Crowne Plaza Hotel’s signature restaurant Redsalt is celebrated for its local produce, fine wine and innovative fare in a lively ambience, which turns romantic in the evenings. Executive Chef Jason Hawker brings a farmgate to plate concept to the menu, best showcased in the five-course degustation, which highlights local growers. Perhaps start with dishes like grilled watermelon, crispy pork, feta and sesame; before memorable mains of beef tenderloin, gai lan, daikon and gratin potato, or fish of the day, fennel, mojo Rojo, herbs and kipfler potatoes. Executive Chef Jason Hawker and his hardworking team at the Crowne Plaza, Hunter Valley continually strive above and beyond to provide true hospitality and exceptional culinary experiences to their guests.
Tell us a little bit about your industry history
I was a little lost soul when I entered the big wide world and I found my place within hospitality. I started as a bit of an all-rounder waiting tables, washing dishes, making pizzas and all other sorts. It was once in the kitchen that I found that this was where I needed to be and I worked my way through the ranks in all manner of venues – high volume restaurants, fine dining venues, ‘turn em and burn em’ pubs, banqueting venues and I got to do that in some awesome places like Wellington, Vancouver and The Snowy Mountains. It wasn’t until I arrived in the Hunter Valley, that I found hotels and I haven’t looked back. Hotels and IHG have provided me with the ability to grow both as a chef and as a person.
Where did your love of food come from
Cooking and food were something that I was able to do to spend time with my grandmother. She grew up in an era where you made everything from scratch, there was no salad mix, cake mix or packet gravy that she could buy so she spent a lot of time in the kitchen and if I wanted to spend time with her then it was most likely going to be in the kitchen.
What has stuck with you as being key to becoming a great Chef
Use the early years of your career to master the techniques required to be a great chef then make sure you take the time to develop emotional intelligence to be a great leader.
Recommendations for favourite place to eat in Australia
How can I go past the amazing restaurants right here in the Hunter Valley? I recently dined at Hunter Valley stalwart “Emmersons” and it was absolutely amazing and of course “Muse” is always a great place to take people to impress.
How do you relax and unwind
I don’t know that I ever get to really relax and unwind with a young family to go home to every day but I do try and keep fit through cycling or running and I find that a couple of hours on the road does allow me to clear my head and let me just enjoy the surrounds as I go.
What’s the secret to a great kitchen?
Without a doubt, it’s the people. If you take care of the people the results will take care of themselves.
What’s the one cooking implement/device you could not live without?
It’s very cliché but my knife. I have taken my custom made Tansu with me to so many places in this country and others, that I’ve lost count
What’s your favourite food?
It would be so hard to limit this question to one ingredient so I’ll choose a dish, one of my favourite foods is “burgers”. Beef, chicken, fish, mushroom, sweet potato, pork and the list could go on, it is limitless as to how many combinations of flavours you can have between a bun.