By Ellen Hill for Escarpment Group Photos: David Hill, Deep Hill Media
Would-be hospitality workers can receive 5-star training in the region’s top hotels for free after the State Government scrapped TAFE fees for 100,000 apprentices, saving students about $2000 per course in order to combat the national trades drought.
Escarpment Group of hotels will contribute to the training investment, to be facilitated by the Skilling Australia Fund from July 1, and has invited applicants to submit their details.
The company operates the most awarded resorts in regional NSW including Lilianfels Resort & Spa, Darley’s Restaurant, Echoes Boutique Hotel & Restaurant, the iconic Hydro Majestic Hotel and Parklands Country Gardens & Lodges in the Blue Mountains. Further north, it also owns the historic Convent in the Hunter Valley and the multi award-winning paddock-to-plate restaurant Circa 1876.
With 10 busy dining outlets, the need for skills is significant.
Escarpment Group operations manager Adam Holmes said training trades and tourism workers under an apprenticeship enrolment with TAFE would help top up falling worker numbers in the industry.
“Over the past five years the numbers of apprentices has reduced year on year to almost nil and we need more motivated skilled staff for regional tourism to thrive.
“Escarpment Group is a dynamic operator of premium hotels and resorts and needs trainees to future-proof the region for economic growth.’’
Apprenticeships are available in the roles of chef, housekeeping, food and beverage service, customer service and reception.
Mr Holmes, originally from Cronulla and recently returned to Australia from Mauritius, said: “Escarpment Group is the largest tourism employer in the Blue Mountains with numerous staff with experience in some of the top restaurants and hotels in the world, ready and willing to share their knowledge and skills with trainees.
“With five luxury properties across two mature tourism regions, there is plenty of opportunity for growth and diversity in a versatile career that can take you anywhere in the world.’’
Potential apprentices have been invited to submit details to firstname.lastname@example.org.
*Escarpment Group is a commercial client of Deep Hill Media
By Ellen Hill Photos: David Hill, Deep Hill Media
The chirp of cicadas competing with Christmas carols, an awe-inspiring backdrop of towering golden escarpments and dramatic valleys and a cooling breeze carrying the subtle scent of eucalyptus. Welcome to an Aussie bush Christmas and summer holiday season in the Blue Mountains.
Begin the Christmas countdown early with lantern-making workshops for kids aged four to 12 at Leura Garage funky eatery off the top of Leura Mall from 3pm to 5pm on November 28 and December 4 and 13 in the lead-up to Leura Village Association’s December 15 Christmas festival. Cool prizes from upmarket local shops. Cost: $10 per child (must be accompanied by an adult) includes lantern kit and drinks and nibbles. Bookings: (02) 4784 3391, email@example.com or leuragarage.com.au/lantern.
Give your adult loved ones some grown-up time with a Faeriestorm Nanny Service voucher. Available in hourly blocks (minimum two hours *conditions apply), the fully qualified nannies will care for their kids while the adults enjoy some down time. Purchases: Brenda Edwards 0417 448 318 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
A night away with a day spa pamper package at a blissful retreat such as Parklands Country Gardens & Lodges or dinner at a swanky restaurant such as the Wintergarden Restaurant at the Hydro Majestic Hotel are always popular.
A truly unique way of sightseeing in style is with Blue Mountains Vintage Cadillacs from within a vintage Cadillac car. Dressed in formal attire, your local driver will collect you from and return you to any location in the Blue Mountains. Bookings: email@example.com or Donald on 0455 352 976.
Tuck into a sumptuous feast with all the trimmings, decorations, bon bons, beverage package and even a visit from Santa for the children at the 5-star Lilianfels Resort & Spa near Echo Point or a seven-course degustation at the multi award-winning hatted Darley’s Restaurant. Bookings: escarpmentgroup.com.au or (02) 4780 1200.
NEW YEAR’S EVE:
For an unforgettable Auld Lang Syne moment, feast in the New Year at the chic Echoes Restaurant at Katoomba or the world-famous Cat’s Alley at the Hydro Majestic Hotel after watching a sublime sunset over a blue haze-shrouded valley while sipping a cocktail and resolving to take more time out in 2018. Bookings: escarpmentgroup.com.au or (02) 4780 1200.
