6 October 2022

Batemans Bay's Corrigans Cove dishing up the drama on Kitchen Nightmares Australia

| Zoe Cartwright
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Celebrity chef Colin Fassnidge with Andrew Johns

Celebrity chef Colin Fassnidge with Andrew Johns at Corrigans Cove. Photo: Seven Network.

Inviting a camera crew into your kitchen after the “one-two punch” of Black Summer bushfires and COVID-19 might seem crazy, but Batemans Bay business owner Andrew Johns didn’t think twice.

His restaurant, Ccooks at Corrigans, will feature in this season of Kitchen Nightmares Australia.

The show is hosted by award-winning chef and TV presenter Colin Fassnidge, and is based on the UK show made famous by chef Gordon Ramsay.

While the concept seems intimidating, Andrew said he had clear goals in mind when he applied for a spot on the show.

“We were having some menu and supply challenges I was keen to get Colin’s mentorship on,” Andrew said. “His experience is invaluable.

“Following the fires and COVID we found lots of staff had lost their passion for food and hospitality, motivation was low, and our head chef was having a real crisis of confidence.

“That was a real concern for me, how I could help them to fall in love again, and I hoped the show could give everyone a boost and help our chef see how important he is to the company.

“Thirdly, the restaurant has never run at a loss, but it was running at a minimal profit, and I wanted to know how I could grow the business on a macro level, rather than by getting in the kitchen or on the floor.”

Andrew said he fell in love with hospitality aged about six.

When his parents would host dinner parties, Andrew loved nothing better than talking to the guests, clearing plates and topping up food as he went.

“All I wanted was to be around people, I’ve always been motivated by that,” he said.

READ ALSO Andy Johns’ people-first approach gives Corrigans Cove Resort fresh appeal

He went on to land a job at McDonald’s aged 15 before doing a diploma in hotel management and running a group of cafes in Sydney.

He is also a qualified cook, and has 23 years’ experience in the industry, owning and running a variety of hospitality businesses.

Ccooks at Corrigans is on site at Corrigans Cove Resort, which Andrew manages. He has a clear vision for the business.

“We want to provide a five-star dining experience with good food and good service in a casual atmosphere, at a price point that’s acceptable to 80 per cent of the population,” he said.

“A lot of our market is from the ACT, although Victoria and wider NSW are becoming bigger by the day, but families and corporate are our biggest focus, because of the resort.”

Relentlessly upbeat about the business, Andrew is more reflective when talking about the past two years. During the 2019-20 bushfires, Andrew threw open his doors to provide shelter for displaced residents and trapped tourists.

Celebrity chef Colin Fassnidge with Andrew Johns

Andrew Johns says the opportunity to learn from celebrity chef Colin Fassnidge was invaluable. Photo: Seven Network.

Batemans Bay was often cut off from the outside world during the fires – access to electricity, water, the internet, food and petrol was limited.

A number of staff were directly affected.

“None of us had ever experienced anything like it,” he said. “The psychological impact on a lot of people was huge.

“Then COVID came along, it was a one-two punch situation: you get smacked once and then you get annihilated by the second punch.

“It put us in a very challenging and unknown situation, and we had to navigate our way out of it.

“I feel optimistic we’ve done a good job, but through those periods low staff retention was an issue, there was just very low motivation.”

READ ALSO Ahoy, me hearties! Seafood towers and all-day cocktails are hidden treasures at Corrigans Cove

Despite a nightmare few years, when the opportunity to be part of Kitchen Nightmares came along, Andrew thought why not?

“I think you could walk into any business in Australia and find some kind of nightmare,” he laughed. “I did have some concerns and I still do, to be honest, I think anyone would, but I perceived the name as more of a marketing angle.

“My belief is the word ‘nightmares’ is more about getting people to engage with these restaurants that are struggling throughout Australia.

“I wanted to take the gamble and see if we could get a positive outcome out of it and see what comes of it.”

Celebrity chef Colin Fassnidge with Andrew Johns.

After bushfires and COVID, inviting celebrity chef Colin Fassnidge and a camera crew into his restaurant was a gamble Andrew Johns was happy to take. Photo: Seven Network.

So far the gamble seems to have paid off.

Andrew said the restaurant’s staff were excited to have a watch party when their episode airs later this month – a big tick for goal number two, helping staff fall in love with hospitality again.

“We can watch it together, share the learnings, have a laugh, have a debrief and enjoy it,” he said. “Then we can put what we learn into action to make Ccooks the best restaurant on the South Coast.”

Kitchen Nightmares premieres on Wednesday, 12 October, on Channel 7 and 7plus.

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