Spice spent five minutes getting to know Alastair ‘Ally’ Waddell, Qualia’s down-to-earth, mega-talented executive chef.
What are the challenges you face working on an island?
Hamilton Island is not too far removed form the rest of the world in the sense that we have daily flights and ferries constantly travelling from the mainland. If there’s a last minute guest request or a drama with a delivery, there’s always a way to get it here on time.
What are the advantages?
Being located in one of the most beautiful areas of the world and having access to incredible seafood from our local fisherman who catch the freshest and the best seafood around.
Do you grow your own produce or raise your own animals?
We sowed the first seeds in our kitchen garden last year which has been a great success. Just as important as the beautiful produce it gives us is the respect that grows amongst your team for the ingredient when they have planted and picked it themselves. This year we have expanded with a huge netted igloo located at the gardener’s nursery. The seeds are down so we are optimistic that we will have a hugely successful harvest this summer.
How does a resort menu differ from a regular restaurant menu?
The main difference between a resort and a regular restaurant is that guests are staying with us for a few nights so we have to offer them choice. We are fortunate to have two restaurants at Qualia which allows the guests to enjoy more relaxed beachside dining showcasing local seafood and a grill menu at Pebble beach or a more refined tasting menu experience or sharing small plates in Long Pavilion.
What trends have you seen come through in resort menus?
There is definitely a trend towards more relaxed dining in resorts which makes sense as guests come here to unwind. At the same it’s is our job to give guests a exceptional dining experience and lasting memories from their stay with us. It’s important that a resort captures a true sense of its environment and that this is reflected in the menu. Australian resorts do this very well.
How do you design your menus? Where do you get your ideas and inspiration?
Menu ideas and inspiration comes from the produce we receive and grow, the stunning Whitsunday region itself and my team of inspirational young chefs who work hard to constantly improve and evolve what we offer. Our menus are very produce driven and seasonal so we are constantly updating menus and trialling new dishes and concepts. Overall, guest feedback decides what we offer.
What’s hot for the summer season ahead? What should every planner put on their menu if they want to offer something ‘resort chic’?
It’s all about mangos and tomato varieties from Bowen. I am currently working a new lunch dish of colourful heirloom tomatoes with home grown cucumber varieties, horseradish and chive flowers, tomato water dressing. Perfect for lunch at Pebble Beach; summer on a plate.