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Parkers Steakhouse

It’s the little details that make all the difference at Parkers Steakhouse – right down to the way the seats are positioned.

With each dish cooked to order, majority of the menu gluten free and beef put through a rigorous selection process, Parkers is giving customers a taste of what steak should be.

“The specs with the meat are so stringent, it even goes back to when the cow is alive,” owner Douglas Unsworth says. “We only accept meat from cows that are between three and three-and-a-half years old – so there’s no yearling beef.”

Then I only get centre cut meat. They are always the same size and the same look, so every time you come in the cuts look the same.”

When the perfect cut of beef is selected from Clover Valley Fine Foods, it is then dry-aged for a minimum of 28 days and wet aged for approximately nine days.

Essentially the process makes the beef undergo a tenderising process due to its own natural enzymes. As a result the beef is tender, more flavoursome and a raw steak will see no blood on the plate when cut.

As each customer orders a steak, only 16 are cooked at once (while the chefs have the capacity to cook 40) to ensure quality and accuracy is delivered with every single meal – whether it’s medium rare or well done.

On the question of the best way for steak to be cooked, Douglas admits that how you like your steak is a “completely personal preference” and no judgement or pressure will be placed on customers’ orders.

Further freedom of choice for customers comes with non-beef options of chicken, vegetarian, Atlantic salmon, pork belly and lamb cutlets on the menu.

“You’ve got to cater to everybody,” Douglas says. “I always say to them, ‘I don’t put the veggie meal on because of the vegetarian, I put it on for the partners of the vegetarians so they get the opportunity to come here and get a steak’.”

The décor echoes the same sentiment, with Douglas opting for a rustic setting with bluestone bricks a large feature of the Geelong venue and one that is carried through to the Drysdale venue. Wooden tables and chairs sit in clusters throughout the space and the heritage of the building is highlighted by the earthy colour palette.

Each choice made is one that aids the customer comfortability, also taking
cues from steakhouses in Calgary, Canada.

“I chose to go this way – nice and rustic – as the building suited it and it allows everybody and anybody to come in. You’re not going to ostracise certain groups,” he says.

“I remember one night coming in we had a table of six guys from a notorious biker group. Sitting beside them at the time was the mayor and some overseas guests and they were sitting at tables right beside each other.

“When I saw that, I thought this is exactly what I want. The fact that everybody and anybody can come in here and not be thinking that you’re out of place.”

Over the 12 years of the Geelong CBD venue and six years for the Drysdale venue, Douglas has amassed a loyal customer base of hundreds (he admits, maybe even thousands) that come in regularly to enjoy the quality cooked steak.

Recently, Parkers has separated from the Squires Loft franchise, meaning the two locations are now 100% family owned and independent. The change also allows Douglas to make alterations of his own with the venue, with new serving ware already noticeable in the two venues.

Having worked in hospitality since he was 17, working his way through major hotel chains and steakhouses in Canada before moving to Australia and working in Melbourne and Hotham, Douglas has wanted nothing more than to open his own venue.

“I’ve done nothing but work in hospitality my whole life,” Douglas says. “I started when I was 17 and I’ve done nothing but.”

I worked for other people and twice I nearly opened a restaurant. I’m glad I didn’t because I was too young and I don’t know whether I would have had the sort of dedication to it. I just don’t think it would have worked.”

In Douglas’ time at Shorts Place in the CBD, he has seen many businesses come and go. Ahead of the curve, he was one of the first venues to inhabit the laneway space, and is five years ahead of the boom in Drysdale for hospitality as well.

With such an insight for business and with a wealth of hospitality business, Douglas and his team will keep serving quality steaks for as long as possible.

Geelong venue
Where: 2 Shorts Place, Geelong
Phone: 03 5221 8485

Drysdale venue
Where: 7 Palmerstone Street, Drysdale
Phone: 03 5251 5551

Written for and published in On Pako Magazine. Image by E&D Magazine.

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Snif Perfumery

Every 30 to 60 days your memory of scents are renewed, but somehow the smell of your mum’s perfume still manages to conjure memories of her no matter how much time has passed.

A perfume and cologne can define your character, be a talking point and become the final detail in creating ever-lasting memories – that’s why finding the right one is so important.

But for Diana Cooper, having worked with Yves Saint Laurent in Myer, she could no longer find a scent that piqued her interest.

“I’d been out of the industry for 20 odd years and [my partner] Dale would say, ‘Do you want me to get you a fragrance for your birthday?’” she says.

