Alan Groom, originally from Leeds, is the chef of the Homestead at El Questro Wilderness Park, an oasis in the rugged and remote Kimberley region of Western Australia. He tells Janet Harmer how he enjoys the adventure of living and working in the outback
Tell me about the Homestead at El Questr It is an exclusive retreat, with just six bedrooms, perched above the Chamberlain Gorge, set within the million acre El Questro Wilderness Park. We are 110 kilometres west of Kununurra by road - part of the route is via the gravel Gibb River Road, which is regarded as one of the great Australian four-wheel drive adventures. El Questro Homestead is owned and operated by Delaware North Australia Parks & Resorts.
Can you outline your current position? I work single-handedly in the kitchen of the Homestead, where I produce everything on site, including bread, ice-cream, pastries and cookies. My wife, Lori is the general manager and we have been here for six years. The Homestead is open from April to November and we spend the rest of the year in Perth, visiting Canada and England every few years.
I cater for up to 12 guests for breakfast, lunch, dinner and picnics, as well as the eight staff working here.
What are the chief challenges of your current position? As we only have one food delivery a week, the major challenge is ordering everything I need as there is nowhere nearby to source certain ingredients.
How did you get your first job abroad and how did you get your current job? My first job overseas was with Holiday Inns of Ontario. I applied to an advert in Caterer and Hotelkeeper, had the interview and was in Canada within six weeks. I got this job at El Questro by answering a newspaper advert.
What do you like about working in Australia? The weather, the people, the harshness of the country, but most of all the adventure.
What do you dislike about working in Australia? It is a tough place for business people, with very restrictive labour laws.
What is the produce like where you are? Do you struggle getting specific supplies? We are surrounded by some of the best fruit and veg in the world. The Ord River Valley nearby has nurtured growers since the 1960s who provide a vast array of tropical and organic produce. Australia also has the best seafood and even the dried fruit here is second to none.
Describe your style of food Dishes are devised for the warmer climate. I use as much local produce as possible, such as mangoes, boab root (tastes like water chestnut), wild rosella flowers, papaw and melons. The menu has influences from all over the world and could just as easily include Spanish, South American, French or Asian flavours. There's always a hint of my English background too.
Some favourite dishes include citrus cured salmon gravlax with green mango dressing; grilled salt water barramundi, shaved fennel salad, cherry tomato and boab root salsa; and roast rack of lamb, polenta Bianca with pomegranate glaze.
Do you plan to return to work in the UK and, if so, how will you use your experience of working abroad? I don't plan to return unless it is to have a pub in the Cotswolds. My experience abroad would make me want to serve traditional British food back in the UK. In other words, I've learnt you must get to know your market and provide the cuisine your customers want.
Do you have a family and has that made life difficult when moving around? I have had my family with me in the past. It was always an adventure, not a difficulty
What other aspects of working abroad would you like to share? Sometimes it's good being the only Brit; it makes you feel special. Seeing different ways of life and unusual food and beautiful sights, it's all good.
CV: alan groom
1970 Dorado hotel, Torquay
â- Early 1970s Caesars Palace, London
â- 1976 Holiday Inns, Ontario
â- 1977 Chives restaurant, Toronto
â- 1980 Dunklemans restaurant, Toronto
â- 1984 L'Hardys restaurant, Toronto
â- 1986 Pandora Inn, Falmouth, Canada
â- 1989 Ocean's, Toronto
â- 1990-98 Wedgewood hotel, Vancouver
â- 1998-01 The Belvedere restaurant, Calgary
â- 2003-05 Nautilus restaurant, Port Douglas, Australia
â- 2002 and 2005-present El Questro Homestead, Kimberley, Australia