Chef Drew is back in the Varias Kitchen at the Queensland College of Wine Tourism.
Chef Drew is back in the Varias Kitchen at the Queensland College of Wine Tourism. Emma Boughen

Second serve for chef Drew

FOLLOWING a two-year break and one mid-life crisis, chef Drew Simpson is back in the hot seat as head chef at the Queensland College of Wine Tourism.

Last Monday was his first day back in the Caves Rd kitchen he helped build and although a few things have been rearranged, Mr Simpson said it's starting to feel as though he never left.

"I was the foundation chef here when it all started back in 2006 but after six years I had a bit of a mid-life crisis and thought I don't want to be stuck in this job for the rest of my life," he said.

But after just six months away from the Varias kitchen Mr Simpson realised "it wasn't a bad job to be stuck in" after all.

"My son Connor is doing his chef's apprenticeship here so Robyn, my wife, and I came here for dinner a few times and I realised I missed the place," he said.

In the two years Mr Simpson was away from Varias building his new home and running his own catering business, acclaimed chef Ben Lanyon headed the ship.

"The standard of the kitchen is outstanding, Ben has done a marvellous job," he said.

"Of course, he's rearranged a few things so I'm still just finding my way around but with every deja vu moment it's feeling more and more like I never left.

"While I'm thrilled to be back at Varias I will still honour the commitments I made for the Chef Drew catering business, the only difference being that we'll now deliver those in partnership with the college."

In the Varias kitchen it's all about education for Mr Simpson.

"Having the students around does make it more challenging but they're great fun, it's just like having an apprentice," he said.

Mr Simpson will work with four Stanthorpe State High School Year 10 students - Hannah Marino, Charlie Roche, Georgia Caramella and Jade Thompson - in the Junior Culinary Challenge.

Last year's Stanthorpe entrants won at regional level before progressing to victory in the state-wide competition.

The college recently became a registered training organisation, which will allow local students greater flexibility in their training.

"Commercial cookery students from Stanthorpe currently travel to Warwick for training," Mr Simpson said.

"We have the facilities and the skills right here to save them the regular trip."

During the 27 years since starting as a 16-year-old apprentice at Inn on the Park, Mr Simpson has trained 19 apprentices.

Looking forward, chef Drew has one goal - to keep up Varias' high quality.

"I believe in the five Ps - prior preparation prevents poor performance," he said.

"It's something that was drummed into me during my apprenticeship and it's something I've carried with me my whole career."

Chef Drew will introduce new menus late next week.

Stanthorpe Border Post

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