Chefs love it when patrons enjoy their food, but how do they really know what you truly appreciated about the fare?
Unless you totter out back to the kitchen to give your personal review (and potentially take one’s life into one’s own hands), the only indicator you’ve relished it is a plate wiped clean.
Shane Clark from Holbrook Hotel has another, perhaps better, idea than interrupting a chef in his hallowed domain.
The plan is to invite 19 others to join him at an intimate sit-down dinner where he will discuss the dishes and his process and even share the recipe.
Shane will be hosting the event at the hotel later this month as a way to connect with his customers in a more relaxed setting, a bit like a gathering of friends around his table at home.
“This is the first time I have tried something like this in a restaurant,” he said.
“But it’s what I like to do. It’s the sort of thing I would do at home: have a group of friends over, enjoy some wine and see people enjoy my cooking and talk to them about it.”
Shane will prepare and present the canapes, an entree, the main meal and dessert for the inaugural dinner.
“I’ll sit down and talk with guests and explain to them each dish, how I’ve done it and the processes I’ve gone through,” he said.
The 27-year-old started his career in Adelaide after completing a commercial cookery course at TAFE as soon as he’d finished high school.
A stint at the Adelaide Oval soon afterwards made him realise that catering wasn’t to be his thing and he secured a job at Jolley’s Boathouse Restaurant on the banks of the River Torrens.
Completing his apprenticeship at Jolley’s, he spent four years there before a role at Fishbank – new to Adelaide at the time and specialising in seafood – beckoned. He started as junior sous chef and was promoted to sous chef.
Cut forward and a call from a mate who worked at Melbourne’s Rockpool in the Crown Casino complex saw Shane cross the border to give a helping hand and never really return to his home town.
“I ended up coming over to Rockpool for two months or so, and it was then that my friend Nicholas Jobson, who I’d worked with at the Adelaide Oval, gave me a call from the Holbrook Hotel, which he was managing, and asked me to come up and give him a hand.
Shane thought he meant for only a few days, but some cajoling saw him sign on for the chef’s gig in January and now Holbrook is home.
“The dinner event is something that helps me keep a keen interest in cooking,” he said.
“It’s going to be a higher quality of food than is on the normal menu – it’s difficult to sometimes do what you want when you are serving 200 meals in one sitting, so this is an opportunity for me to go a step higher.”
For Shane, the art of cooking involves problem-solving, a challenge he’s always up for.
“There’s a lot of problems in cooking, everything you do can present a challenge and it’s about finding out how to work around that issue, cooking it, serving it and having people eat it and enjoy it.”
It’s coming up to 12 months since the totally renovated Holbrook Hotel opened and Shane says it takes about that long to get a menu right.
“It’s been an interesting process so far working out what is working on the menu and what isn’t. We are about to change it up again next month and we hope it makes it a bit more approachable.
“It can take about a year to work out your clientele, who’s coming in and what they like and we’ve got a real mixed bag here in Holbrook because we’ve got people travelling through, the locals and the surrounding districts.
“We try to have something for everyone, and to offer something that also might be different and give decent techniques on the plate.”
If you fancy ‘Dinner with Shane’ you can find out more here.
“This is a first for me and will hopefully be a good learning curve, if it works out well I hope we can do more in the future.”