Wollongong's most hatted and highly regarded chefs Simon Evans and Thomas Chiumento are creating a summer holiday fine dining experience as the new executive chef team at Bangalay Dining.
The former Caveau restaurant owners join restaurant manager Ronnie Gorman from Saint Peter, Paddington to form the new dining team at the prestigious Shoalhaven Heads eatery located at Bangalay Luxury Villas.
The coastal accommodation provider run by Michelle Bishop is renowned for its quality dining and Mrs Bishop wants to keep raising the bar as visitation begins to boom again on the South Coast heading into summer, Christmas and New Year.
Mr Chiumento first dined at Bangalay two days after it opened and has regarded the eatery highly ever since.
So when Libby Cupitt, of Cupitt's Winery, suggested they would be a great addition to the Bangalay experience he and Mr Evans knew it was a great opportunity when Mrs Bishop approached them.
"There are a lot synergies here to what we were doing at Caveau," Mr Evans said.
Mrs Bishop said the restaurant was coming into its second year and after floods, bushfires and Covid-19 during 2020 it was a great time to introduce the new team and summer holiday menu.
She said the menu will evolve in coming months but the restaurant will continue to source locally grown produce and native ingredients which the two Caveau chefs are famous for using.
Mr Evans and Mr Chiumento were recognised with chefs hats every year at the Keira St eatery before it closed during the Covid-19 lockdown.
After it opened in 2005 Caveau Restaurant won 15 chef hats during the next 15 years.
It not only kept winning when Mr Evans and Mr Chiumento purchased the popular eatery in 2017. They kept increasing the score.
Strong relationships with their suppliers and growers and a passion and understanding of native ingredients allowed them to create modern dishes using ancient knowledge and techniques with ingredients such as magpie goose, emu, crocodile and green ants is what they are renowned for.
And they intend to bring a similar approach to Bangalay.
"We love this location and all the great ingredients around here," Mr Evans said.
Mr Chiumento said after working for themselves for the last four years it was great to meet Mrs Bishop who had similar ideas and approach to them.
And it was immediately clear they all had the same philosophy on fine dining and would work well together.
Mr Evans said all the Caveau had their staff Christmas get together at Bangalay last December.
Before moving to Australia in 2012 he gained experience at multiple Michelin starred restaurants across the United Kingdom and worked at the 2009 Restaurant of the Year Y Polyn.
He is also sommelier who two glasses in the Wine List of the Year awards for his wine list at Caveau.
Mr Evans said the new menu at Bangalay highlights the amazing produce on the South Coast and hinterland, complimented with wild foraged specimens from local beaches and native ingredients to accentuate the full dining experience.
"We want the new Bangalay menu and dining experience to be accessible, versatile and informal," he said.
Mr Chiumento is of Italian heritage and grew up with freshly grown vegetables and fruits from his family's gardens, and honey from their hives.
Those formative years shaped his outlook on food and created a love of simplicity and flavour, allowing ingredients to speak for themselves.
Originally studying for a degree in maths and physics, the draw of the kitchen was too strong, and he left to pursue a career as a chef.
After working at a number of Wollongong eateries he spent a year in Melbourne working in hatted restaurants.
And is keen to put all his experience, passion and knowledge to great use at Bangalay.
"We have created options for all times of the day and all needs with cheese, charcuterie and a glass of wine at lunch, a casual dinner, a whole feast menu and everything in between," he said.
"With a venue so beautiful and in such an amazing location, we believe the food, beverages and service should be able to match the surroundings we are in. We want to make this the dining destination on the South Coast."
Since Caveau closed Mr Evans and Mr Chiumento have been involved with The Night Parrot in lower Crown St, Wollongong and will continue to do so.
Mrs Bishop said Bangalay Luxury Villas and Bangalay Restaurant is popular for small weddings, corporate offsites, product launches, family celebrations and milestone birthdays and the new team will provide an added dimension.
"Simon and Tom's experience paired with Ronnie's passion for exceptional guest experience are the perfect combination to ensure we deliver memorable experiences for our guests," she said.
Mr Gorman is also an experienced sommelier and restaurant manager from Sydney who also brings an award-winning wine list accolade and hatted restaurant experience to Bangalay.
"The food and beverage offering goes beyond the walls of the restaurant. The setting, surrounded by the Bangalay Sand Forest and so close to Seven Mile Beach immediately dictates the style of service that is appropriate for the resort," he said.
"I can truly understand why guests from Sydney and Canberra and beyond the region become regulars."
With the summer holidays not far away, the team are also preparing their Christmas Day and New Year's Eve menus.
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