On starting out… I’ve been in hospitality for 48 years. My first foray into cooking was when I was 14, working at a milk bar making sandwiches and milkshakes. Then I started Relish, a catering business and food store in Armadale in 1970 when I was in my late teens.
On learning curves… The best way to learn, whether you want to run your own business or work in a kitchen, is to work in the hospitality business. After ten years of buying and selling businesses, I started working at Hyatt on Collins (where I met my husband Kevin) because I’d had no formal training and I thought a big hotel might be able to give me that for my future ventures.
On equal opportunity in the workplace… These days, if you want a job badly enough and you’ve got the skills for it, you can get it whether you’re a man or a woman. At Donovans, we have two head chefs – Adam Draper and Emma D’Alessandro – and they’ve been with us for 14 years now. We have a policy at Donovans where if you’ve worked here for three years, we will fully train you in every section of the kitchen. I think the industry has changed to accommodate more women now out of pure necessity. The decision to hire won’t be gender-based, we just want someone who’s really good.
On kitchen culture… Despite the TV shows, I think the days of bullying and screaming chefs are done. Kitchens are always going to be high-pressure workplaces, but it requires teamwork for service to run smoothly.
On sexism in the workplace… Because I was running my own business when I started out, I was lucky enough not to notice any sexism, but when I worked in the corporate world, I had to work harder than everyone else to be taken seriously. Unfortunately, we still live in a world where the gender pay gap is still a reality, but I think that doesn’t exist in our industry because talented chefs are so hard to find that you’d want to pay them properly.