“There was nothing really unique; nothing new and nothing genuine.”

In the back of Diana’s mind, the plan to open the bespoke perfumery was always there, but it wasn’t until she was sent samples from London perfume brand Floris when she knew what she had to do. Confessing “that was it”.

“That spurred me on to find other fragrances that were unique and bespoke,” she says. “And that was the moment when I realised we were really missing something in the marketplace. I really wanted to bring back the glamour and the romance.”

It’s those last seven words from Diana which are set to become a feature of the space, written on one of the walls above the shelves lined with bespoke perfumes.

The Snif space, which opened at the back of Wine Domaine in September, holds brands such as Lalique, Floris, Penhaligon, Lubin and Carthusia, with several in particular worn by well known icons as Grace Kelly, Jackie Onassis, George Clooney and the royals themselves.

There are even candles from a 400-year-old company that with one sniff will take you to the gushing seas of the Mediterranean.

In her search for these brands, she took advice from those who travelled as well as read up on perfumeries around the world, looking for ones with history and something meaningful to bring to the people of Geelong.

Her first experience with a brand like this was with London brand Floris, it was also the same one that convinced her to open the perfumery in the first place.

“It comes from London and it’s steeped in history and they have 17 Royal Warrants; they’ve made fragrances for the royal family. I remember spraying it and thinking this is just so beautiful and it just lasted and lasted,” Diana says.

While she is on a quest to raise the profile of perfume and cologne offerings in the region, she doesn’t want to confuse customers. Instead to give them an introduction to true scent and turn the boutique into a destination.

“These are fragrances that I stand by and love them and they accommodate a variety of personalities and different likes – both male and female. In fact, a lot of the fragrances are gender neutral,” she says.

“And you’ll find that a lot of people will come in and they’ll love something and it will traditionally be for a man.”

Proof of the fluidity of the scents, perfume consultant Zoe Fehlberg and co-owner Dale Cooper, both love the same cologne – Frapin 1270 with hints of cognac, spices, tonka bean and coffee.

“How awesome to be able to buy something that you and your partner can wear, if you want to share?” Diana adds on the matter.

Between oriental scents and florals to fruitier perfumes, Snif hosts them all. Every worker in store has been trained on the art of finding scent, and part of their job is to help you leave with something that expresses you.

What Diana has quickly found, is that while many confess to not liking florals or only liking fruity scents, the customer is often surprised at what they gravitate towards in store.

“A lot of people come in and they don’t know what perfume is truly like because they haven’t experienced the art of real scent,” she says.

“Perfume making is an art form, so we want to bring that back and show them,” she adds.

Ultimately, Diana hopes to create memories – both in store with her customers and outside in their lives.

“It evokes memories, it’s the biggest part of our sense,” she says. “Who can’t remember a grandma or your mum or an aunt who had a particular scent when they walked in the room. And you could have your eyes shut but you could smell them when they walked in the room.”

That’s exactly the impression she hopes each and every Snif perfume creates.

Where: At Wine Domaine, 66 Garden Street, East Geelong
Ph: 5222 2600
Instagram: @snif_perfumery

Published in On Pako Magazine. Images by Snif Perfumery.

John Safran

Scrolling through his Facebook feed back in 2015, John Safran came across a picture of a “skinhead” with a swastika tattoo and a “cool-as-fuck black dude” in a standoff. The photo was taken at the first Reclaim Australia rally, and caused enough intrigue in Safran to attend the next one held in July, 2015.

Similar images to the one Safran saw on social media manifested at the event, but what was particularly surprising was the amount of non-white Australians in attendance supporting the Reclaim Australia movement. In response, he tweeted a photo with the caption: “Don’t mean to awkward everybody out but heaps of non-white people rallying in support of Reclaim Australia”.

An article for news.com.au was written by him in response, and after some kind words from friends and the general public, it helped shape the introduction to his newest book ‘Depends What You Mean by Extremist’.

“I wrote this article and it got really great feedback and then my friend said, ‘Oh John, you should always write like that because it’s funny and that’s what you should do’,” John mimics.

“And she was basically subtly slamming my first book [Murder in Mississippi]: ‘John it’s fine to go poking around and investigating things but it’s better if you were to be funny about things because a lot of people wish they could do that. So why don’t you just be funny’. And I thought that was a pretty good argument.

