Daniel West, curator
I’m very privileged to work in this kind of capacity at a destination that is revolutionising the food scene in Australia ...
When Daniel West was nine years old, he started his own market stall selling pet rocks. Over the next 30 years, he became one of the most prominent figures in the South East Queensland food market scene, as both a stall holder and manager, where developed an understanding and level of respect for not only the quality of the food, but the operators. Now, the Brisbane-based father of two is at the helm of the Gold Coast’s newest foodie playground – The Kitchens at Robina Town Centre. As the curator, Daniel orchestrated The Kitchens from its early concept stages all the way through to its highly anticipated opening last November. Given the popularity of The Kitchens, we thought it was time to put a face to the name behind the $160-million playground. Daniel is a family man that oozes passion and sincerity, and you’ll find him at The Kitchens every day putting his heart and soul into continuing the evolution of the dynamic culinary marketplace – and he does it with a vibrant smile and one darn smart looking vest.
It’s been nearly four months since The Kitchens opened at Robina Town Centre. Fill us in on how the first few months have been for the foodie playground?
It has been delicious! What an incredible adventure we have embarked on with local food lovers. We have reinvented the culinary experience at The Kitchens through immersive collaborations with chefs, musicians, providores, performers and purveyors, and our local community has really embraced this space as their own. From Alistair McLeod to George Calombaris, Matt Golinski, Ben Williamson, Matt Sinclair, Sammy and Bella from My Kitchen Rules, and our resident chef Sam Gowing – our open kitchens and cooking stage have come alive through interactive demonstrations and workshops headed up by celebrity chefs, that have not only engaged our customers, but also inspired them to get creative in their own kitchen, too. Of course, our tenants have also been integral to our ongoing success, celebrating with foodies, collaborating with each other, and delivering on our promise of creating food theatre, and delicious, high-quality dishes that can be enjoyed with family and friends in a community-style setting.
What does your role as curator entail?
To me, a curator is someone who is aspirational, takes pride in all things local, builds immersive communities, respects gourmet traditions, but is not afraid to challenge the status quo and bring new food trends and experiences to life. As The Kitchens curator, my role is about by bringing our tenants together to create a cohesive and inspiring food playground, as well as helping to deliver on the greater goals of The Kitchens. To my knowledge, no other food precinct has ever had a curator at its heart, so I’m very privileged to work in this kind of capacity at a destination that is revolutionising the food scene in Australia. Bringing this urban marketplace to life involved so many passionate people all working together to deliver a world-class food destination. I love working with our tenants and the Robina Town Centre team to create an ‘always on’ activation program that appeals to customers of all ages, as well as educating and inspiring our local community on a daily basis.
Let’s throw back to the opening week of The Kitchens – it was a mammoth task to bring it all together, so how did it feel when the doors finally opened?
We were absolutely thrilled! After so many months of hard work and many a late night, our team delivered what is truly a one-of-its-kind food destination that we hope has set a new benchmark for shopping centre food precincts.
You’ve got a strong background in food, markets, events and management, with the likes of Jan Powers and Eumundi Markets on your resume. How has the food and market scene has progressed over your time in the industry?
As cooking and food TV shows continue to grow in popularity, we have seen so many everyday Australians who have been inspired to become extraordinary food entrepreneurs. With this, I have witnessed new food trends and cutting edge concepts come to life, as locations like The Kitchens give budding foodies and restaurateurs the platform to take their ideas to the community.
Tell us, what went through your mind when you first heard the concept of The Kitchens?
It was a massive ‘wow!’ moment when The Kitchens concept was first presented and I immediately wanted to be a part of this food revolution. Together with the team we discussed not only how we would bring this concept to life, but how we would connect the tenants as a food community, and then translate this into an amazing customer experience. I think we have definitely delivered on that.
Has food/markets always been in your blood?
I had my first market stall as a nine year old at The Original Eumundi Markets alongside my parents at the time. I then ran my own stalls for the next 30 years at many different markets and events all throughout the South East Coast. I was with Jan Power as a stall holder for 10 years while running her markets for five of those years. Jan taught me so much about food. She taught me to understand and respect the quality of not only the food, but the operator.I have always enjoyed markets for the way in which all of your senses are stimulated, so when you visit The Kitchens, be prepared to smell, see, feel, touch and taste your way though.
What was your (very) first job?
My first market stall was pet rocks. There were great profit margins but not such a great demand. My first job, aged 10, was with my parents at the bread stall they ran at the Markets. I would get up at 1:00 am every Saturday morning and go on the one hour drive to the famous Kenilworth Bakery, one of the last wood fired bakeries in the 80s, and spend three hours bagging the freshly baked bread after it had cooled off from the oven. I’ll always remember ripping open the classic burnt hi-top white loafs and hollowing out the sweet insides, mmmm.
Let’s pretend it’s your day off, where would we find you? (hint: when you’re not at The Kitchens!)
With my beautiful wife Kathy and my two boys Orlando and Felix. When we are not at a market (yes I still love going to them), we’re enjoying time as a family, watching the boys play soccer and basketball, camping, or relaxing in the pool.
What can we expect from The Kitchens in 2017?
In addition to our fresh food and dining offer, we will continue to activate The Kitchens with an inspiring cooking, entertainment and cultural program in 2017. Through our ‘always on’ approach, our customers will have the chance to participate in an ongoing series of tastings, workshops and master-classes in line with our seasonal launches, enjoy live music and outdoor cinema experiences, watch art installations and cultural festivals come to life, and be a part of community-based partnerships with the likes of Oz Harvest. We are firmly focused on shining a light on local talent, so this will continue to be a priority for us in 2017.