Co Owner & Chef, Union Dining
Union Dining, Richmond opened in May 2011 and saw Nicky, and friend and co owner Adam Cash, achieve a long held dream. Offering provincial European cuisine with an essential touch of Melbourne class, Union Dining was listed as one of the top 10 hottest new openings in The Age Good Food Guide 2012 and Nicky’s rustic menu and hearty flavours saw her nominated for Chef of the Year in the same esteemed guide.
Nicky grew up in hospitality, so it seems only fitting that she’s now chef and co-owner of her own restaurant. With a hotelier as a father, being around waiters, chefs and bartenders was the norm. “I literally grew up living in hotels,” says Nicky, “My Dad, as the manager, would have an apartment in them. The only thing I knew was the hospitality industry; I didn’t know how to live in a house!”
A degree studying chemical engineering was cut short when Nicky realised it was hospitality that held her full attention. Having always loved food and what dining out offered people, she sought advice from the chefs around her and was soon attending culinary trade school and pushing through the ranks of an apprenticeship. “I’d always worked part-time in hotels and loved it. I loved watching people interact over dinner, the sense that when people go out it’s when they really have conversations, so being a chef made perfect sense,” says Nicky.
Her first role, at Stephanie’s in Hawthorn under the guidance of Stephanie Alexander, progressed her career immensely. Nicky went on to open Richmond Hill Café and Larder with Stephanie as Head Chef. She went on to work at mecca, before opening Mecca Bah with Cath Claringbold, where she met friend and now business partner, Adam Cash. Following the success of Mecca Bah, Nicky went on to be the only female head chef at Langton’s Restaurant. From there she was head-hunted for her role as executive chef at H-One in Hong Kong. Missing Australia, she moved back to Melbourne to take up the head chef role for the launch of CBD Italian diner Trunk and was most recently head chef of Karen Martini’s The Melbourne Wine Room.
Nicky on her work “Any chef should say that they are writing a menu for their own tastes. You have to stay true to yourself. Going to Italy made me realise that cooking should be about a really simple plate of food, about quality. You have to have skill and technique in the kitchen, but you should never, in my opinion, make that technique more important than the produce.” “Yes, I am writing a menu that I hope will impress, but more than that I want it to offer comfort and bring back the traditional flavours that sometimes get lost in today’s cooking techniques. I want my chicken to look like chicken!”
For more information on Union Dining visit www.uniondining.com.au