Colin Fassnidge knows more than most about breaking down the preconceptions of what constitutes pub and club food. After making his name in the kitchen of the Four in Hand pub in Sydney’s Paddington in 2005, the now hard-working “celebrity” chef has just opened a venue at The Castlereagh, City Tatts’ latest dining offering in Sydney’s CBD.
“It’s as good as any restaurant,” he says of the new venue after an agonising two years in hospitality. “A lot of restaurants went bust but clubs were still a great place to meet and to catch up as many of them are a one-stop shop,” he says.
While many smaller clubs were forced to close because of the financial impact of the pandemic, Colin is aiming for this year’s ClubsNSW Perfect Plate awards to lift up the reputation of dining in the club space.
“They have a high customer turnover and a lot of them are now sourcing great fresh produce. The idea that they are opening bags full of frozen food is no longer realistic,” he says.
Cronulla RSL CEO Sue McNeill says her chef and the kitchen run by Dedes Waterfront Group are always looking to improve and the Perfect Plate continues to help raise expectations among members.
“I believe we are still trying to improve all the time because the market is constantly changing and people’s expectations are constantly changing,” she says.
“We are finding that in a table of 10 people, you’ll have half of them that are the traditional RSL club schnitzel, chips, salad, steak and then you’ll have the other half who are expecting things like poke bowls and creations from chefs like those we have seen from the Perfect Plate today. There is a real widening of expectations on what a group of people want to eat.”
Colin will hit the road with old mate and fellow Perfect Plate ambassador Manu Feildel to promote the competition among the 160-off participating clubs across NSW.
“A lot of the small clubs didn’t survive,” says Manu but those that did want to appeal to the next generation.
“We are pushing the chefs to get into this competition because chefs have big egos, you know,” he says with a knowing grin. “They want to compete against each other so this is pushing them to compete against each other across the whole of NSW.”
Dedes Waterfront Group’s Con Dedes says he is thrilled to be participating in the ClubsNSW Perfect Plate competition.
“Big shout out to Josh Landis and the team for providing an outlet for creativity and marketing statewide. Good luck to everyone involved.”
The chefs’ tour will take them to about 20 venues, from the Newcastle to the Hunter Valley, then up and down the coast, including a couple of overnighters.
“It’s top and tail,” Manu jokes of the sleeping arrangements.
To see the contenders go to www.perfectplate.com.au