“I went to Penguin and they liked it and I really liked it because it was really Aussie. Usually with most of my stuff there’s a lump to convince people. Like, ‘This is when I grew up at Yeshiva College but I swear it speaks to bigger things and not just me’ and this was bang in the middle of white Australia and flags and not my usual novel gazing Jewish stuff,” he says.

From the day that article was published, the next 18 months for Safran were spent following rallies, drinking with the “enemies” and speaking with many of the personalities who attended the first rally – including Pastor Daniel Nalliah, a Sri Lankan immigrant supporting Reclaim Australia.

Raised as a Jew with grandparents who escaped the Nazis, Safran was taken to having tequila shots with members of the United Patriots Front and the Nationalist Alternative in his quest to discover extremist Australia. It’s an unconventional setting, but Safran confesses he’s always felt drawn to racism.

“The fact that there’s real meaningful bigotry in the world, I think the kind of interest and fascination came from that: the darkness that’s floating in the background. I guess that’s a big reason why I was fascinated with the dark world of racists,” he says.

Early on in writing the book Safran became a target due to his Jewish heritage and public profile with Nazi jokes thrown at the satirical writer at rallies. As Safran says, “this is the game I’m in”. Rather than letting the insults slide, he challenges them at the right moments, putting himself front and centre in the discussion of race and religion.

“It’s almost about making it really personal for the reader, and me making it personal in this environment is to talk about Jewish things. It’s coming from that perspective. A reader is more likely to engage in the book more because that’s what my existing audience want,” he says.

Having worked on various television projects including John Safran vs God, Music Jamboree, Race Relations and the Goddam Election! Safran is relishing the experience in writing rather than filming.

“It’s more the opposite, where for all sorts of reasons I’m really enjoying this way of researching and this way of writing,” he says. “Partly just because of my skill set. I’m not a technical camera person or anything like that, and if I was to leverage my skill set being on my own I know how to weasel into situations. It’s less of an ask when you rock up with just your Dictaphone saying, ‘Oh, you know, I’m doing a book can I talk to you?’ I can just get into cracks and little spaces rather than if I was bringing a film crew.

“I like new ways of being thrown into these worlds and having to solve new problems, so throwing yourself into a book means I have to think about things in a different way and I find that exciting – it keeps my brain alive,” he says.

This August Safran returns to one of the key scenes in his book, where the two sides of Australia’s extremism collided in Bendigo. He joins the likes of Clementine Ford, John Marsden, Maxine Beneba Clarke and more at the Bendigo Writers Festival. And he assures us, there won’t be a repeat of last time he was there.
Photo by Penguin Random House

Published in Forte Magazine and online.

Valerie’s Pantry

While Katherine Reynolds lived a relatively eco-friendly life, it wasn’t until she lived in London for three years when her appreciation of sustainable produce and living was truly formed.

“Living in the UK really opened my eyes to the intensity of waste and the impact supermarkets have on us as consumers and the environment – which allowed me to look into it more back home,” she says. “Since coming home I’ve honed in on what I would want to do, where I would like personally to shop and that’s how Valerie’s Pantry started!”

Valerie’s Pantry is Belmont’s newest bulk wholefoods and liquids store on the bustling High Street strip, offering an alternative to the chain supermarkets sharing the same space.

“I felt there was a real gap in Geelong for a specialty store like Valerie’s, that caters to a large audience of people wanting to reduce their waste, be more mindful about the food they’re buying and eating, and even reducing toxins from their home and body products,” Katherine says.

Named after her grandmother, the store stocks organically and locally grown produce, Zeally Bay baked goods daily, dips, pies, the Pana Chocolate range and many other planet-friendly choices you can make for your home.

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The first thing you’ll notice stepping into the building, which was previously a real estate office, is the many tubs and containers that line the far wall. Filled with everything from organic tri-colour quinoa to roasted salted pistachios, this element of the business encourages shoppers to reduce plastic packaging by bringing in your own reusable glass containers.

It’s a choice that’s being adopted by many, with the recent revelations of just how much waste traditional supermarket shopping puts into the world. Every year Australians use 3.92 billion plastic bags while shopping (CleanUp Org) and we’ve all seen the recent War on Waste series with Craig Reucassel where it’s revealed 50,000 coffee cups are binned every 30 seconds.

“I’ve been hunting for stock for the majority of my planning,” Katherine says when discussing the importance of each item. “I have especially been looking at if the product is organic, and if it’s not, what the brand or company is doing to work towards that, or what practices they’re using instead, or if they are striving towards sustainability or using ethical practices. Also, if it tastes great!”

