They served 11,600 people over the Dark Mofo week without a single piece of waste. And built a heavy metal kitchen out on the lawn, and more than 50% of their kitchen staff are female. It’s MONA and they’re doing things their way.
Vince Trim didn’t start out seeking to be an executive chef, or to be running numerous outlets and dozens of staff. He sort of fell into it, but I think David Walsh feels lucky he did, and so does Vince.
Vince, like a lot of top chefs, underplays his achievements, is humble and certainly very grateful to be where he is. The culture at MONA is different. As I always say, ‘a fish stinks from its head’, so if you’ve got a sick culture, always look at the top. At MONA, we’ve got a very fresh flathead, so to speak, in the elusive personage of David Walsh – maverick, esthete, gourmand and … well, eccentric.
Business people would do well to look at MONA, the culture and the framework, and say “I want some of that,” or “I could learn from that”, because I have never met happier or more contented staff. Or proud staff. Proud to be there, to be part of a very contented clique.
And where does the magic come from? From the top, as Vince says:
“Our platform is David. We’re always working within his philosophy, and that’s to be a part of the whole experience. We’re growing, really growing. It’s an amazing place to work, with the best conditions and equipment I’ve had anywhere. I feel so lucky to be here, to be part of it. It all feels, surreal, and special.
It’s about our team, keeping people engaged in what they do. It’s also driven by the market. I don’t come from a fine dining background! I started as a small child in New Zealand where my mum had a motel, and I hung out with chefs who used to look after me and my sister.
When I moved to Sydney in 1985, I started working in pubs in the inner city and began running pub restaurants for John McInerney, and did corporate work for Westpac. I ended up moving to Hobart 10 years ago, and after a while started working for Philippe Leban, who was Executive Chef then at MONA, as a casual. I ran functions, the downstairs kitchen, worked on developing the wine bar, the café, events… this place is so varied, and with festivals? The sky’s the limit.
Philippe left to open his own place, A Tiny Room in Battery Point, and we all wished him every success, and, well, I just moved up into his job. Developing the Heavy Metal Kitchen out on the lawns was an amazing gig – so much fun. And hard work. A full wood fired kitchen out in the open? How cool is that?
I love international food – and there’s just so many great cuisines to learn from and play with. At the moment, we’re sitting at about 20 chefs, and opening a new venue on site soon. It’ll be stunning, where people can sit, and enjoy the art, the surroundings, the food – a complete immersive art and dining experience. Exciting.
How did we have no waste at Dark Mofo? You know, I thought it was going to be really difficult, but it turned out so much more achievable than I thought it would be. We had cloth napkins, a deposit system for the dinner plates and cutlery, and a small army of people cleaning, washing and polishing. Turns out, it’s not that hard!
What do I want for a better industry? Well, I do want a better industry straight up. We need that. More than half our apprentices are girls and they just seem to balance things out better. At MONA over all we do really aim for a good work/life balance – that’s one of our key drivers.
And what would I say to young apprentices starting out? Get in the industry if you love it. The changes going on are huge. Come and work for us! Knock on my door and say g’day!”
If you’re not from Australia, or haven’t been to MONA, then give yourself a treat. It’s not one of the top museums in the world for nothing. And it’s so much more than that. It’s different.
Thank you Vince, for your time, your openness and enthusiasm. MONA – different, in a very good way.