Award-winning executive chef David Beus is transforming Shell Cove’s marina boardwalk restaurants into a smorgasbord of unique dining experiences centred on fresh, quality food.
Six months ago, David took on the role to transform the food experiences at The Waterfront Tavern and Georgia Rose in Shell Cove, open the 800-seat Willowdale Hotel in Denham Court in Sydney and now redesign the marina’s Salty Squid into a new fresh seafood dining experience called Punk Fish, to open soon.
He said the goal of the dining venues, which were sold by developer Frasers Property to hospitality operator Balmoral Hospitality Group, was to give each its own identity.
“One thing I noticed when I first got down here is that from Salty Squid, Georgia Rose and The Tavern, there was repetition throughout the menu,” he said.
“You could get a schnitzel in each place that was the same, you could get a burger in each place that was the same and there was just constant repetition.”
He believed much of this had been due to the challenges with rolling out new menus.
“I’ve been fortunate I’ve had people follow me from Sydney – my old team – and I’ve been able to get them into place so that we can grow every area, because there’s no way I could do it on my own,” he said.
There are also changes afoot for seafood outlet Salty Squid, which David is taking over as his own business and renaming Punk Fish.
“It’s loosely based on, not like the 80s punk scene where it was anarchy, but really trying to do seafood very differently,” he said.
“The atmosphere and the posters we’re putting up are very cool and hip.
“We’re heading away from this brought in from overseas stuff and really trying to connect with the fishermen down here.
“Shellharbour Seafoods at Stocklands, they’re partnering up with us too so that we can get fresh local seafood – or as local as possible.
“We’re trying to use Huskisson black mussels, and anything that we can find along the coast that we can incorporate into the menu.”
The Tavern also now includes Creole Boil, an experience for small groups where guests can get a taste of Louisiana.
“I’ve been trying to bring in and develop theatre within The Tavern,” he said.
“Instead of trying to elevate something and be fine dining, which we’ll never be, we want to be something in between – a really good food spot and somewhere you can bring small groups of people and have some fanfare.
“I’m also buying in big parmesan wheels – we’ll be hand making pasta, cooking the pasta, hot sauce and then swirling the pasta in the actual parmesan wheel in front of the customer and shaving truffles on top.
“I’m slowly bringing out different ways to make the dining room buzz.”
Much of this variety is thanks to David having a good ground knowledge on most cuisines.
“I wouldn’t say every, but I’ve got basic knowledge pretty much across the board, which helps me develop menus and come up with some crazy concoctions that really work,” he said.
“That’s been my forte, just bringing something very simple but very different to the offerings that we have.
“With Georgia Rose, The Tavern, Salty Squid and Willowdale, we’re very separate in our offerings, even though there’s similarities.”
That love for food and experimenting started at a young age for David and has served him well throughout his career.
“As a kid, I used to watch Gabriel Gate and those sorts of people that were on TV and it was glamorised, I think, the whole cooking scene,” he said.
“So I ended up very young in the kitchen with Mum trying to follow recipes that I saw on TV.
“Leaving school, I didn’t know what to do with my life and decided to become a chef.
“I tried a few other jobs in between and still kept cooking, but always fell back on this.
“I was lucky enough to get an apprenticeship at Bilsons, which was the premier restaurant in its day at the Quay.
“I did my four years apprenticeship there and, since then, I haven’t really had to give out a resume.”
David’s experience led him to be named Chef of the Year at the Australian Hotels Association NSW 2018 awards, when he worked at south-western Sydney pub The Crossroads Hotel.
Now living in Shell Cove as a single dad managing four restaurants, he said “it’s quite challenging, but somehow it’s coming together”.
His sights are now set on opening Punk Fish before summer, coming up with a great concept to create an elevated restaurant experience in the vacant shop five and continuing his quest to change negative attitudes that had been formed early on.
“One thing I’m quite proud of is that that’s somewhat silenced and that’s a hallmark that we’ve been doing something good,” he said.
“Salty Squid has had a lot of bad flack from locals and that’s what I’ve got to change.”
He said that as the offerings developed and staff honed their skills in the marina restaurants, he expected they’d set themselves “apart from the whole area”.