Traditional views of the restaurant chef de cuisine have historically been of a hot-tempered dictator barking orders at a team of panic-stricken subordinates, an impatient boss who is difficult to please and occasionally inclined to throwing inanimate objects across the kitchen in frustration.
Recently, TV shows like Masterchef© and The Chefs Line have taken household cooks and turned them into ‘celebrity chefs’ almost overnight, spawning a new breed of ‘chef’ and creating the expectation that work as a chef is somewhat glamourous, high-flying and most certainly does not involve finishing work at midnight, spending an entire shift gutting fish or God-forbid, washing dishes.
The Westport Club’s recently-appointed Head Chef, Trent Davis, takes all the usual chef stereotypes and flips them completely on their head.
Originally hailing from Port Macquarie, Trent grew up in a family of restaurant owners and café professionals. The 30-year-old boasts an impressive resumé despite his age, having worked as a Personal Chef on a luxury boat in Far North Queensland, reopening two restaurants for Accor Group and running a fine food café in Brisbane’s trendy suburb Paddington.
Trent recently joined The Westport Club team following 2 years at Barooga Sporties Club and Cobram Barooga Golf Club, a position which saw him responsible for serving up 2,500 meals per week through a range of outlets and due to a complete refurbishment and re-brand, gave Trent the opportunity to set up a new kitchen from scratch, from kitchen design to menu creation, to staff training.
But it was his previous position at the Albury Wadonga SS & A Club, where he really cut his teeth as a head chef. He managed a team of 24 chefs who were responsible for servicing 4 outlets from 1 main kitchen. Trent says this was his first foray into the clubs industry and it was a completely different culture to what he had experienced in his career previously.
During his time at the SS & A Club Trent learnt what it meant to really manage a team, and that it wasn’t just about being in charge and giving orders. Since leaving the SS & A Club he has continued his evolution as a leader and brought this same mindset with him when joining The Westport Club.
Unlike some head chefs who have hung up their apron in favour of spreadsheets and supplier negotiations, Trent also maintains his involvement in day to day operations and is often seen in Hastings Coffee Co. during lunch or running the pass in Aqua Restaurant, or even in the kitchen washing dishes. He says he is a firm believer in leading by example, a value that is firmly implanted in the culture of The Westport Club.
Since commencing with The Westport Club, Trent has spent a lot of time with his team working on new ideas for the kitchen and most recently launched a revamped menu for Hastings Coffee Co. We sat down with Trent to get more insight into the menu writing process and his plans for the future of Hastings Coffee Co.
Take us through the process of how as head chef you go about planning a new menu
I like to empower my team to be a part of the planning process. I ask them to put together their own ideas of what they would like to be creating for our customers and encourage them to incorporate local products into their ideas. It’s not just about me and what I want to cook, it’s about using the skills and experience of my qualified staff to ensure we are doing the best we can and everyone feels like they are a part of the process because they had a role to play in creating the menu.
What’s your ultimate goal when creating a menu?
I want our menus to be honest and un-pretentious, and to deliver on what we promised our customer. I don’t think we need to use big words or fancy ingredients for our food to be elegant and tasty. Our goal is to always exceed our customers’ expectations with every dish that we put up and for our menu to be relatable and easy to understand for our customer.
Describe the new Hastings Coffee Co. menu
The menu focuses on quality local ingredients, presenting simplistic ideas that allow the flavours to sing. It is not fussy, or overcomplicated, it’s elegant, fresh and delicious.
Tell us about your future vision for Hastings Coffee Co.
Some people might not be aware that Hastings Coffee Co. is also a working bakery. We bake our own bread daily inhouse for our customers to take home. We recently hired a specialist Pastry Chef so I am excited about increasing our offering when it comes to our homemade desserts and pastries in Hastings Coffee Co. I’m also looking to focus on sourcing more free-range products and of course buying as much Port Macquarie and Hastings Valley produce as is available. I have no doubt that Hastings Coffee Co. will evolve over time in line with our customers needs, as that is our number one priority.
Are there any food trends that are getting you excited at the moment?
I’m really loving the street food and burger trend at the moment. It’s fun, exciting and a bit indulgent. I think it’s really important for food to be fun, you can’t take it too seriously all of the time.
Hastings Coffee Co. is situated at The Westport Club and boasts beautiful uninterrupted views of the Hastings River. Hastings Coffee Co. is open daily from 7.30am. Hastings Coffee Co. by night Wednesday to Saturday from 4pm – late. Bookings are not required.
Read the Hastings Coffee Co. menu