Our Hospitality Specialist Nicole Donovan

– We asked Nicole to tell us all about her hospitality journey and here is her story….

I was drawn to hospitality from a young age. Maybe it was from Mum and Dad’s lavish dinner parties where I was allowed to help serve, sit at the table, and watch the adults have the best time!

Starting my career in a Sydney advertising agency in the 80s, Leo Burnett, I worked nights at Eastwood Businessmen’s Club pulling beers and later at City Tatts in Pitt St serving wealthy pokie widows Pimms and lemonade.

Then came a night gig at Alley Cat Wine Bar in North Sydney; we served fortified wine and cordial in jam jars. And, a night job at Lady Hamilton’s in the Rocks, serving aged Roquefort cheese seeped in port and mixing shaken Margaritas and martinis.

The next stop was London, a fine dining restaurant in Covent Garden, and a famous burger restaurant, Crusts, just down the road from Mick Jagger’s house, working on the grill with the Polish and Italian chefs. Then, after returning to Sydney, I got a job in a busy suburban sandwich bar and a fine-dining French restaurant with an obsessive chef, Bernard, before moving to Coffs.

I was offered a job at the then brand new 5-star and magnificent Aanuka Beach Resort, working six days (and nights) a week under the decadent care of Mal Fittler, who let us loose on the bar and spa pools where we used to party all night (those were the days). I later returned as duty manager and assistant F&B Manager often until the early hours, starting again at 3pm.

In the mid-90s, I opened Charlies Restaurant at Pac Bay as Restaurant Manager. Working late into the night five days a week in what was once an opulent and beautiful restaurant, with fine dining, classic cocktails and Roy, the grand piano man.

Next was the Plantation Hotel, where I was head chef, designing the menus and cooking for our little restaurant, Legends, themed with movie stars and decorated by Nicolle Foster in muted lavender and grey.

Next, the Hoey, where we (Matt, who was just out of his Avanti apprenticeship) ran the Hoey Bistro, serving chips and gravy and chicken schnitzels, for about six months before we had a chance to move to Melbourne.

I then worked at Cracklins on Swan and had a fantastic time; my most famous customer was Malcolm Fraser, whom I served as a sommelier on duty that night. I’m still friends with the crew there.

Back to Coffs, Zulus at the Zebra Hotel for a bit, and then we got our big break and opened the Ocean Front Brasserie at the Fishing Club. So between giving birth to 3 children in less than four years, I was manager, bookkeeper, wedding planner, HR manager, and on the bistro counter on Friday nights serving fish and chips and seafood platters.

Then to the Surf Club Restaurant and Bar, 14 years of managing our high turnover cafe, restaurant and wedding centre open 7 days and (usually) 3 or 4
nights a week!

All this obviously can’t fit in a Linkedin profile or resume!

I still love love love hospitality. So knowing the industry like the back of my hand, I’m ready to share the love. I now enjoy dining at Brisbane’s finest with my best friend, Michael, and having the best fun analysing menus, decor, music, and systems and feeling passion for the pure theatre of it all. So now I’m at EMPOWER Agency and hope to help support others.

Nicole is ready to help support you in your hospitality journey. Contact us today!