Telina Menzies is an Executive Chef at Australian Venue Co, which has more than 200 pubs and bars across the country. We caught up with Telina at St Kilda’s famous Hotel Esplanade in Melbourne with Area Chef Tony Moss to find out about the historic venue and how they manage a large team and venues located across Australia.
Hotel Esplanade is known locally as the Espy. What is its history?
Tony: The Espy is a big, beautiful Victorian hotel, built in 1878, that covers three floors and has three dining areas and two kitchens. It is a destination for food, drinks, dancing, music for locals and tourists, and was where SBS filmed Rockwiz. If only these walls could talk…
Telina: Yes, I think everyone in Melbourne has a memory of the Espy. It is in such a beautiful location, looking out over St Kilda pier and Port Phillip Bay. There’s a mural of Paul Kelly on one exterior wall and rock posters inside. The place is laden with local history: the bands, the comedy, the bars, the kitchen!
Speaking of food, you’re famous for the dumplings at Mya Tiger, the modern Cantonese restaurant inside the Espy.
Telina: Yes, the pan-fried ginger chicken dumplings are one of my favourites. They are so delicious. Mya Tiger has a personality of its own, its own staff. The woman who makes the dumpling skin is a Chinese-born grandma. She hand rolls the skins while watching Chinese soap operas on her mobile phone – it’s quite cute. The secret is to set up good teams in each venue from day one.
Tony: As a group, we give the teams in each venue autonomy to make many of their own decisions, and to own their menus. It gives the team ownership and pride in what they are making and serving.
You’re not micromanaging each venue then?
Telina: Ha! No! Our role as leaders is to nurture staff through the career pathway.
Tony: Yes, it’s not about bossing people about. We identify those with talent and help them through the steps as they progress
in their career. We are mentors, not bosses.
Telina: People are the most important part of our business. Our role is to teach our staff how to grow. How to find their potential.
What's the secret to a good pub menu?
Telina: Running pubs is in my veins. It’s about knowing the boundaries and finding that tension between pushing the boundaries but also avoiding unnecessary pretension.
Tony: Pubs are about knowing what the people want, and sometimes taking customers on a culinary journey to different places.
Telina: Yeah, but also knowing the limitations. It’s tempting to make it fancy, but you have to keep the customer in mind and what they want at the pub.
Tony: A great example of pushing boundaries but keeping it simple with beautiful produce is the Espy Kitchen’s chilli spanner crab spaghetti. Fresh house-made pasta, good butter, great extra virgin olive oil, spanner crab from Queensland and a touch of chilli. God it’s good.
Telina: When you have great ingredients, you don’t need to do much. Less fuss, let the dish speak for itself!
Continue reading our chat with Telina and Tony in