Creating culinary artists

Written by Scott Thompson and Jason England

A few weeks ago, Jason and I (Scott), were chatting about well-known restaurants that we are familiar with (we’ve had the pleasure of dining at quite a few, as interested foodies and business owners) and contemplating the question of ‘how many restaurants in Queensland have a menu that changes as often as Odyssey?’

We’ve come to realise that what we are doing here in Hervey Bay is unique among dining establishments in Queensland and possibly even Australia. Working with a continually changing menu is a first for us and we have had to learn how to achieve this.

Developing our dining concept has taken a considerable amount of trial and error to deliver a consistent product. In the beginning we created a five-course dining structure for our menu. We sourced specific producers and suppliers to create the imaginative and consistent quality of food we aspired to serve to our customers.

We continually aim to deliver our culinary promise of taking you on a journey that delights, challenges, inspires and excites, and we are fortunate to have a diverse and skilled team striving to achieve this. However, we realised that our staff had differing levels of skill, and that we would need to develop systems to assist with ongoing staff training.

Our Head Chef Neil oversees the culinary team, Chef Kelly and Apprentice Siobhon. Neil structures the kitchen by planning the menu, supervising the staff, and providing additional support to educate and train. His approach to training is to explain the theory behind the task, encourage critical thinking or questioning and give feedback. Frequently new skills require repetition to improve the skill being developed, and Neil makes this enjoyable with his style of dry humour.

I often find myself listening to the kitchen conversations to further develop my own culinary understanding. Watching Neil, who has achieved an impressive C.V. by working in amazing restaurants, invest time into training and educating Siobhon and the whole culinary team is truly inspiring. Training staff is not always an easy task and can often be neglected within our industry.

With a busy schedule and changes being made daily it would be easy for team members to be left behind. The planning and structure around what we are doing at Odyssey is subject to continual improvement.

I was once cautioned by my first restaurant manager ‘A chain is only as strong as its weakest link’. This resonated with me, and I often recall the advice when developing and reflecting on our business. We are, by no means perfect, but we constantly strive to do better and be better. As leaders in our industry, it is vitally important for us to invest our time to educate, upskill and empower all our staff so they can achieve their goals. We believe that this investment on our part will be crucial in assisting us to achieve our goal, and in the end we will all, customer and employee share and celebrate our success.