An extraordinary story has been brought to life at Nates on Old Bar.
This young, talented chef insists that if someone has a dream, nothing is impossible. We speak with The Hurricane Chef (as close ones call him) about his passion for food, and why being mostly deaf and blind hasn’t stopped him from opening up his own restaurant.
> First of all, congratulations on opening Nate’s on Old Bar.
Thank you very much!
> How long have you wanted to be a chef for?
Ever since I was really little. It’s been a dream of mine for about eighteen years.
> You have had to overcome some pretty tough challenges to get to where you are today. Tell us about some of the setbacks.
At the age of three I was diagnosed as an insulin dependent diabetic. Then when I was eight, my school teacher picked up that my hearing was bad. I had hearing aids and then at eighteen I got a cochlear implant in my right ear … then in 2008, I had another cochlear implant in my left year. At sixteen, my eye sight started going downhill. Today, I can probably see about one to two metres in front of me with large objects, but much less with smaller.
Because I am hearing and vision impaired, I went for a lot of interviews but no one would give me a go. I started Nate’s On Old Bar because it was a passion. I love food and a lot of people thought I couldn’t do it – but I proved them wrong. People actually said to me, you can’t do that … Here I am, doing it!
My disabilities do make it hard, and it can be a little discouraging at times, but in other ways, I am not giving up.
> Through the assistance of Nova Employment, you completed your Chef’s Apprenticeship at the Manning Base Hospital with flying colours – flying distinctions, in fact! What was your secret?
I am a local and had the opportunity to do my apprenticeship through the Manning Base Hospital Cafeteria. I have wanted to have my own restaurant in this region for years, and I believe the secret is good cooking, dedication and hard work.
> And a Youth Achievement Award up your sleeve too?
I received the Youth Achievement Award in 2005 through TAFE for my studies, as I had received a few distinctions for my work. I got along with the teachers well and was excited to finally receive my certificates and become a qualified chef in the last year.
> Did you always have a passion to be a chef? What is it about the kitchen that attracts you?
Yes, to be a chef and have my own restaurant was the dream. Food is a wonderful thing that everyone enjoys. I want this place to be somewhere that people can get excited about food again. Food that’s different.
> When people visit Nate’s on Old Bar, what can they expect?
Nate’s on Old Bar is starting to look like my dream restaurant. We wanted upper class, sophisticated, different. Some people look in and say, “Oh, I bet that’s expensive. Hold on … that’s pretty reasonable, actually!”
We renovated the whole restaurant and with the help of my folks, we designed and decorated to make it the impressive restaurant that it is.
The produce is mostly locally sourced, and we try to keep it fresh, as I don’t like using frozen foods. Fresh dishes means fresh vegetables and produce. The concept is that we have one hot bain marie in the room and a cold bain marie, and on Thursday, Friday and Saturday nights we are open for dinner.
My team and I cook the meat, chicken, seafoods, vegetarian meals out the back and the diners then have the choice of their own assortments from the hot and cold accompaniment bars. This allows for better flow in my kitchen and the diner’s choice of their sides.
> Where do you feel you have an advantage in the kitchen, Nate?
I use different senses that are equally as important in the kitchen, like smells and tastes – they are the two best guides for any chef. Some of my presentation is not amazing, but my kitchen hand pulls me up on that!
We have had lots of good feedback and compliments on the food, and when people ask what type of food we do, I say, “Anything and everything.” Nate’s on Old Bar is not just about one genre of food – we have variety.
I also have a lady (a long-time family friend) – Jodi Ready – who makes our absolutely amazing sweets and cakes. She runs her own business called Cinders Cottage and makes wedding, 21st or any age, christening or any other celebration cakes and desserts, sold exclusively in Nate’s on Old Bar and from Cinders Cottage direct. So functions, catering and receptions looks like an avenue that we will be exploring in the future.
> Essentially, where would you like your chef career to go?
I want the business to be that successful that there is a possibility we could open a second one! Or a third one! To actually have chefs working for me and being a manager would be ideal. You never know what the future holds.
> When you’re not in the kitchen, what else do you like to do?
I like to eat, go fishing, listen to music and go swimming. But for the last 5 – 6 weeks, I have not been doing much of that – it’s been all about the restaurant.
> What would you say to people who have a dream they want to pursue, but may not been as mobile as others?
Go for it; you have to try! Why not?
> Tell us about your team.
Well of course there is me, my parents, and also at the moment family friends are helping out.
> Is there anyone you would like to thank?
My parents and Jodi have been great in helping me set up Nate’s on Old Bar. They helped to design and construct the venue. Everything right down to the signage and walls.
I would also like to say a big thank you to someone who has helped me along all the way – his name is Mick Ward (Snr). Mick is a good friend who has been fantastic and we couldn’t have done it without him. Also the fishermen … they know who they are. They’ve been great!
> If you could describe Nate’s on Old Bar in one sentence, what would it be?
A classy café/restaurant, award winning River Roast Coffee (out of Maitland), affordable for all, especially families, with a great atmosphere in the heart of Old Bar.
> Thank you Nate.