Nicole Hawley, Head Chef, The Ranelagh Club, 3 Rosserdale Cres, Mount Eliza
What’s the best thing about being Head Chef at The Ranelagh Club?
The view! The Ranelagh Club is position-perfect. Every day I get to look out over the sea and on to the horizon. The next best thing about working here is that I can be very creative. It’s exciting to constantly develop new dishes and to explore different flavours. Getting to know the local produce is a great bonus too – there is so much to choose from!
Tell us a bit about your training.
I’ve been lucky in that I was brought up in a family who loved to cook, eat and get together with friends, so there was a lot of time spent in the kitchen. I have both German and English heritage so I was exposed to very different flavours. I did my apprenticeship in the Navy and did a three-year post on the HMAS Arunta, which was fantastic. There were up to 150 crew members at a time and we made everything from scratch. It was a great training ground. No time for mucking about - it was a crash course!
Do you have a favourite style of cooking and why?
My dishes are influenced by my travels and the people I have met along the way. I’ve always gravitated towards the home-style hearty dishes because that’s how I was brought up, and I love Italian and German flavours. I like to fill people up with tasty dishes that leave them warm and satisfied. I want them to feel like they are being looked after nutritionally and flavour-wise.
Tell us what we can expect to see on The Ranelagh Club spring/summer menu.
It’s going to be exciting because I get to change it whenever I want, which means our clients can enjoy a diverse and broad tasting. We’ve already had a Mexican night, which was very successful. The kids just love tacos and Dorito chicken. The Greek night was a hit too. I’m looking forward to broadening our dessert range by using local produce. I can’t wait to use the local berries! Then there’s banana spring rolls and chai latte crème brûlée. There will be more grazing dishes that can be enjoyed outside and lots of family friendly pizza and pasta. I’m looking forward to having an Asian flavour-inspired night soon.
How do you keep reinventing the menu and how long have you been in the industry?
I’ve been doing this for over 15 years and you learn a lot on the job by experimenting. It’s important to keep things new and fresh. There are so many different ingredients – why not explore and create? I’ll always keep the dishes that clients love on the menu. For example, the duck liver pate always goes down a treat. But we offer lunch, dinner, speciality nights and events plus we cater. With all these options, the dishes you can create are endless.
Sounds like a big job – what do you like to eat at the end of the day?
We do up to 100 meals a day. It is a big job but I thrive on it. Most chefs have that drive. My assistant chef Con is a great help. I usually stick with something simple at the end of the day, like scrambled eggs. I love eggs. But you see I’ve been tasting and testing throughout the day.
And in down time?
I enjoy the beach and catch up with friends. And of course, cook! There’s never no cooking!