SCHOOL HOLIDAY ACTIVITIES:
Talisman Gallery, Hartley historic village, Great Western Hwy (400m before turn off to Jenolan Caves heading west): Try your hand at the time honoured art of blacksmithing and make your very own fire poker on the forge and anvil on January 26 and 27. Cost: $25 includes materials and tuition. Decent footwear required. Bookings essential: Ron 0407 723 722 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Everglades Historic House & Gardens, 37 Everglades Ave, Leura: Kids aged three to six can learn about heritage conservation and the natural environment in one of the most enchanting historic properties in the Blue Mountains through the My Adventure at Everglades activity book ($10 and $5 per subsequent book). Entry: $13 adults, $8 concessions, $4 children, National Trust members free. Details: (02) 4784 1938 or email email@example.com.
* All businesses mentioned are commercial clients of Deep Hill Media
By Ellen Hill for Escarpment Group Photos: David Hill, Deep Hill Media
Circa 1876 is the best fine dining restaurant in regional NSW, with the Pokolbin restaurant’s win at the prestigious Restaurants & Catering Industry Association Australia (R&CA) awards last week [September 18] cementing its culinary reputation.
Executive chef Trent Barrett and his team brought home the NSW Regional Fine Dining award from the Savour Australia Restaurant & Catering Hostplus Awards for Excellence. Circa 1876 also earned an honourable mention in the NSW Regional Restaurant Caterer category.
Circa 1876 executive chef Trent Barrett, whose sustainable dining philosophy fuels his menu through the restaurant’s kitchen garden, onsite bee hives, quails and chooks, praised his team: “No one can achieve excellence without the commitment and skills of a team, and I am blessed to work with so many talented chefs and wait staff here.
“While we appreciate that our guests expect to be wowed by our meal designs, our aim is always to nourish diners with ingredients of the freshest and highest quality. This award confirms we are on the right track.’’
Located next to Peppertree Wines, Circa 1876 and The Convent boutique hotel on the same property recently joined the Escarpment Group collection of luxury properties which also includes Lilianfels Resort & Spa, Echoes Boutique Hotel, Parklands Country Gardens & Lodges and the famous Hydro Majestic Hotel in the Blue Mountains.
Escarpment Group general manager Ralf Bruegger said: “There are many fantastic restaurants in Australia and the Hunter Valley is home to some of the best, so this is a terrific achievement and a wonderful acknowledgment of the calibre of our business and the team behind it.’’
The R&CA Awards for Excellence is a nationally recognised, independently judged awards program that recognises exceptional service and culinary talent in restaurants, cafes, takeaway and catering businesses across Australia. It provides publicity for hospitality businesses, a chance to network with key suppliers and acknowledges the achievements of hospitality staff.
* Escarpment Group is a commercial client of Deep Hill Media
By Ellen Hill for Escarpment Group
The Greater Blue Mountains region will be showcased to billions of potential tourism visitors when SBS airs the next Luke Nguyen cultural foodie series early next year.
The celebrity chef spent a whirlwind two days in the area recently filming interviews with food producers in the Jamison and Megalong valleys, visits to cultural identities such as the Escarpment Group-owned Hydro Majestic Hotel at Medlow Bath, fusion cooking at Echoes Restaurant and inspiration gathering sessions with Darley’s Restaurant Hatted executive chef Lee Kwiez.
The SBS Food Diaries series, which will be shown in 160 countries, will trace Nguyen’s journey from his childhood roots and connections in Vietnam to his first restaurant in Surry Hills and his current international success.
Escarpment Group director Huong Nguyen has known Luke (no relation) since he was a child growing up in his family’s restaurant at Cabramatta: “Our fathers were both in the military before the war ended in 1975 and his family came to Australia shortly after mine.’’
Both Nguyen families were among two million Vietnamese to flee the Communist regime after it came to power in 1975. “Despite his humble background, Luke and siblings Pauline and Lewis were all resilient, creative and academically gifted and have all achieved outstanding success.’’
