Masters of reinvention

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Paddington Arms restaurateurs Graham and Glenise Hawkes hold a photograph of the building when the couple originally bought it.

Graham and Glenise Hawkes are celebrating a quarter of a century at the roundabout.

Although Paddington Arms and its themes, from home-style food to seafood to a British pub-style atmosphere had changed throughout the years, one constant has remained – the Hawkes’ insistence on excellence for hospitality, service and food.

A born-and-bred Southlander, Mr Hawkes learnt about southern hospitality and the food industry at grass roots, beginning his career as a cook for a shearing gang when he was a teenager. This followed cooking steaks at Ainos Steak House in Waikiwi before taking up a formal six-year chef apprenticeship at the Grand Hotel.

After several years working in Sydney and throughout New Zealand, he returned to Invercargill in 1987 to manage Elmwood Homestead, now Cobb & Co, and later with his wife, Glenise, the cafe in Queens Park.

In 1992 the culinary couple took over Donovan Restaurant, which was later rebranded as Flannagan’s Seafood Restaurant and is now known as Paddington Arms.

Mr Hawkes said the Donovan was in a “great spot” and they both “loved the building”, so when the opportunity came to buy it, it was impossible to resist.

“It has changed quite dramatically since we came here 25 years ago.

“People’s expectations and requirements change,” he said, with regard to their restaurant’s continuous culinary evolution.

But one of the constants has been their collection of gold-rimmed plates. Not just any old dinner plates, these have been awarded to the restaurant for excellence by Beef+Lamb New Zealand.

The equivalent of an European Michelin star, “every year the assessment has been going, we have received a plate. It was great to see all the hard work our team has gained these recognitions.”

Asked what some of their highlights had been throughout the past 25 years, and the answers were simple – hospitality, service, food, customers and staff.

“It has been the engagement of our staff and how we have been able to work with them… and how some, in particular, have gone on to become ambassadors of the hospitality industry.”

The Hawkes hold their staff in high regard, citing many achievements.

“One became the number one apprentice in Australia and New Zealand, and won a whole heap of medals at various competitions. Another one of our staff, who began with us washing dishes after school [continued up the hospitality ladder] to culinary arts and working in resort hospitality in Australia.

“Several staff have also won medals in New Zealand for food and restaurant service.”

Mr Hawkes has also achieved much, including competing at the Culinary Olympics in Germany in 1984 when he represented New Zealand, which resulted in a gold medal in the national team event.

The team consisted of five members, and “I was the only New Zealand born and first New Zealand-trained chef”.

Giving back to the industry is another strong emphasis for Mr Hawkes.

He has had a huge involvement throughout the industry with training in all sectors, including at schools and tertiary level, as well as with high performance teams.

Last year he was the Chef de Mission for the New Zealand Culinary Olympic Squad, which involved selecting, training, managing and escorting a team to Germany. The results – two bronze medals and a silver.

As for their clients throughout two and a half decades. Mr Hawkes said “they have grown with us.

“As food styles and expectations have changed, so have we. We have changed our style of dining, from fine food dining to a much more casual gastro pub style… simple food done really well at a much more affordable price.

“When we brought the Donovan back in the 90s we always said it would make a great English-style pub, but we waited until 2010… until Invercargill was also ready for it.”

Reinvention was a key ingredient in surviving in the food and hospitality industry, Mr Hawkes said.

Which is why the couple have introduced a new realm which included a new menu, share plates and daily rituals such as the special of the day, each day.

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