While larger than life restaurant chefs hog column inches, host reality cooking shows and occasionally make the leap from tradesperson to celebrity, it is the caterers and private chefs that humbly go about their business.
And business is good for caterer and private chef Billy Dohnt as the rise of cooking shows coupled with the enduring popularity of home renovation television proves that there is a pantry full of opportunity for private chefs.
Perspective clients want to enjoy restaurant-quality meals in the comfort of their own home while showcasing new renovations, artworks and wine cellar purchases.
“The culture of dining has changed,” Dohnt says about the rise of hiring private chefs for dinners and parties. “More people are hiring private chefs as there is more of a culture around food now than, for say, my parents’ generation.”
Dohnt, who lives in Port Elliot with his young family, says he works about two private chef gigs a month which is coupled by catering work across the state and the country for corporate clients such as PwC, Mazda, KPMG and Mercedes Benz and wedding locations such as Waverley Estate. He packed his knives and left restaurant kitchens about three years ago with Euroa Butter Factory in North-East Victoria sowing the seeds for his future catering work after two decades in the kitchen.
“It was where I got a handle on events and weddings, selling weddings and started to work with clients and shape events,” he says. Then he returned to South Australia and his best client’s niece from his days at the Salopian Inn was the events manager at PwC, which got the ball rolling on his catering career.
Dohnt can’t see himself going back to the hustle and bustle of the restaurant kitchen, as his catering and private chef gigs mean he gets to spend time with his young son and enjoy the unique beach and rural lifestyle that the Fleurieu Peninsula allows. Plus, the diversity of work means he is challenged creatively and it doesn’t hurt that he is close to food producers such as Goolwa PipiCo as well as the Langhorne Creek and McLaren Vale wine regions.
“I love it down here,” Dohnt says. “I cheffed in the McLaren Vale for so long and I’ve got a passion for the Fleurieu Peninsula and the different opportunities catering allows me. Every day is different.”
Photography: Josh Geelen
This article is drawn from the 2017 edition of LUXURY. Click here to read the full edition of LUXURY online.