Carving out a Niche in the Restaurant Industry

SBS World News reported recently that there is a shortage of chefs in Australia - and that ‘chef’ has been added to the Skilled Occupation List.  The problem doesn’t seem to be attracting staff in Australia, but keeping staff due to low wages and high turnover.

However for entrepreneurs keen to start their own restaurants, passion and vision is what keeps them going, despite long hours in the kitchen.

Eddie Leung, 30 year old Hong Kong born chef, has had a passion for great food all of his life.  Originally from Hong Kong, the young chef moved to Australia with apron strings in hand to fulfil his ambition of developing his culinary skills and one day opening his own restaurant.  “Sydney is one of the most exciting cities in the world with many opportunities for those in the hospitality industry.  People from all over the world travel to Sydney to simply experience the unique flavours that it has to offer.  I knew that in order to succeed in such a city, I had to have a competitive advantage against fellow chefs”, says Eddie.

Eddie Leung opened his restaurant Spago in 2011 and has never looked back.  Situated in Sydney’s Beverly Hills, it could be compared to Spago in Los Angeles, however is a world away from Hollywood and Wilshire Boulevard.  Eddie had never heard of Spago in LA and chose to open his restaurant in Beverly Hills purely for economic reasons, as the rents were much cheaper than the city.  His reason for choosing the name of his restaurant was that in Italian, Spago means ‘String’, with spago a description of what spaghetti looks like.

Situated on the Beverly Hills strip, South Sydney, Spago specialises in Modern Australian cuisine with a hint of Italian.  The restaurants relaxed and intimate atmosphere is popular with customers and can seat up to 55 diners.

Eddie’s strategy was to take fine dining to the suburbs, as most people usually plan a night out in the city once every few months.  However, in the suburbs, because it’s more affordable and local, they can eat out more frequently.

This strategy turned out to be a winning formula; last year, Spago took out the Restaurant & Catering Award for Excellence in Italian Restaurant – Informal category, coming in ahead of other contenders including Jamie’s Italian and Hugos.

“I was delighted when it was announced that my restaurant had won the RCA award for Excellence, beating some of the top restaurants in the city.  It has made everything that I have worked and studied hard for in the last few years’ worth it.  I am very proud of my team”, says Eddie.  As part of the gruelling assessment, invigilators dined at the restaurant under the guise of a regular customer.  “We didn’t know when we would be assessed or by whom.  It was a very nerve wracking experience but me and the team just operated like it was a normal day, preparing exceptional cuisine for our customers and always offering a high standard of service.  It is what we pride ourselves on!”

Eddie is testament to that fact that passion, coupled with hard work, can lead to success.  While the road to success as a chef can be marred by long hours in the kitchen and an exhausting schedule of food preparation and planning, it can also be a truly rewarding experience for those who are passionate about their craft, and bold enough to try something new.

Article supplied by William Blue College of Hospitality Management