Nguyen is best known as the host of television series Luke Nguyen’s Vietnam and Luke Nguyen’s Street Food Asia. He is also a judge on MasterChef Vietnam and has appeared several times on MasterChef Australia as guest chef.
He also owns a cooking school and restaurants in Hong Kong and Vietnam, the Red Lantern in Surry Hills, Fat Noodle in The Star Sydney and the Treasury Hotel & Casino in Brisbane, and has penned several cookbooks.
“Now Luke is bringing Australia to the world. Yes, Luke’s latest series is definitely a fantastic showcase of our Blue Mountains properties, but it’s also great exposure for the region and will introduce millions, if not billions, of viewers throughout the world to the abundance of fresh regional produce available to them when they visit any restaurant, café, B&B or hotel that offers local flavours on their menus here,’’ Ms Nguyen said.
- Escarpment Group is a commercial client of Deep Hill Media
By Ellen Hill Photos: David Hill
Spine-tingling ghost hunts through historic sites, theatrical dining in globally recognised locations, chauffeured vintage car rides through sublime landscapes and luxe overnight escapes into colonial Australia. Christmas shopping in the Blue Mountains makes for unforgettable gifts.
Many businesses throughout the “city within a national park’’ offer gift vouchers, including cafes and restaurants like the uber funky Leura Garage serving upmarket casual regional fare in an overhauled car mechanic’s site.
The Escarpment Group collection of boutique hotels includes the hatted Darley’s Restaurant, five-star Lilianfels Resort & Spa and chic Echoes Boutique Hotel and Restaurant at Katoomba near Echo Point Lookout overlooking the Three Sisters rock formation, deluxe retreat Parklands Country Gardens & Lodges at trendy Blackheath and the world-famous Hydro Majestic Hotel at Medlow Bath with theatrical dining in the Wintergarden Restaurant. Vouchers are available for accommodation, dining and spa treatments. Details: escarpmentgroup.com.au.
Perfect for couples, Blue Mountains Vintage Cadillacs (bluemountainsvintagecadillacs.com.au) recreates the romance of yesteryear with tours throughout the upper mountains in a luxury vintage car with dedicated chauffeur. Cruise into spectacular lookouts, quaint villages and whimsical art galleries and shops. Journey options include a decadent high tea at the Hydro Majestic or a gourmet picnic at Parklands Country Gardens & Lodges.
Experience by day the jaw-droppingly beautiful scenery of the Greater Blue Mountains World Heritage Area with Blue Mountains Mystery Tours (bluemountainsmysterytours.com.au). Creep back after dark for a spine-tingling ghost tour and discover the rich and sometimes bloody history behind the rugged landscape.
Stuff stockings with regionally-sourced gourmet goodies, trinkets and homewares from boutiques such as the Hydro Majestic Pavilion and Blue Mountains Chocolate Company in Katoomba (bluemountainschocolatecompany.com.au), and celebrate the silly season with uniquely Aussie Hillbilly Cider vintage bubbles (hillbillycider.com.au).
After Christmas, treat your family to the sites and sights of the Greater Blue Mountains, experienced by visitors from around the world. Blue Mountains Attractions Group suggests itinerary inclusions from guided tours, magical heritage gardens and thrilling rides through awesome landscapes to glimpses back to our colonial past, ventures into the underground, close encounters with classic literary characters and furry friends and much more.
- All businesses mentioned are commercial clients of Deep Hill Media
By Ellen Hill for Escarpment Group
Young hospitality workers can learn how to take their careers to new heights when Escarpment Group takes part in the TAA Hotel Career Expo in Sydney on May 16.
Those who attend will have the chance to meet influential hotel industry professionals such as Escarpment Group general manager Ralf Bruegger, who can explain the many opportunities the luxury collection of hotels has to offer across its four Blue Mountains properties (Lilianfels Resort & Spa along with Echoes Boutique Hotel & Restaurant, Parklands Country Gardens & Lodges and the Hydro Majestic Hotel).
