Chef David Willcocks, The Argus Dining Room
A story in the newspaper and a touch of serendipity led David Willcocks to The Argus Dining Room at Peppers Mineral Springs Retreat, Hepburn Springs.
“I had read an article about the Argus and was really interested in what the restaurant was doing with local produce and fine dining in regional Victoria,” he said. “Then I noticed a position vacant advertisement so I applied and was lucky enough to get the job.”
Joining the team as Executive Chef in June 2012, David was inspired by the commitment of owners Chris Malden and Wayne Cross to supply the kitchen with rare breed beef, rare breed lamb, orchard fruit and vegetables from their Birch Estate Farm.
Buying direct from farmers is a concept David was very familiar with in Spain and although Hepburn Springs is thousands of miles away from the world renowned 'Schilo Kitchen' at the 5 Star Hotel Finca Cortesin in Malaga, where he worked as Executive Sous Chef for three years, in many ways it couldn't be more similar.
“At Schilo Kitchen we would have producers knocking on the door and coming to us with local produce,” said David.
“We were very fortunate, they would bring along things like fresh fish, mushrooms, wild flowers or herbs, it was a great way of working.”
Peppers Mineral Springs Retreat
In Hepburn Springs, the Argus works in a similar way,sourcing orchard fruit and seasonal vegetables from Birch Estate Farm and other local suppliers.
“Using local ingredients to hero a dish is the focus for what we’re doing and something that I really want to be a part of.”
David says he works with local producers to buy direct and source quality local ingredients that can be used to star on the menu.
He has plenty of experience working with local produce here in Victoria having started his career as an apprentice at Elenores Restaurant, Chateau Yering in the Yarra Valley before moving onto restaurants like Ezards at Adelphi.
At the Argus, David is incorporating a philosophy of accessible food throughout the lunch and dinner menus. He wants guests to come in, have a great meal and let the food speak for itself.
“Using food in a modern way with a focus on flavour and simplicity is what we’re all about. We want people to eat here, enjoy themselves and tell their friends about it.”
The Argus Dining Room is open for lunch and dinner seven days a week.