It takes more than a great chef or manager to run a successful restaurant. Tireless individuals from front of house, back of house and everything in between form the backbone of every venue we know and love. 

Andrew Rutherford has been a gardener since he left school, and started his career in and around the Highlands of Scotland. Today, he is head gardener at Coogee Common, a beachside-restaurant that relies on the bounty of its onsite garden. Working as part of a team where horticulture and hospitality meet means “we’re always on the lookout to try new things, new varieties and to make this garden different to anything that is anywhere else,” says Rutherford. 

It’s a role that sees Rutherford working closely with the kitchen team. Each morning starts with a harvest list for the day’s menu before Rutherford and his team respond to kitchen needs throughout the day. “We’re always communicating with the chefs should they need anything,” says Rutherford. 

“We like to get chefs out to do a gardening shift so they know how we get produce from seed to plate: how it’s grown, how we look after it and then how we harvest it,” Rutherford adds. 

Rockpool Bar and Grill’s in-house butcher Graeme Sims reflects on a career that began in 1980. “I did my apprenticeship with an old gentleman, an old legend,” he says. “I was his last apprentice, and he was 78. I learnt all the old school ways right from the start, which held me in good stead.”

Sims adds that while his Rockpool gig was originally short term, it will probably be his swan song, allowing him to pass on his passion for butchery to a younger generation. “I teach them how to cut a fillet properly, about cutting down on waste and about the science of meat.”

Sims oversees the two dry ageing rooms integral to the restaurant’s famed meat programme, working with head chef Brendan Owens to order stock up to three months in advance. “I work closely with Brendan and his team to break [carcasses] up into modern cuts like Denver and flat-iron, he says. “They’re modern cuts but it takes old school butchering to get there.”

Alberta’s in Busselton has captured many column inches since opening in May 2022. Understandably, much of the media attention has been thanks to owners Ben Ing and Kirsty Marchant’s time working as head chef and head gardener, respectively, at restaurant Noma in Copenhagen. However, Marchant says, Alberta’s wouldn’t be able to operate without a team who are keen all-rounders.

Laura Koentjoro Harding has worked kitchen roles in Sydney and at the likes of Casa in Perth. Her start at Alberta’s involved helping Ing with prep before service and then “hopping onto the coffee machine,” when the doors opened. Wherever things get busy, she jumps in. It’s a default mode at Alberta’s, says Koentjoro Harding, who now spends most of her time in the kitchen.

“You can’t be super rigid in your role and watch someone else absolutely go down,” she says. “We all help each other, and it builds a better relationship between us because we understand what we’re all doing.”

Purpose is something that’s difficult to come by when you work in hospitality, says Koentjoro Harding, but she’s found it in Busselton. “Food is a really big thing that changes the world, historically it has, and it is always going to impact our life and the world around us. So, to work for Ben and Kirstie, I knew that it would align with me and what I wanted from my life.”

Similarly, Jess Klopcic has found a home at Alberta’s, while also “trying to get in the groove again of being in the town that I grew up in,” she says. Klopcic brings a wealth of experience, having managed a team of fifty at Ozone Coffee in London. “Starting out at 14, working in a bakery, pretty much everything in hospo I think I’ve done at some point in my life,” says Klopcic.

Decades working in hospo has taught Klopcic to never ask a team member to do something that she isn’t willing to do herself, a value she sees reflected in the team around her. Seeing how everyone works just as hard as each other is “this beautiful thing,” says Klopcic. “To work with people like this is just the best because you show up and everyone’s putting in a hundred percent.”

It all makes a difference, especially with such a small team, says Klopcic. “Everyone knows what everyone else is doing and also owning what they’re meant to be doing and then asking for help when they need it.”

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