Appetite for Young Swines Lunch

The Old Clare Hotel and the site of the old Carlton United Brewery seemed a fitting venue for the Sydney leg of the Appetite for Young Swines event – an Appetite for Excellence and PorkStar project to help foster a community of young like-minded hospitality professionals, where they can see; hear & learn from the rising stars of the hospitality industry.

The event kicked off with a welcome cocktail shaken (not stirred) by Gerald Ryan, restaurant manager of Oscillate Wildly in Newtown. Gerald was the Electrolux Australian Young Waiter in 2014 and had carefully selected the beverages to match the dishes our alumni Aaron Ward of sixpenny, Jake Davey of est. & Troy Crisante of Bennelong had collaborated on. Rounding out the team with her ever professional front of house flair was Brooke Adey restaurant manager of The Paddington Inn & Electrolux Young Waiter 2015. A special mention & thanks to Dan from sixpenny who came to help out the lads in the kitchen. You are a superstar!


In between the courses and throughout the day we hit each of the Appetite for Young Swines up with some hard hitting questions about the industry; their commitment to hospitality; why collaborations are important for the industry and what advice they would give to a younger version of themselves. 

What inspired you to become a sommelier Gerald & a chef Aaron?

Gerald: My Colleagues. Working in a fine dining restaurant as a food runner as my first proper job in hospitality, and hearing the Sommelier’s talking about wine, using language I’d never heard intrigued me, and I immediately became the pest, asking all of the annoying questions of them, until they pointed me towards a couple of books, and I was away.

Aaron: I have always been interested in food as cliché as it sounds, but I would read recipes as a child and watch the cooking shows on TV. I think the fact that this industry is always changing, with new ingredients, techniques, and equipment being available also interests me. There is never a dull day or moment, it all just depends on how far you want to take it.

What motivates you and inspires you daily?

Gerald: Again, the people I work with. Seeing small business owners constantly at the helm of their operations, steering it in the right way, is motivation enough. Watching Karl Firla and Dan Hunter run their business’ so efficiently, but tirelessly changing menu’s, and market runs at the crack of dawn, all the while balancing restaurant life with a life outside their venues, has been a constant inspiration.

Aaron: Cooking to me is not just about food; it is also about bringing people together and creating a memorable experience. Sitting around a table with family and friends, having the opportunity to cook for them, and the feeling of gratification is something I love. Being able to achieve these same feelings and experiences in a restaurant setting should be what all chefs strive for.  Showing passion and pride in what I cook is always apparent, whether it is for guests in the restaurant, family at home, or a staff meal.

What advice would you give a younger version of yourself?

Gerald: Write notes on what you are tasting!!

Aaron: Travel and experience different cultures and cuisines as much as possible. Go and spend time in different countries of the cuisines that interest you, learn the techniques and how the local chefs are bringing their own modern take on the culinary traditions.

What three pieces of advice would you give anyone considering it as a career?


1. It is the small things that make the big things fall into place. Long hours on your feet can take it out of you. Moving heavy tables, cartons of wine, polishing glasses, all very un-glamorous. But it’s the little things that matter. The final detail of the room, final check of set up, that really make things actually tick.

2. You need to love it. At times, you will hate it, it’s just how it is, but it’s got to be an overriding feeling of satisfaction and love for your job that motivates you. If you don’t enjoy what you are doing, find a way to, or do something else!

3. You need to have work – life balance. As is true with anything, but especially with Hospitality, where the hours can tend to lean on the unsociable.



1. Learn as much as you can from as many people as you can. The food industry is ever expanding, finding new experiences and opportunities to develop tastes and techniques. However, knowledge and understanding of the classics are pillars to building a successful and exciting career.

2. Keep your head down and work hard even with the long hours and little sleep, being a chef is a demanding career but if you embrace it, it is very rewarding.

3. Try to have a balanced work life and life outside of work. Having a balanced work/life is essential for mental health and productivity at work.

Do you think collaborations are important for chefs, FOH and the industry and why?

Gerald: I do, I think collaborations help shift every day routine, and challenge both front and back of house to think differently. If just for a once off, or a series of events, you learn how to operate in limited space and in different locations (kitchens, FOH spaces) which only broadens your experience and challenges the way you look at things.

