Daniel Sherley, 33, is a Wollongong chef constantly evolving and trying new things amid a booming cafe and small bar scene in the city.
The owner of Rookie Eatery in Keira St has been open three years and recently made changes to the menu as he keeps evolving his business and giving it his own personal touch.
Mr Sherley is in his second decade as a chef but openly admits he is actively learning to be businessman and boss and wants to keep improving.
“I really love Asian food. Last year we decided we would just go for it and do it in our own style. We keep doing things the way we like to do it and it is really working for us,” he said.
Mr Sherley said every time a restauranter or chef makes a change to the menu they do so at the risk losing customers. But at Rookie the recent changes have been embraced by regular clientelle and Rookie hasgained many new ones as well.
“I am pretty stoked with that,” he said.
Mr Sherley learnt chefing from the one of the best. He spent a decade working with Lorenzo and then six months doing dinners at Diggies between Spring and Autumn in 2013/14. He then moved to Mornington with his partner Jacqui Fitzgerald who works BlueScope Steel. The couple stayed there for six months. When they returned that he decided to open his own restaurant in a heritage listed Keira St cottage.
“I opened up pretty much as soon as we got back,” he said.
That was the realisation of a dream that started when he got hirst first job in the industry a decade earlier.
“I started washing dishes when I finished school with Lorenzo and did my apprenticeship there. I always wanted to open my own restaurant one day,” he said.
Mr Sherley said two years into owning his own restaurant he realised how important it was to keep trying to improve the food and service. He said with so many new bars, coffee shops and eateries in the city people had many more options.
“There is a lot more competition for sure. There is no such thing as Easy Street in the restaurant business. I think you really need to be specific about who you are and what you are doing in the industry. You can’t afford to make any mistakes.”
Mr Sherley knows it is important to constantly work hard to run a successful business Part of that is always being willing to keep learning yourself.
“We made a decision to do what we really want to do and it has worked out well. I have found my groove with how to work with people better. I have always been a chef so that is something I had to learn”.
Another thing he has worked hard on since mid 2016 is trying really hard to improve customer service. He has put a lot of effort in to training his front of house team. But admits he has been blessed by having the good fortune to have employed some really nice people.
Developing his team is a high priority for him and he is loving working with so many people so eager to learn.
“At the moment I have three first year apprentices. We have five full time staff and six casuals. We are just trying to perfect what we are doing at the moment. I am pretty happy with everything.”
Things are going to well that Rookie was recognised in with a Chef’s Hat in the Australian Good Food and Travel Guide’s 2018 Best Restaurant Awards.
Mr Sherley also knows from personal experience how important it is to have a good mentor.