Having worked in a green grocer in Australia for six years before spending three years in London working for various start-ups, with this store Katherine has paired her knowledge developed over the years with her passion to make it possible. Of course her family igniting the spark by purchasing organic vegetables boxes when Katherine was a child and the more physical help they’ve instilled in the store fit out has made Valerie’s Pantry a reality.

Where: 138 High St, Belmont
When: Mon-Fri 9am-6pm; Sat 9am-3pm; Sun 10am-2pm
Ph: 03 5245 8656

Published in Forte Magazine and online.

Pakington Cottage

After looking for opportunities to create a social enterprise in Siem Reap, Cambodia, mother and son duo James and Tracy Skilbeck decided to do something a bit closer to home.

Within around eight hours of the Cottage cafe going on the market and a call from James’ business broker, the pair had found the perfect location to make their socially conscious business dreams a reality.

“We came and sat down with the owners for three hours, had a big chat with them and we said, ‘Let’s do it’. We could see it had a lot of potential,” James says.

Before taking over the business late last year, James worked hands-on for three weeks with the previous owners and staff in gaining a full understanding of the Pakington Street favourite – what worked and what didn’t. From there the mother-son duo were able to apply what they’d hoped for the venue, as well as what they’d learnt would be best for the customers.

As a result, the newly renovated space boasts a homely feel, a fresh coat of paint, a new look menu catering to dietary and allergy needs and an emphasis on supporting local. Remnants of the old cafe remain with menu favourites the eggs Benedict, the burger and original corn jacks still available to order.

With the concept of the business originally inspired by Tracy and James’ connection with a young Cambodian man, the Geelong cafe is currently working on partnering with a charity focused on helping the Cambodian community.

“I met Somnang a couple of years ago in Cambodia and he just came across as a really hard worker. But just like a lot of people in Cambodia, he had been dealt with a hard hand,” Tracy says. “The scale of the poverty there is just mind-numbing.”

Pakington Cottage also stocks Thank You water and soap, Who Gives a Crap toilet paper and donates leftover food to Spare Meals Geelong.

“They just do the most incredible job. If we don’t have food leftover on a Monday or a Friday, I’ll just take $50 out of the till and be like, ‘What do you need?’” Tracy says before adding. “We’re just trying to look after this area as much as we can.”

With Tracy and James both passionate about good food and good company, James in particular honed his skills making his way through university while working at Aireys Inlet’s A La Grecque and ensures his passion lies in good customer service.

Pair their passions with the fresh, expansive menu and Pakington Cottage is a venue that’s good for you and the community to eat at.

Where: 359 Pakington St, Newtown
When: Mon-Sun 8am-3pm
Site: www.pakingtoncottage.com.au
Ph: 03 5229 1599

Published in Forte Magazine and online.

Ali Barter

In a bookstore in New York City in 2012, Ali Barter squeezed her way into the shop to hear Patti Smith speak. She couldn’t see the artist, but simply listening to her talk inspired Barter to write and later earned a spot to be featured as a prominent artist on Barter’s Facebook.

“She spoke so beautifully, just the way she writes; and hearing her made me want to write too,” Barter explains in the online post about Patti Smith. “Smith is the embodiment of art, androgyny and rock’n’roll.”

For the past few months, Barter has been sharing the musicians who have influenced, not only her, but who have paved the way for women in the industry. Yes, they are female, and deserving of every spot in the history books in which Barter found them lacking when she studied her 20th Century music history class.

“We’re not seeing the variation of women and that women can be so many things in the industry. Also we’re not learning about the incredible stories of the things these women are doing, where people didn’t want them to be there. They had to work so much harder,” she says.

In an essay penned for Junkee on the same issue, Ali Barter wrote, “While growing up, I learned that a women’s chief purpose in music is to play the supporting role to men.”

Really launching her career with the release of Girlie Bits, which featured lines like “Give us a smile princess/it’s better for business ” and “you don’t understand what it’s like to be a man ”, Barter has hardly played a supporting role and in ways has become a voice for women not only in the industry but in the world in general.

“It’s not a role that I set out to wear and I think there are lots of people doing it at the moment,” she says. “If I see something and then write a post about it, it’s a conversation starter. I would be hesitant to say that I’m trying to be a poster girl or something, but I’m definitely learning and sharing life. That’s the thing that is really important; I want to be inclusive and I want my songs to be inclusive and I’m glad that men sing along, and that people ask questions because it should be a conversation starter writer than an accusatory conversation.”