“The expo will be a great opportunity to go behind the scenes at hotels such as ours and kick-start a new career in this fast-paced industry where you have the chance to travel around the world, meet lots of people from around the world and work in a rewarding career.’’
The free (although registration is essential) expo would be of interest to high school and university students, existing hotel staff and those looking for a career change.
Hotels are more than just check-in and housekeeping,’’ Mr Bruegger said.Like most hotels, Escarpment Group has lots of departments which ensure the smooth running of our properties, and they are all crucial in making sure our guests have a positive and memorable stay.’’
The hotel industry also stretches beyond major city borders into regional and even remote areas, offering staff further dimensions to their career and experience and authentic and creative hospitality experience.
For example, Escarpment Group had doubled its investment and staff numbers in the Blue Mountains in the past two years.
Staff of all experience levels worked with an international team of professionals and had the opportunity to work at properties across the group.
“While of course theory education is very important and we encourage it, we give our employees, especially the younger ones, practical training alongside those who have worked in the industry for a long time because we believe that learning from example is an experience that money cannot buy,’’ Mr Bruegger said.
Surrounded by the Greater Blue Mountains World Heritage Area, staff can also access a lifestyle like no other, spending leisure time exploring Australia’s most accessible wilderness and quaint villages which make up the community.
“It is a constant challenge for regional hotels like ours to attract dedicated skilled workers that are prepared to live in the area. Giving jobs to a local workforce is the ultimate goal,’’ Mr Bruegger said.
Workers in the hotel industry on average stay in jobs for just 12 months or less, particularly those aged up to 21.
Escarpment Group, which has approximately 230 employees across its four Blue Mountains properties, hoped to combat the problems associated with a transient workforce with a new scholarship-style program and a first for Australia.
While the details of the new program would be announced shortly, Mr Bruegger said the aim was to foster more training pathways to create a stable, skilled workforce, which would lead to sustainable quality of product and service not just at Escarpment Group hotels but eventually throughout the region.
“This program will be a direct investment in the front and back of house workforce future of Escarpment Group hotels and beyond.’’
The free 2016 Hotel Career Expo will be held at the InterContinental, 117 Macquarie St, Sydney, from 10am to 6pm on May 16.
The expo will include inspiring seminars, exhibits from 20 hotel brands including Escarpment Group, career-focused interactive booths, the opportunity to connect with industry leaders and the chance to win fantastic prizes.
Go to www.hotelcareerexpo.com.au to register.
* Escarpment Group is a commercial client of Deep Hill Media
By Ellen Hill for Escarpment Group
Artists can take their talent right to the edge with one of Australia’s top painters at a workshop retreat at Parkland’s Country Gardens & Lodges in September.
Renowned landscape painter Warwick Fuller will lead an intimate three-day outdoor oil painting workshop for a select group of 10 energetic artists with experience in oils at the luxurious Escarpment Group property at Blackheath from September 15 to 17.
Escarpment Group general manager Ralf Bruegger said: “The Blue Mountains has been recognised as a `city of the arts’ and Escarpment Group properties have featured in artworks for decades, especially Darley’s Restaurant at our Lilianfels Resort & Spa property and the very famous Hydro Majestic Hotel.
“So we are delighted to continue that tradition and offer the Parklands property as a luxurious artists retreat.’’
Fuller, who lives at Little Hartley, has had more than 60 solo exhibitions throughout Australia and internationally, has received numerous awards and is represented in prominent galleries in Sydney, the Blue Mountains and London.
The plein air painter and Fellow of the Royal Art Society of NSW has paintings hung in private, corporate and institutional collections throughout the world.
Fuller’s style of landscape painting was emotive yet sincere, he said.
“You can read ad infinitum of the landscape painter trying to
paint his feelings’,capture the light’, `render the mood of a scene’. There is nothing particularly new or unique in this ideology, developed in part through a natural progression of a very strong landscape tradition in Australia. It is sad to see these expressions misused, abused and over used to the point of becoming almost meaningless with insincerity.
