gloves when handling, and once the nettles are cooked on a high heat the sting disappears.
  • Use the fish heads and frames to make stocks, just add onion, celery, fennel and leek and simmer in water for 20 minutes. Strain and discard the solids keeping the liquid. Allow to cool and freeze for future use.