Her newest single Cigarettes, which was picked up by triple j and landed #1 for the most played track on the radio station at the time (“I’ve never had that happen to me before”), continues along the theme of Girlie Bits, in which she captures frank emotions in stripped back songs that can be described as nothing else but completely honest.

Both songs come from the soon-to-be-released debut album, A Suitable Girl (out via Inertia Music on March 24), which is significantly more focused on Barter’s voice, guitar and lyrical honesty than before.

“It was like I wanted to cover my voice up, I would cover it with effects, and this time I was really listening to myself – which was uncomfortable too – but I really wanted to hear myself rather than the other bits,” Barter says.

“In AB-EP there was a lot more going on – production wise – and we tinkered a lot in the recording process and incorporated a lot more influences. For this record I wanted it to be short sharp and to the point.

“I wanted it to be clear and based around the core things; which was me, my singing and the guitar playing. So in that way we went in and recorded for a week in the studio and then we only put what was necessary on top of the songs. I did add some things, but not the layers and layers that were on the previous EP – this is much more immediate. And it was a conscious decision. And anytime, we were recording and things were getting out of hand I’d be like, ‘Take that out, take that out’, because sometimes the song can get lost in all the sparkly things you put on top.”

As a result the release is honest and echoes the practices Barter has put into daily life. Who knows, Barter may just feature in another budding artists key female musicians in history on their Facebook page.

Published in Forte Magazine and online.

Rob ‘Millsy’ Mills

Rob Mills has lived what seems like a plethora of lives for a 34-year-old. First entering Australians’ television sets on Australian Idol in 2003, Mills has since been on Celebrity Apprentice, read the weather on morning television, guest starred on neighbours and been an ambassador for suicide prevention organisation R U OK?.

With each new role, it’s been a welcome challenge. As Mills confesses he’s willing to say yes to just about any opportunity: “If you put the work in and jump in the deep end you’ll learn how to swim”.

His biggest test, and the turning point of his career, came with the chance to audition for popular theatre production Wicked; which involved a rigorous training process from a singing and acting coach.

“I found that really hard to do but I wanted it so, so badly,” he says. “If you practise enough anything is possible.”

Through sheer determination, Mills landed the coveted lead role of Fiyero in the Stephen Schwartz production and reviewers unanimously remarked that the former reality star was actually “surprisingly good”.

In light of the reviews, in 2015 Mills created his own theatre show taking inspiration from the critics’ remarks. Rob Mills is “Surprisingly Good” was Mills’ creative response to the critics. “As soon as you take ownership of something it loses its power,” he adds.

Since then, Rob Mills is longer acclaimed as surprisingly good, and instead is heralded as Australia’s golden boy of theatre.

puttin on the ritz 2 if there's room

First beginning his musical theatre career in 2008 with Wicked, Mills has starred in Legally Blonde, Grease, Hairspray and Ghost the Musical. His newest role sees him bring life to the classics of Irving Berlin, Cole Porter and George Gershwin in the David King production of Puttin’ on the Ritz.

“I grew up listening to those old school musical theatre movies; Frank Sinatra, Bing Crosby, Grace Kelly, Fred Astaire,” Mills confesses. “My grandma and I would always watch those together back in the day, so I have fond memories of sitting around watching those old movies.”

With the likes of the Sound of Music and Mary Poppins playing a big role in Mills’ childhood, he’s been blessed in having an upbringing that brings awareness to the power of music and live performances.

“The thing that gets me when you’re watching a film, people think it’s the text that creates the movie, but it’s actually the music that sparks that emotion within you. There’s something really special about story-time through song and dance,” he says.

“People want that escape, and that’s what we offer as singers and dancers – an escape from the everyday world. You don’t get that from a movie you’ve downloaded off the Internet or streamed on Netflix. Sure it gives you something, but there’s nothing better than live entertainment.”

From his early days performing in a band, heading to karaoke with his “classic karaoke queen” mother, and his stint on Australian Idol, music has played a constant role in his life.

His love of music and his upbringing meant this new role in Puttin’ on the Ritz was something the theatre star “jumped at”.

Before Mills heads to Bendigo and Geelong for Puttin’ on the Ritz, he joins the Production Company for the first time in Jesus Christ Superstar in Melbourne from July 29 – August 6. All that’s left for you is to take Mills’ sage advice and experience it. Perhaps escape the real world a little while you’re there.

Published in Forte Magazine and online.