“Those statements are though, I believe, some of the more important aims and ideals at the core of the genuine landscape painter’s psyche. I, like others, do search for a means of expressing these qualities. I know for me these are genuine and worthy goals. In this, there is a dilemma I feel will test me.
“It has been a long-held opinion of mine that too often the work of the traditional landscape painter has been seen in an over-familiar sort of way. That is, known objects in the picture being seen superficially and assessed according to a preconceived understanding of those objects. How do I express my vision of the subject unambiguously? It’s not a technical thing as for example, in composition. It’s far more elusive than that.
“I am doubting more often whether the direction I am taking can adequately reveal, for example, the thrill of gazing at the last rays of sunlight in the tree tops. I can paint something of what it looks like but I am trying to paint how I feel! I want my pictures to sing the songs I sang when I painted them. My hope is that if I can paint with the joy of that moment, something of my emotional responses to the moment will shine through.’’
Mr Bruegger said: “We look forward to seeing how the magnificent Greater Blue Mountains World Heritage Area location inspires each artist under the tuition of one of the greatest Australian landscape painters of our time.’’
Warwick Fuller will host an artists’ workshop at Parklands Country Gardens & Lodges, 132 Govetts Leap Rd, Blackheath, from September 15 to 17.
Workshop cost: $400 for three days. Special accommodation packages available: $259 per room per night for twin share with hot breakfast for two adults; $200 per room per night single share with breakfast plus $25 for working lunch including fruit and juice.
Phone (02) 4787 7211 or go to www.parklands.com.au to book accommodation and dining options.
By Ellen Hill for Escarpment Group
The Escarpment Group collection of hotels has further cemented itself as the premier luxury accommodation provider in the Blue Mountains with all four of its properties named finalist in a prestigious industry awards.
The group was named finalist in 12 categories in the Tourism Accommodation Australia (TAA) NSW 2015 Awards for Excellence.
Escarpment Group general manager Ralf Bruegger said: “This is a fantastic result – all four properties making the finalist list, especially for the Hydro Majestic which has only been open since October 2014 and Parklands which opened in September.
“I am very proud to represent such a great team of hard working tourism and hospitality professionals whose commitment to providing the highest benchmarks in the area shines through in everything they do every day.
“In fact it’s great to see the Blue Mountains tourism and hospitality industry well represented at the awards with our colleagues at Fairmont Resort and The Carrington Hotel also finalists.
“This is an indication of the standard of visitor experience throughout the Blue Mountains, where visitors can be assured of world-class accommodation, customer service and dining.’’
Echoes Boutique Hotel & Restaurant is a finalist in Regional Superior Hotel of the Year and Regional Restaurant of the Year categories.
Lilianfels Resort & Spa Blue Mountains is a finalist in Chef of the Year, Front of House Employee of the Year, Regional Deluxe Hotel of the Year and Regional Restaurant of the Year.
Parklands Country Gardens & Lodges is a finalist in Health Club & Spa Facilities of the Year and Regional Superior Hotel of the Year.
The Hydro Majestic Hotel is a finalist in Chef of the Year, Function Venue of the Year, Redeveloped Hotel of the Year and Regional Restaurant of the Year.
The TAA awards this year received its largest number of submissions ever, 281 from 67 top accommodation venues in NSW across more than 30 categories ranging from outstanding community service, best environmental practice and redeveloped hotel of the year through to the superior and deluxe hotels of the year categories and a range of individual staff awards.
TAA NSW chairman Nigel Greenaway said: “These venues really do showcase the best the NSW hotel industry has to offer – they quite simply are second to none and that is shown in the high quality of all the finalists.
Category winners will be announced at a gala awards night at The Westin Sydney on July 29. TV personality Catriona Rowntree will be emcee, with an after party at the Zeta Bar, Hilton Sydney.
By Ellen Hill for Escarpment Group Photos: David Hill
Discerning foodies seeking to savour the flavour of crisp Blue Mountains air and earthy tones of the Central West will find it in every bite served at Escarpment Group properties.
