Foodservice Magazine: Women in Foodservice Awards
LEGEND OF THE INDUSTRY PRESENTED BY FINE FOOD AUSTRALIA
ALLA WOLF-TASKER CULINARY DIRECTOR LAKE HOUSE (VIC)
What drew you to a career in foodservice?
Apparently, I told my parents at a very early age that I would have a restaurant. Why this was so, and potentially where it came from, needs some lengthy explanation — we certainly didn’t go to restaurants when I was growing up. But in brief, I think it’s probably to do with growing up amongst post-war migrants for whom the sharing of good food was a way of expressing love. Hospitality and sharing food were easily the fondest memories of my childhood. Later on, working and learning in France in the ‘70s was a love affair I was driven to recreate in Australia.
What does success mean to you?
First generation children of refugees are often strongly driven to succeed and there’s no question that was the case for me. I wanted to give my parents the pleasure of seeing their only child get ahead. I felt that in some way it might ameliorate the terrible travails of their past and also make their new lives a little easier.
On a personal level, it’s been nice to have the acknowledgement over the years that success has brought. Nowadays success means continued affirmation for the never waning passion and effort of my wonderful Lake House tribe. They really are a remarkable lot and our mutual relationship is a constant source of inspiration for me and the business.
How do you define your business philosophy?
One has to be sure of what exactly one is building. What is the business and what are its core tenets, vision and philosophy? Being sure of those is the first step, committing and remaining true to those would be the next. Some principles central to my business philosophy have been:
• Service, generosity, hospitality – And how that looks
• Taking others along on the journey — Building and empowering teams
• Provenance, seasonality, relevance — The core tenets of our food.
What was your biggest failure?
Our biggest failure was probably starting the business where and when we did. It was as I said a love affair with something that was happening on the other side of the globe. A romantic notion. We had no idea, no business plan and we didn’t listen to advice. The business was really not sustainable for five to seven years. We had to keep other jobs to try and make a go of things. It was a very difficult time. But I was stubborn and determined. I had to learn‘a zillion new skills and take on lots of additional activities in order to make the business work.
How do you motivate your staff to maintain a strong service ethic?
If that’s a central tenet of what we stand for and what we strive for, it’s easier to train for and maintain as an outcome. The acceptable benchmark needs to be understood by everyone. The practice of relying on just the good will or good attitudes of particular individual staffin an arbitrary fashion is pretty easy to spot in a discordant service environment.
Where do you find inspiration?
For menus and dishes in the restaurant — I’d have to say the seasons and beautiful produce both locally and through our networks.
What advice would you give to someone aspiring to launch their own business?
Hospitality is a really difficult landscape nowadays. Get some experience, get advice, understand the pitfalls, go in with your eyes open. Be prepared to work (very) hard and understand that you won’t be driving a Maserati anytime soon, nor will you be having holidays (or even probably days off).