Aaron: Yes, collaborations are very important as a chef.  The opportunity to meet and talk with other chefs about food, learning their different techniques and then bringing them back and putting them in use. Cooking and eating different cuisines give chefs a bigger perspective on how large and diverse the industry really is.


How do you think we can inspire people to consider hospitality as a career?

Gerald: I’d like to say starting from the bottom, in school, and not making it seem a job for dropouts, but I understand how unrealistic this is. Honestly, I am unsure, except for constantly putting forward the best face of the industry, and showing how you can have a tangible reward for hard work and effort.

Aaron: The hospitality environment has drastically changed over the last 15 years. A career in hospitality is professionally recognised and accepted and there are many different channels of progression within this career choice which allows for constant expanding of skills and knowledge.  There are also not many careers which allow you to work anywhere in the world, whether being a chef or front of house you will never be out of work.

What do you think needs to change/be done in the industry to keep those within it motivated/inspired to stay?

Gerald: I think the industry has come a long way in the 10 years I have been involved, especially when it comes to motivating people to stay involved. As the industry grows, it falls on the people who have been involved in the industry for a while to nurture the new generation, and I can see that happening in Sydney at the moment, with small groups or individual restaurants expanding, and the teams within those small restaurants teaching the new generation and staff, and again turning that cog of motivation/inspiration.

Aaron: Flexibility with working hours and days – It is a given that as a chef you will miss out on many special occasions and the choice when taking your holidays. Most chefs are accepting of this fact, however, to inspire chefs to stay longer in the industry this may be something to consider especially as a chef grows older and family commitments become a priority.

You can read more from Appetite for Young Swine Brooke & Jake here.

As the lunch progressed the chefs along with Brooke & Gerald were able to speak to the group about their experiences within the hospitality industry; what inspires them in their careers; how the stay motivated; why the beverages were chosen for the dishes and how the dishes were cooked.

The food was amazing; the drinks delicious and the company even more so! Thanks to everyone who came along (and to those who had driven from regional areas especially for the event) and to the team behind the event. You can check out all of the event pics here!

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Castagna wines

By Lilana Goonesena

Former film director Julian Castagna and his son, Adam, have turned the spotlight onto making exceptional, natural wines.

“I make wine because I love wine,” says Julian simply. “At the beginning, I kidded myself that I made the wine; I think the land makes the wine.

“In the 1920’s, Rudolf Steiner [founder of biodynamic agriculture] advocated allowing the land to speak, and thereby get a taste of that land. We farm biodynamically, without chemicals, and that’s what makes us different.”

On the 4-hectare winery, everything is done by hand, from grape picking to bottling, with no external inputs. Castagna makes less than 2000 cases a year and often less than 600, and Julian only sells wine he likes. “In 2011 we didn’t sell anything; we made it but I didn’t like it,” he says.

Winery beginnings

Though Julian always intended Castagna to be sustainable and chemical-free, there were issues in the beginning.

“We came here in 1995, spent 18 months planting vines, and then after about two weeks, they were sick. People said I needed to spray them,” Julian tells us.

“I wasn’t about to lose the vines I had spent so long planting so I went out and bought this very expensive stuff. Then I read the label with its skull and crossbones and I thought, ‘I want to make a great wine, why destroy my plants with this?’ So, I got on a plane and went round the world and talked to anyone who would talk to me. The solution was quite simple. The moment I let the grass grow back, the pest [African black beetle] stopped eating the vines. I started learning, I tasted some great biodynamic wines and I was hooked.”


Though Castagna is certified biodynamic, Julian says it’s a frustrating process.

“No one really understands biodynamics,” he says.There’s no single certification body; rather, there’s 8-10 different organisations, and each one wants to be in control. Inspectors tick boxes instead of questioning and making suggestions. We ought to have something for normal people to understand.”

He cites the use of sulphur in winemaking as an example. “I don’t see sulphur as the devil so many other people do. We also only use a fraction. Sulphur does change the taste but once a wine gets above 25 degrees, which in Australia is often, without sulphur it’s a huge problem. So I don’t think it should be a criteria for biodynamics.”

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On the farm

“We do everything by hand,” says Adam. “Every single grape is picked by hand.”

“Once you get it right, you just do the same thing year in, year out,” continues Julian. “The normal farming principles apply. Biodynamics is not a magic wand; if the land is rubbish, what comes off it will be rubbish too.”

