Order Up! at Papamoa Beach Village

Papamoa Beach Village's chef Stephen Barry has over 40 years of experience. 

Barry's parents purchased their Aorangi Peak restaurant when he was just 13. 

"I got shackled to the benches at an early age and never learnt to escape," he said.

"I also found I had a knack for cooking, and it was a great way to make people happy."

For the last 14 years, Barry has been running his restaurant Mount Bistro. Unfortunately, the building the Bistro is in needs to undergo remedial work, which would close the restaurant for over a year. So, rather than return it to a restaurant, Barry decided to convert it into apartments and look for another venue to showcase his skills. 

Now, Barry is Papamoa  Beach Village's beloved head chef. 

"The hours were a big draw card," said Barry when asked why he chose to work in a retirement village. 

"It's nice to have most evenings and weekends off to spend with family and friends."

"We also have a real community atmosphere at the village, and I have a great time mixing with the residents and working with the staff."

Since day one, Barry begins his day by checking his emails. Then, he prepares the cabinet food for the café and organises morning tea, the daily soup, and lunch options for the care home. The afternoon is spent catching up on paperwork, rosters, organising events and preparing the afternoon and evening meals. He finishes with checking the menus, placing orders and completing the food control plan. 

"I am lucky to have a great team that has helped me settle in and get used to the routine," Barry expressed. 

The daily routine is much more structured than traditional restaurants, with set times for meals and events. 

"There is much more uncertainty when running an a la carte restaurant," said Barry. 

"You often don't know how many you are catering for or what they will order each service."

There is more flexibility with staff in terms of days off, says Barry. 

"I can now attend special occasions, which can be difficult as an owner-operator."

Barry loves experimenting with cooking, playing with new techniques, styles and flavour combinations. 

"I've recently begun looking back to classic combinations and reinventing them," he said. 

Barry has to adhere to a much stricter budget in the retirement village, but he says it is fun making economic cuts taste sensational. 

"There are also quite a few in the care home on soft and puree diets, so it can be a challenge to prepare and present these in an attractive and tasty way."

Chefs in retirement villages are becoming more popular and are certainly a viable option for young chefs. 

"I would thoroughly recommend this career path to up-and-coming chefs once they experience the lifestyle and challenges," said Barry.

"They may not return to a standard kitchen once they do," he laughed.