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Life as a country chef with Brae's Trisha Greentree

Brae's chef de partie tells us what uprooting your life to a regional restaurant is really like.

Trisha Greentree was working her way through some of the best kitchens in the US and Europe when she first heard about Brae.

Nestled in the hinterlands of the Otway Ranges, the restaurant is the brainchild of chef Dan Hunter. Set on some 30 acres of land, it encompasses expansive gardens, orchards and bee hives, and is well on the way to being self-sustaining.

Greentree worked with Hunter at the lauded Royal Mail Hotel in Dunkeld and knew she had to be a part of Brae. However, that meant uprooting her life and moving to Birregurra, a Victorian country town with a population of less than 500 people.

“I don’t think I would do it for many other people,” Trisha explains, “It was definitely Dan’s overall vision. I knew him both personally and as a chef and I knew what he would build.”

Fresh from a stint at Henne Kirkeby Kro on Denmark's ascetic west coast, Greentree knew life in an isolated restaurant was bearable but that didn’t mean the transition was easy. Relocating from bustling Sydney, where she worked at Dan Hong’s CBD hotspot Mr Wong, Greentree definitely felt the change of pace, particularly come dinner time.

“There’s only one general store in Birregurra,” Greentree says, “You can’t just go and pick something up after work, you have to plan your meals for the entire week.”

Today as Brae’s senior chef de partie, Greentree feels the ease of life in Birregurra now complements the intensity of working as a chef. “We’re definitely working at a rapid pace, it’s not as though professionally we’ve taken a step back,” she says. “The chefs are in the garden by sunrise and we’ll work there for two hours every morning.”

It’s a departure from the city, where most of her daylight hours were spent resting for a full night’s work. On their days off, the members of the Brae team will often go foraging for wild ingredients in the Otway forests, or take a beach trip to the nearby Great Ocean Road.

She says being in such isolated conditions, the staff is actually closer than at any venue she’s ever worked at. “We’re a little family out here. It’s a small team opening a restaurant together, so you’re working crazy hours. We are all out here together.”

The other advantage of the location is focus on the work, which Greentree believes has made her a better chef. “Plus, if ever we do get cabin fever, we can go to the city,” she adds with a laugh, “It’s only 90 minutes away and you can either hop on the train or you can drive.”

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