Biodynamics involves sprinkling cow horns preparations, known by numbers 500-508, during particular phases of the moon, to draw energy from the earth.

“We do very little to our soil besides compost, and 500 and 501,” says Julian. “500 is manure from a lactating cow put into a cow horn and buried for 6 months. We take a small amount and put it out on the vineyard. It’s not fertiliser; it’s energy. That’s what makes biodynamics different to organics, it’s drawing in that energy.”

“501 is quartz crystal, crushed and pressed between two pieces of glass so it becomes as fine as talcum powder, and put into horns. I fill 100-150 cow horns at each preparation. It’s done during summer and 500 is during winter. Again, it’s buried and it creates energy.”

Castagna Wine



The wines

 As we gather around Julian to try the wines, he tells us about their three labels.

“We have Growers, from other wineries I’m helping to become biodynamic; Castagna, only made from our land and only when I like it; and Adam’s Rib, our fruit plus other Beechworth grapes.”

“I try to make wines which have the quality of Pinot Noir. Not that they should taste like Pinot Noir but they should have the quality of great Burgundy and that has to do with lightness and energy and spirit. And almost everything we make is a blend because I like blends,” he says.

Julian is also unconvinced by screw caps; Castagna wine is on cork.

“People like the theatre of corks,” he maintains. “Wine is not simply a technical thing but an emotional thing. I think that there will be no serious wines made in the world in the next 20-25 years that are not affected in some way by biodynamics.”

We leave Castagna biodynamic enthusiasts, laden with purchases. Nicki Friedli, the Highly Commended Young Waiter from Africola in Adelaide, agrees that it’s a growing trend. “Biodynamic wine is increasing around Adelaide,” she says. “It’s not pretentious; it’s just people going back to their roots.”



Henschke – we’ll drink to that

Henschke is a name entwined with Australian wine history. Proudly entrenched in the history of their region and craft, fifth generation winemaker Stephen Henschke and his wife, renowned viticulturist Prue are at the helm. They invited our young waiters, Breanna Lawler, Brooke Adey and Gerald Ryan to spend two days with them at their property. Breanna, Brooke and Gerald got the chance to grill Stephen with some of their own questions. It’s a great insight into one of Australia’s iconic winemakers, what he loves drinking, his thoughts on low alcohol wine and more;

Q1. Who influenced you in the world of wine?  

Primarily my grandfather Paul Alfred and my father Cyril Henschke.  Later on, Professor Helmut Becker at Geisenheim Institute, winemaker Gerry Sissing, wine legend Len Evans, winemakers Jim Irvine and Max Schubert and wine merchant Arch Baker.

Q2. Having been a producer at the forefront of organic and biodynamic viticulture for some time, do you have many vineyards/ viticulturists/ winemakers who approach you for your expertise? What advice do you give?

Surprisingly few have approached us, as there are organisations such as Biodynamic Agriculture Australia to provide advice. Prue, however often shares her knowledge with the many groups she is involved with, such as the Eden Valley Biodynamic Group and the Adelaide Hills Viticultural Group. Her meticulous viticultural management and aspirations for a long-term healthy environment recently won her an award at the 2014 Adelaide Hills Wine Show for recognition of service to the region. She also won the South Australian Wine Industry Association (SAWIA) Environmental Excellence Award in the small to medium business category in 2011.

Q3. What new varietals are you excited about being introduced in SA; what’s well suited to the region? 

Grüner Veltliner in the cool climate Adelaide Hills, and in the more continental Eden Valley; Grenache Gris, Cinsault, Counoise, Clairette, and Carignan.

Q4. Are you planting any new international varieties?

We have recently planted Nebbiolo, Tempranillo, Graciano and Barbera, with some exciting results.

 Q5. What wine styles/regions, in Australia and overseas, really excite you most at the moment?

Ribera del Duero in Spain, Piedmont Süd Tyrol in Italy, and Rheingau in Germany. These regions are the homes of their native varieties that make truly wonderful wines.

Q6. Do the public’s drinking habits affect the style and volume of wines you produce? 

Yes, we respond to consumer insights and interests, for example the current trends of Pinot Noir, Pinot Gris and Riesling. The revival of interest in Riesling in particular is exiting for us as it’s a historic variety for Henschke and a variety we love to make and drink too.

