Growing up in the 80’s it wasn't considered cool for a girl to aspire to be a Chef, but she had a knack for remembering events by the foods they had, and that’s where the love affair started.
She has fond recollections of attending friend’s birthday parties and remembering what she ate, she doesn’t however remember what she wore. It was all about the passion and love for food, which turned into a career.
We chatted with Executive Chef at the 5-Star Mayfair Hotel, Bethany Finn about her time in the industry and her love of cooking.
“If you really enjoy it you’ll become good at it’.
Named after the Bethany wine region in the Barossa Valley by her food and wine loving parents, these were their words of wisdom to Bethany on following a career in cooking.
Becoming a Chef wasn’t about getting a job, but instead was an extension of what she loved. She joined the Mayfair when it was still being built as part of the project team and has been there ever since the Hotel opened about 2.5 years ago. Being involved in the process from start to finish, getting to design the concept, the kitchen from ground up, and finding the right team was a really rewarding process and a very proud moment seeing it all come together.
A lot of thought went in to designing a concept that no one else was doing. The concept was influenced by the nature of the building outside with all the amazing architectural gargoyles, and in bringing back the best of what has happened in the past 30 years of her career.
“We are not doing fine dining, just modernising the classic dishes”.
Their prawn cocktail for example is so simple, but the produce is so great, with prawns from the Spencer Gulf.
Studying at Regency Tafe, Bethany has worked both overseas and interstate, and explains her travels as a food map of her life. She was always destined to spend her career in South Australia as she loves the vast produce the area has on offer.
“I have been fortunate to have three bites of the cherry” she says, she has had great success in the 90s at the Hilton, followed by success with her own business, and then was able to have a third bite of the cherry in being able to put Mayfair Hotel on the map.
Bethany started at the Hilton in her early 20’s as one of the first female Chef’s in the kitchen, and worked her way up to Executive Chef. She states that her time there was a wonderful training ground as she was afforded education and some great mentors. From there she went on and opened her own restaurant with her Chef husband “Urban” which they operated for 12years.
She believes that the more supported employees feel the better the culture is.
Bethany says that choosing the right people is the key to having a successful venue, and treating your staff really well. If you have great management, you’ll have a great team.
“All you need is the right attitude”
is her advice for someone starting in the industry. About a year ago she received a call from a young man wanting to do work experience. Initially, she wasn’t sure if he’d be the right fit but she referred him on to HR, he came in to do work experience, and at first, she didn’t recognise him, but now remembers him as a beaming face who kept his head down, didn’t talk to anyone, and peeled and chopped as fast as he could.
At the end of the two weeks he said, “Do you remember me from the phone call” and she was surprised to learn that it was the same young man. During the course of the two weeks she said, “that guy is great” and he has since become their apprentice. Nothing is too hard for him and he really wants to be here.
She said it all falls in to place beautifully when you find the right people.
Some of the challenges she notes in the industry are the rising costs of running a venue, and that venues have had to adapt and use technology to reduce labour costs.
“Learn how to manage an expectation to create an experience”
is the key to getting it right in the restaurant game for Bethany.
Family has been one of the biggest influences on Bethany’s career. With her husband being a key mentor throughout her career, they have grown together to the current points in their respective careers.
Recently she and her husband got to meet one of their biggest inspirations; Marco Pierre White. “He’s always been an inspiration to us as he doesn’t think like everyone else”. His effect on the industry is global, and he made cooking cool for both of them long before he was considered cool.
Bethany still gets a kick out of eating and tasting something delicious for the first time, like when she first discovered food. She remembers one of the first dining experiences that she had was in a clean crisp dining room with all white table cloths. She was there with her Grandfather who said, “she’ll have the fish and chips”, but Bethany said no “I’ll have the dressed crab”. “There goes the grandparents’ budget” she says as she fondly tells the story. She ate the crab and it was the most incredible thing she had ever had; an experience she tries to recreate at the Mayfair.
Informal but still textbook service and more contemporary. The Mayfair aims to stay as local as possible with beautiful produce and makes almost everything in house. Classic dishes, with the ‘old school’ influence of the experiences of Adelaide that Bethany has grown up with.
The Mayfair boasts their own beehive on top of the hotel, and features the local honey from the bees throughout the hotel in the breakfast buffet, signature cocktails and in this gorgeous bee hived shaped dessert in the Mayflower restaurant.
Head to one of Adelaide’s most gorgeous 5-star hotels and check it out!
The Mayfair Hotel