Eto + BAR STREET FOOD
LIFE has never been busier for Rutherglen chef, Gavin Swalwell. After three decades in the business, his latest business venture, Ripe at Buller Wines has proved so popular so quickly, that he and partner Fiona Myers have had to fast track their business plans for the new restaurant and food destination. He’s come a long way since entering his first commercial kitchen just shy of 15-years-old with the aim of earning some pocket money, only to find himself enjoying the intensity of flipping burgers during rush hour.
“The thrill of doing a fast service there ignited my passion for cooking, funnily enough,” he said.
Gavin began his career in Melbourne and his resume reflects his considerable experience in the fine dining realm, with stints at Burnham Beeches, Le Restaurant at the Regent and Delgany at Portsea under Hermann Schneider. His first head chef job was at Sails on the Bay in Elwood, which he ran for three years, before making the tree change and relocating north to wine country to take over the kitchen at Tuileries.
By this time Gavin also had a young family and he made the decision to step away from the unrelenting demands of running a restaurant to spend more time with his twin daughters. Five years ago the opportunity came up to establish their own place, and Taste at Rutherglen was born, which quickly evolved to incorporate the development of Rutherglen Brewery. It was a leap of faith for Gavin and his partner in life and business Fiona, who pooled their culinary expertise and business savvy, to turn what appeared to be a jinxed site into a roaring success.
The couple soon bought the freehold and annexed the neighbouring property to realise Fiona’s vision and install the brewery. Gavin said his success was largely due to the following he’d developed in town, supported by a community including the many local wineries, who appreciated his passion for food and special flair with seafood. “Taste has been phenomenal,” he said. “It was really refreshing because people in town knew my style of food.
“We got a following straight away and subsequently the restaurant has gone from strength to strength.”
The couple said when it came to Taste, and their latest venture Ripe at Bullers, it was the restaurants, or the premises themselves, which took them in the direction they needed to go. Gavin explains that when Taste first opened, their nervous enthusiasm led them to throw every style into the mix, running a breakfast, lunch and dinner service which left them exhausted. He said they decided to “work smarter, not harder” concentrating on creating a brewery that served “brew food” for lunch and a fine dining restaurant space for dinner, where he could serve “really amazing food without the pretention” and where everything including the bread and butter was made from scratch.
What has been an exciting journey seemed to head down exactly the right road, with Taste having just celebrated its fifth birthday. When the opportunity to add Ripe at Bullers to the business portfolio came along, the door opened to an exciting new venture offering seemingly endless possibilities. >>