With few exceptions, food and wine served at the Hydro Majestic Hotel, Lilianfels Resort & Spa, Echoes Boutique Hotel & Restaurant and Parklands Country Lodges & Gardens is sourced from within a 100 mile (160km) radius of the kitchen and served to a delectable standard.
A growing proportion of ingredients are even sourced from the 1000sqm edible garden at the Parklands property at Blackheath. Menus across Escarpment Group now carry a specially-designed logo printed next to items which include at least 80 per cent local and regional ingredients.
Escarpment Group general manager Ralf Bruegger, himself a career chef, compared the Blue Mountains food scene to that of northern Italy: “The food I have tasted up here is absolutely sensational.
“Our eventual aim is total fruit, vegetable and herb sustainability for all kitchens at all four Escarpment Group properties.
“It makes sense economically, it fits in with our business ethos and our guests expect it.’’
Hydro Majestic head chef Mate Herceg, whose team served 21,000 guests during May alone, said: “Things I can buy locally I will buy locally for my kitchen.
“We roughly know what type of produce is around at what time of year and we talk to suppliers about what’s coming up. We always know that artichokes are good in autumn but don’t use asparagus because it’s not in season here and comes from Peru or Mexico.’’
All items sold at the Hydro Majestic Pavilion are locally sourced from areas such as Lithgow, Orange, Bathurst, Mudgee, the Blue Mountains and Western Sydney.
Escarpment Group restaurants routinely use local and regional produce such as apples, chocolate, berries, herbs, bread, eggs, carrots, nuts, nasturtium flowers, tomatoes, quince, pears, plums, kale, broccoli, carbonero, trout and yabbies. Regional meat is served wherever possible.
Escarpment Group is committed to further developing the Parklands Kitchen garden and has also installed a state-of-the-art composting system which already takes all kitchen waste from Parklands and the Hydro Majestic.
Multi award-winning Darleys Restaurant executive chef Lee Kwiez said: “I grew up on a thirty acre farm at East Kurrajong in the Hawkesbury so I really appreciate quality fresh food.
“It’s easy for us to serve our guests food fresh from the garden. We just send through a list of ingredients we would like to use in our menus and it is grown for us. The gardener also sends us lists of what is in the garden, as do our other local and regional suppliers and we incorporate those ingredients in our menus.’’
While he creates unique fine dining dishes for five-star guests at the hatted restaurant, the underlying influence on Kwiez’s cooking is his childhood.
“Mum was cooking shepherd’s pie when I was 14 or 15 and I thought `I want to be a chef’. For me, it’s all about the flavour – it’s all about the yum. Simple.
“Freshness, seasonality and locally grown: there’s not much of a carbon footprint because you’re not hauling vegetables from here to Sydney and then back again. We’re also looking after other local businesses.’’
Mr Bruegger said Escarpment Group was committed to regional produce in its delivery of high-end tourism and hospitality on a scale rarely seen in regional NSW.
“The Blue Mountains has been renowned for its innovative cuisine and fine wines for a long time and we are proud to be a part of that reputation through our established Darley’s and Echoes restaurants at our five-star properties and now the various dining venues at the Hydro Majestic.’’
The full suite of Escarpment Group dining experiences is:
Wintergarden, Hydro Majestic: The light-filled restaurant with spectacular views over the Megalong Valley offers a premium afternoon high tea and a gourmet dinner menu in refined surrounds.
Salon du The, Hydro Majestic: The Flying Fox and Cat’s Alley have united to form the Salon du The, offering a refined Asian-inspired menu and a range of cocktails and wines with magnificent views of the Megalong Valley.
The Boiler House, Hydro Majestic: Casual all-day dining featuring traditional pizza, pasta and Australian cuisine overlooking the Megalong Valley.
Echoes Restaurant & Bar: The award-winning restaurant offers modern Australian cuisine with Asian influenced menus with specially selected local and important wines. Open daily seven days a week.
Darley’s Restaurant & Bar, Lilianfels: The multi-award winning hatted venue offers modern Australian cuisine served as a la carte or degustation menus with specially selected local and imported wines.
Go to www.escarpmentgroup.com.au for more information about individual properties, events and special offers.