Q7. What do you think about creating lower alcohol wines and this trend?

It would be better to fix climate change first and then the whole world will have a better chance!

Q8. You have recently opened a restaurant at Adelaide Oval. Are there any plans for another fine diner or is Hill of Grace Restaurant the one for now?

No other plans. We are proud of the new Hill of Grace Restaurant; the ‘five star’ association is positive for wine and food and they are presenting our wines with style.

Q9. With the general quality of wine production worldwide being at an all time high, what steps are you taking to remain at the forefront of Australian wine? As a leading Australian producer are you feeling any pressure to change anything, or is it business as usual?

We are always innovating and improving. It is all about the vineyard, with our mantra being ‘Exceptional wines from outstanding vineyards’. Our wines are handcrafted by a dedicated family with a long-standing heritage and great pioneering spirit.

Q10. Being a family run business, have there been times when you considered branching out and taking on partners?


Q11. We have heard you speak before about winemaking happening in the vineyard, not the winery. How do you manage the unpredictable weather that we can sometimes expect and its impact on your land / vines? 

You are forced to take it on the chin like all farmers do! Sustainable farming principles help us to be as prepared as possible, but when you are at the mercy of Mother Nature, all you can do is get on with it.

Q12. With changing climatic conditions every year, where do you see Henschke in 20 years? 

We would like climate change to be fixed by then. At Henschke we aim to live within the natural landscape rather than on top of it.

Like to know a little more about the Henschke’s? See the below clip or read our article, Henschke – we’ll drink to that!

henschke – a family affair

by Joshua Niland and Sonia Bandera

Most people who enjoy a cheeky tipple every now and again (or more than a tipple, more often) will understand how special one might feel standing at the foot of Henschke’s Hill of Grace vineyard with Prue Henschke herself. The 2013 Electrolux Appetite for Excellence National finalists were fortunate enough to do just that, and felt honoured to visit not just a winery, but a family proud to be deeply entrenched in the history of their region and craft.

Henschke was one of only 7 wineries in the region at the turn of the century with their first vineyards planted in the 1860’s by Johann Christian Henschke with suspected James Busby vines. There were more plantings beyond this with lots around the 1950’s. The Hill of Grace vineyard is phylloxera free and all vines are on their original rootstocks, just another impressive fact that the family can add to their name. A visit here requires all shoes to be put through a bath to maintain the integrity of the beautiful 150 year old vines from the Grandfather Block and beyond.

Stephen and Prue Henschke are now at the helm and in their time have implemented bio-dynamic and organic practices with a focus on the integration of native flora and various fertilisation techniques, eased by Prue’s Botanist background. This move was sparked when Prue was researching mulch to preserve moisture in the dry grown vineyard. They’ve looked at how to use stems and stalks for compost and bring in green waste compost from Adelaide. There is a firm belief here in the positive effects of plant diversity. The winery itself, constructed of locally quarried sandstone with local mica and slate paths, has seen modernisation in many aspects including a bottling line in 1977 which, as of 2005, no longer utilises cork.

The family place huge emphasis on expressing the cool climates of the region which is reflected in the wines by a consistent elegance, tension and concentration not just in the Hill of Grace but throughout the range. Stephen says he tries to maintain as much floral, delicate fruit and spice with cooler ferments (24-26°C) in 4 ½ – 6 ½ tonne cement vats. The wines are batch pressed as selected in the vineyard from a single site; this enables increased flexibility but also increases the knowledge potential, allowing them to know the sites more intimately.

The highlight of the visit would have to have been the opportunity to experience first-hand the synergy between vineyard and bottle just like the synergy between Stephen and Prue themselves. This was made possible by seeing the vines and their environment and then tasting the resulting wine. The unified respect for the fruit and for the environment they’re grown in and how those elements affect the end product is the key to Henschke’s success and sense of place. Standing at the entrance of the original vineyard listening to the history of the family, the region and the vines themselves was so inspiring and special that we hardly noticed the rain. It was quite amazing to stand at one point in the vineyard and being able to see the various vine ages and therefore a piece of history. Tasting the wines it became clear that access to these vines without doubt provides them with a profound complexity balanced by wonderfully subtle nuances. As Stephen pointed out, if we closed our eyes we could in fact taste and smell the vineyard and see in our minds the red gums and red-brown earth.

