Growing up under table 1 in Neddy’s… Gina’s childhood was considerably different to most. A normal day would include heading to the restaurant straight after school and playing in the restaurant, sometimes even helping to scale fish. The restaurant staff became an extended family for Gina, who helped to mould her love of food from an early age. Of an evening, Gina would sleep upstairs from the restaurant until it restaurant closed and the family would return home.
With stories of her time in Neddy’s including talking to the pigs in the cool room and recollections of her brother opening countless bottles of Champagne one afternoon (until he was discovered!) because he liked the popping sound, her story is one dominated by great food and the all hours and crazy lifestyle that goes with the restaurant business.
Leaving school, Gina had no intention of entering the food industry, instead pursing the arts and in particular children’s book illustration. But a stint of work experience in the Grange, ended as casual job, then more hours whilst studying, becoming more and more involved and cementing her true passion for food. With dad Cheong, reluctant for Gina to start in the kitchen, knowing the life and hours of a chef are so demanding, Gina had to hold true to her desire and her passion, which soon became her job. “I love eating, I love eating out, I love food” says Gina.
Gina completed her chef apprenticeship with Hilton and acknowledges the support of Executive Chef, Simon Bryant, insisting there was certainly no special treatment! Gina has also worked with Cheong and on countless charity events including the Mission Australia event at Luna Park, Continuous Picnic at McLaren Vale and the annual chefs dinner at the Art Gallery of South Australia.
Gina is revelling in the opportunity to manage the Grange and plans to drive the Grange to continue exceeding the world of food and fine dining. Cheong when quizzed about working with Gina as the restaurant manager simply adds, “It is exciting and wonderful, a refreshing addition to the Grange”.
Since joining the Grange Restaurant in 1995, Cheong Liew, recognised as “an original genius” by no less a critic than the former Premier of South Australia, the late Don Dunstan, returned to front-line cooking only in 1995 after several years at the Regency Hotel School. Inspiration ... Innovator ... founder of the Australian cuisine ... Master chef ... Guru ... are many of the superlatives used to describe Cheong. Regarded as one of Adelaide’s treasures, Cheong has also been honoured by the prestigious United States magazine Food & Wine as one of the 10 “hottest chefs alive”.
Growing up in Kuala Lumpur, Cheong Liew’s life was filled with the aromas and spices of Malay, Indian and Chinese cooking. At the heart of his love of food were the days spent in his grandmother’s kitchen. When he moved to Australia in the late ’60s, Liew must have been bemused by the constant orders for rissoles, roast-and-three-veg and chop suey, working in the pubs and cafes of Melbourne and Adelaide. Still, Liew made steady progress, cooking in a Greek restaurant, a curry palace and a French steakhouse. He had no formal training, but his enthusiasm, his desire to experiment and his uncanny ability to blend cuisines with his Malaysian heritage made every chef, and every diner around him sit up and take notice.
His first restaurant, Neddy’s, attracted critical acclaim. The rest of the world got wind of Liew’s brilliance when he took over the Adelaide Hilton’s luxurious Grange restaurant in 1995. His exquisite Edible Harmony menu brings together the world’s cuisines in a transcendental union that is surprising, artistic, heartfelt and wholesome. US Food and Wine named him in the top 10 “hottest chefs alive”. In 1999, Cheong Liew was bestowed the Medal of the Order of Australia “for service to the food and restaurant industry through involvement in developing and influencing the style of contemporary Australian cuisine.”