For chef Peter Fleming from 561 Alphadale, getting a chef's hat in the Sydney Morning Herald Good Food Guide is his ultimate dream - and given they never know when a critic in disguise might arrive, it keeps him and the staff on their toes.
On New Year's Eve, Peter and his wife Busara O'Reilly (pictured) were awarded the next best thing - a chef's hat by the Australian Good Food Guide.
"It was a good way to start the year - the chef's hat was a great reward and something a serious chef strives for. We're the only one in the Lismore area," he said.
They are now aiming for that coveted chef's hat in the SMH publication.
"A chef's hat (in the SMH) has been my goal since we opened three years ago and we've been building to that position - it would be great as the area is lacking hatted restaurants. I got close in Melbourne (working for the restaurant MOO) and now I feel like we're very close again… That's what you strive for in this industry, to be recognised by your peers."
Peter, who grew up in Kyogle and then moved to the city to pursue his passion for food, said it was very different owning and managing a restaurant instead of just turning up and putting an apron on.
"It's been a huge eye-opening experience taking that step. With my own restaurant I have the freedom to go where I want with food, the freedom to explore new produce and new ideas, new methods of cooking. I love that freedom to explore and develop."
Peter said they have steadily worked towards being hat-ready and he believes the food and service is at a level where they feel confident to be critiqued again.
"The food is good enough," Peter said. "We're not reinventing the wheel; it just comes down to consistency."
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