One might easily confuse the reputation of Henschke and its place in the Australian wine industry as being simply another iconic big brand, but this would be wrong as at its heart is a family, a story and a real wish to nurture it to the best of their ability. The story we were left with was Stephen as a boy pulling bee stings from the soles of his feet after stomping on grapes for his Grandfather.

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Stoney Rise – not your average winemaker

Written by Lilani Goonesena.

It’s not every day that you get to pass an afternoon with one of Australia’s top winemakers. And to drink his wine, have a laugh and grill him on why it’s so damn good. But that was our lot on the third day of our Electrolux Appetite for Excellence produce tour in the beautiful Tamar Valley.

Stoney Rise winery is home to Joe and his wife Lou’s four-hectare vineyard, three quarters of which is Pinot Noir. Along with Chardonnay, they also grow an unusual Austrian grape called Grüner Veltliner.

It was truly a privilege to meet Joe Holyman, named one of Australia’s best Pinot winemakers. Indeed his passion for growing Pinot Noir and Chardonnay is possibly only exceeded by his detestation for Cabernet Sauvignon.

“Every Cabernet vine in the world should be destroyed”.

Yes, he really said that.

But we can’t hold it against him because the grapes he does love he makes extremely well. And they are certainly made with love, and not much else. Joe’s philosophy is to be easy on the earth. He doesn’t use chemicals or herbicides on the soil or add anything to the wine besides sulphur. Stoney Rise is known for not manipulating its wines in any way.

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Between harvests, the soil is treated with a very natural fertiliser – sheep poo. “We just had 112 sheep here; we kept them in till they start escaping. I borrow them from a nearby farmer and give him a case of wine each year and pay for the transport. We put a temporary fence up and while there’s food, they’ll stay”, he said.

Joe is a stickler for equal treatment. “We treat the vineyard the same way every year”, he said. “Pinot Noir grows in very small bunches generally. A tiny bunch off the side of the main bunch that never quite ripens at the same time is cut off religiously every year. A shoot in our vineyard never has more than two bunches on it”.

Picking is based on seed and stalk colour. “We don’t do analysis on the fruit. The seed colour tells the birds when to start eating them which is nature’s way”, explained Joe. “We only use eight pickers and they’ve been here since I have. All the sorting happens out in the vineyard”.

Again in the winery, all the grapes go through the same process, including the small amount bought from around the Tamar for the Stoney Rise wines. “We treat all the fruit the same way, whether we’ve grown them or not”, he said.

Joe explained that he’s neither a trained winemaker nor a scientist. “We don’t have a lab. There’s no point trying to analyse stuff because I won’t understand what it means”, he laughed.

Joe had lined up 12 bottles for us to taste. But instead of comparing vintages, as done in normal wine tastings, we tried samples from different barrels of two grapes – three Chardonnays and nine Pinot Noirs – that would later be blended to make the Stoney Rise and Holyman wines.

It was an inspired tasting highlighting how much difference terroir can make to the grape. Shanteh Wong is a sommelier from Quay in Sydney and a 2014 Highly Commended waiter. “From one plot to the next, the wines were totally different. It may just be that one has a different aspect or altitude or the soil is slightly different. It’s quite incredible”, she said.

This year Joe dropped the alcohol content by 1% and likes the results. “There is a bit more finesse and structure to the wines, they’re more natural flavours rather than potentially being cooked. Pinot can very quickly go from being Pinot to non-descript dry red wine”, he said.

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Stoney Rise

Innovation, the art to great wine

Written by Lilani Goonesena.

The Tamar Valley north of Launceston is yet another beautiful part of Tasmania. Brilliant blue skies and neat rows of curled brown stalks on rolling green hills stretch in every direction.

The Tamar is known for its cool climate Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and sparkling wines. And one of its flagship producers is the award-winning Josef Chromy Wines, the fourth largest winery in the region.

Josef Chromy is a famous figure in the Tasmania wine industry and a true self-made success story. He developed and sold many well-known wineries including Jansz, Bay of Fires, and Tamar Ridge before opening his apical winery in 2007 at age 74. Now, at age 83, he is still very much involved in the business.

Dave Milne, the sales and marketing manager showed us around the winery.

