Recipe for success: Dave Parker

Photo: Eamon Gallager

Photo: Eamon Gallager

For David Parker, co-owner of two South-American flavoured restaurants, it’s about sharing the zest and flavour of Lima and Buenos Aires, and channelling that spirit into his own life. By Merran White

“My brother Micky and I co-partnered our first restaurant venture, San Telmo, with Jason and Renee McConnell. To fill the role of head chef, we hired Chris Moran [formerly of Brisbane’s acclaimed Cha Cha Char] who concocts authentic Porteno ‘dishes to share’ out of an open kitchen. It’s been designed to evoke Argentina’s convivial family asados and it’s even fitted with a bespoke 2.5-metre parrilla charcoal grill handmade by world-renowned craftsman Pirincho.

“In July 2014, the four of us established Pastuso with manager Ben Wood and chef Alejandro Saravia [veteran of high-end restaurants in Lima, London, Paris, Sydney and his native Peru].

“My interest and inspiration for both San Telmo and Pastuso springs from travelling—spending time in other countries, learning about their food and wine culture, and immersing myself in that experience. The two restaurants stem from a real appreciation of the food and wine cultures in those countries.

“It’s really just about creating places that offer something exciting and new—places I would want to go to. And it is nice to be able to share this passion with other people.

“It is always difficult when you’re trying to do something a bit different and special: you need to persevere to make things happen – like importing the parrilla [traditional Argentinian grill] and decorations and wine for San Telmo, and getting it all here, with the right paperwork, in time to open.

“Working for a variety of places and people has given me broad experience and the ability to learn from different people with different styles.

“Working in partnerships is great: it affords you more flexibility to share responsibilities and gives you a range of perspectives when problem-solving. It also builds great lifelong friendships—what’s the point in doing it if you don’t have other people to enjoy it with?

“I don’t think there are any secrets to our success with San Telmo and Pastuso. It’s all about the different parts working well together.”

“I don’t think there are any secrets to our success with San Telmo and Pastuso. It’s about all the different parts working well together.

“I think only doing projects you are really passionate about helps a lot, as it provides the drive and motivation that you need in hospitality.

“Working with the right people is also extremely important, as I’m sure it is in most industries. ‘Dream big but also be realistic’ is probably a good way of looking at it—kind of like the balance between a creative and a business-minded chef. Training is also really important to make sure the right message is getting passed along.

“With regard to personal attributes you need to succeed as a restaurateur, I’d say the most important two would be passion and energy.

“In this business, work-life balance is very important. My philosophy is that we are here for a good time, not a long time, so make a lot of time for yourself and do what you enjoy.

“I have managed to create a role for myself in this business where travelling and going out for nice meals are a semi-legitimate part of my work life. This helps me to stay motivated and fresh, which helps to ensure the ongoing success of the restaurants.”

“For me, the most challenging part of the job is managing people. It’s hard. Everyone has such different needs and interests, and making it all work together is always something that I can work on.”

“The most rewarding moments are when you are in the restaurant and you look around and everything is just working well. It has that buzz and hum of a really lively and fun restaurant, where people are enjoying themselves and the staff are in their element.

“I’m optimistic about the future. We have a lot on at the moment, with new projects and ideas. And as long as it’s still fun and there are new things we’re passionate about following up, I’m happy to continue doing new projects.”

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