In the comfy chair.... Steve Richardson

 Steve Richardson - General Manager of Rowland Projects

Steve Richardson is based in Melbourne and is General Manager of Rowland Projects. Initially Steve created and operated many businesses such as, The Fitz, Eat and Retro café then some twenty years ago he joined Peter Rowland. He has held numerous titles within the Peter Rowland Group including Director of Food and General Manager Catering and Events, General Manager National Gallery of Victoria, NGVI & NGVA – Peter Rowland, General Manager Melbourne Museum – Peter Rowland. He is currently heading up the Rowland Special Project division and works with architects to provide specialist knowledge for kitchen design.

You're sitting in my comfy chair what is your favorite chair?

I love the shape and the simplicity of the original Grant Featherston chair.  Although I’m seeing more and more of the copies around, the shape still grabs me.

I'd like to offer you a relaxing drink what would that be? Coffee, tea, or maybe something stronger and why is it your favorite?

I’m in and out of cafés, restaurants and function rooms all day, every day, so I’m continually drinking coffee.  I’m a big coffee drinker, but I don’t drink coffee at home. I live in Fitzroy North, most mornings before work I’ll drop in to a café, for a coffee and chat before starting my day. I vary my cafes depending upon who I would like to bump into. Around Fitzroy we are spoilt for choice.

My favorite drink is to enjoy a pinot noir from an oversized glass. I love the aromas of the currant or berry, the soft tannins and the rich lush taste of cherry and plum.

If it’s a late night, I’m partial to a cognac, if I’m having cheese.

A hot summer’s day it’s hard to go past a gin and tonic or an Aperol and blood orange juice.

How did you first become involved with food and how did your career develop?

I’m a chef by trade, although I don’t get to rattle many pans these days. I almost enjoy it when things go wrong so I have a chance to jump behind the range and cook a few meals.

After my apprenticeship I opened one of the first cafés of a modern style in Brunswick Street, Fitzroy. The Fitz had a philosophy of serving restaurant style meals in a café environment.  It became so busy I opened a second shop two doors down to enable us to hold more stock and include a preparation area.  The front section was Melbourne’s first serious juicery, Terry Durack and Jill Dupleix described it in one of their books as one of Melbourne’s top ten hidden secrets.

I have owned and operated eight food businesses across Melbourne.

Rowland’s is a major brand in the food market. How did you come to join the company?

I joined Rowlands as director of wine and food after selling the Fitz in 1993 and instantly loved the challenge of the new job.

Tell me about Rowland Projects?

Rowland Projects has grown out of necessity.  As the company expanded, the demand for hospitality solutions grew.  Initially it was a department that serviced our own sites and then expanded to a consultancy.  We design food establishments with better kitchen flow, minimise the crossing over of staff and maximising the consistency of a central kitchen. From a kitchen background and having CAD drawing skills I had the ability to streamline menus, design establishments, develop systems, train staff, include the latest of kitchen technology and minimise costs. We now additionally contract to outside architects and designers.

What are some of the challenges involved with being GM of Rowland Projects?

We are always fighting for an increase in the footprint of back of house areas.  To be honest you only have to tell someone you’re bringing twenty people over to their house for dinner and they change their mind about size of kitchens and equipment needed.

Remote refrigeration or heat exchange of these motors and running water-cooled motors through the cooling towers of large multi-story buildings, grease traps and exhaust air with return air always present a design challenge.

What are some of the highlights of your time at Rowlands?

I loved the time I was sponsored by the Italian Government to eat across Italy. Can you imagine siting back with a blazing fire nearby in a room of a castle, eating a tomato blistered by the coals wrapped in malanzane encasing a buffalo mozzarella, it was delicious.

I loved the experience of tendering for a major event like the Grand Prix seventeen years ago when the event first came to Melbourne and then building a village to feed everyone.  The concept is still relevant today.

I loved it when Ron Walker, Chairman of Melbourne Major Events, requested I go to Manchester, England to cater for a large Australian party using Australian Ingredients to welcome the Commonwealth Games to Australia.

It still makes my hair stand on end when I walk between the many marquees and help to solve menu interpretations at the Birdcage over the Melbourne Cup period. 
I love it when I build and design a local café for an interested person and I sit down for the very first coffee served.

How has providing food and arranging events changed over the last decade?

Regulations, regulations, regulations

Hand basins within five meters, grease traps, canopies in marquees, food safety plans, energy ratings etc etc etc …

Temperature controlled core cooking, sous-vide, blast chilling and regulations, regulations, regulations !

What is the next exciting challenge for you personally?

I have vast experience in hospitality, from large-scale events, street level cafes, high-end corporate entertainment to boardrooms. I would like to give back to the community. As an example I mildly assisted in a new kitchen for Fare Share to help feed the homeless on large scale.  I found I wanted to give more of my time than required and it gave me new energy to contribute.  I’ll look around and contribute my services into similar projects.

Personally I’m into core good quality ingredients, and the local farmer is the hero.

As a hobby I attend two local accredited farmer's markets, Gasworks and Slow Food, Abbotsford Convent, as a stallholder selling my own muesli mix. It’s all about the high quality of core ingredients and the good they can provide for your body and wellbeing.

Steve Richardson, General Manager, Rowland Projects.

 

Postscript

I worked for Peter Rowlands as a contractor many years ago when I was a partner in a food business called Blakes Feast Wholesale. We created and made large volumes of food for organisations such as Rowlands who catered to major events. I remember one year delivering one tonne of salad in individual portions for the Grand Prix in Melbourne. Salad has never been the same since! Steve was working on this event but we didn't finally meet until a few years ago. 

Steve Richardson  

Steve Richardson