“70 per cent of wines in Tasmania are sparkling, and our location is perfect for growing Chardonnay and Pinot Noir – the building blocks of sparkling wines”, he said. “The vineyard runs 2km down the side of a hill. The slopes allow for gentle air movement and provide a natural barrier to frost, and we’re protected on three sides by mountains”.

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Alongside Chardonnay and Pinot Noir, the vineyard grows Riesling, Pinot Gris and Sauvignon Blanc. One third of their grapes go to contract buyers but the rest, all handpicked, are for the three Josef Chromy labels. The entry label, Pepik, refers to Joe’s nickname in his homeland, Czechoslovakia. Zdar is the limited release label and the name of Joe’s hometown. It also means ‘success’ in English.

The state of the art winery is the most advanced in Tasmania and is designed for minimal handling. “Our equipment is very gentle with the grapes”, said Dave.

Its innovative machinery includes the Smart Plunger, co-invented by Joe, which extracts colour and flavour from the skins during fermentation, a time-intensive process normally done by hand.

The winery is also innovative in its use of lightweight, low carbon, bottles for their Pepik label, a water-recycling plant and 400 solar panels to power the winery, restaurant and cellar door.

It was fascinating to visit such a successful winery and learn about their winemaking. Hanz Gueco, a chef from Café Paci in Sydney said, “As chefs we rarely delve into the wine side, which is half of the business. I really enjoyed seeing the whole picture from barrel to bottle”.

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Josef Chromy

Hildebrandt talking about the glue that holds a restaurant together…

Written by Dominic Rolfe

The eight Australian young waiter finalists in the Electrolux Appetite for Excellence Awards 2014 filter expertly – and little nervously – around The Apprentice Restaurant’s sun-drenched dining room. Each of them knows that front of house experts from some of Australia’s top restaurants are scrutinising all aspects of their performance, from menu knowledge to dealing with tricky allergy requests. But with Nick Hildebrandt, head sommelier at the acclaimed Bentley Bar as one of the judges, they should perhaps be grateful that gymnastic skills aren’t also on the scorecard. “At Bentley, we have wait staff who are a bit more corporate and professional, and others who are more fun and cheeky,” he says. “And we have one waitress in particular who is extremely cheeky and a customer told me that she’d done a cartwheel for him on the street for his birthday. They thought it was wonderful!”

Cartwheels aside, service is one of the most overlooked skills in the hospitality industry. “Front of house is the glue that holds everything together,” says Hildebrandt. The lauded sommelier believes that front of house drives the success of a restaurant. “Obviously food and the way it’s cooked is really important but the delivery is super important. The more successful restaurants are those driven by a strong fount of house team than restaurants that are solely driven by the chef.”

With the rise of dining culture and more awareness of food and wine, waitstaff are being asked to do much more than just take orders and deliver meals. They need to be able to answer questions of provenance, give considered wine recommendations and make a great coffee. And if that isn’t enough, Hildebrandt believes having an intuition for a person’s mood or personality is a critically important skill.

“You can have all the knowledge in the world,” he says, “but it’s all about reading customers and interacting with them. If customers want you to be part of their meal and experience then you need to be part of the meal. But if they don’t want to know about you then you need to treat them with that respect.”

Recently, Hildebrandt was forced to let a waiter go even though technically he was perfect. “At the end of the day he was just going through the motions and not interacting with his customers,” Hildebrandt explains, “We want staff to engage and to look after people and show them love.”

As he casts an eye across the room, Hildebrandt sees the class and skill of this crop of waiters, some of whom already work at top restaurants from Stokehouse and Quay to Momofuku Seiobo and Bistro Guillaume. “I think people who enter a program like this want to make a career of service and they take their profession seriously,” he says. “They don’t look at it as a job to earn money while you’re doing something else. And you can tell from their attitude that they want to do well, that they have the hunger to do well.”

Like one of Hildebrandt’s own staff who came runner up in the Young Waiter awards a few years ago, and is now managing the hatted Monopole eatery, it’s clear that working front of house is quickly becoming an exciting career option. “People are inspired by so many groups and individuals opening up their own places and it’s becoming quite an appealing career path,” he says. “You’re seeing more front of house and young people opening their own restaurants and that’s an inspiration to these guys.”