We chat with chef Keenan Hillard from the New England Hotel about his passion for good food.
How would you describe your cooking and the cuisine you serve?
We like to serve traditional food at the New England Hotel. I like the idea of getting what you pay for. With winter now upon us, we have several hearty meals to choose from. To name a few, there’s our slow cooked shanks, large range of soups and of course, our high quality steaks.
> Do you source local produce for your menu creations?
We sure do. The produce here in Armidale is, I would say, the best you can get. We are very happy with the high quality of meat we purchase off our local butcher, ‘The Meating Place’. Scott and the boys are a great help.
> Your all time favourite dish?
We have plenty to choose from, but I would have to say my all time favourite would have to be chilli seafood pasta. It is a meal that I created myself and that I serve at the New England Hotel quite often. It’s also a favourite with the customers.
> Where did you learn to cook?
I first began my cooking experience at school, where I learned the basics in hospitality. Then I began to explore in the workforce at Fusions, working under Adam for two and a half years. I learned so much from them, and they gave me the confidence to take my skills elsewhere.
I worked at various local restaurants and cafés over the years. This gave me the chance to travel and work around Australia. My travels included Jindabyne in the Snowy Mountains. I have since returned to my home town, where I’m now head chef at the New England Hotel.
> What do you like most about the Newie?
This is the first place where I have had the chance to really branch out and experiment with my own ideas. The owners are really great to work for, and I couldn’t ask for a better team. They have given me such a kick start in my career and a confidence in myself that I will be able to take with me wherever I go.
> Your all time favourite chef?
I’m not all for celebrity chefs, and I get a lot of my inspiration from family and friends.
> What does the future hold for you?
I’m only at the start of my career and still have so much to learn. I would really like to travel in the future and experience different cultures. I want to keep learning in the hope that one day I will have my own restaurant and be the best in my field.
> Thank you Keenan.