Jeremy Davidson, The Collective

The Gold Coast has always been seen as being behind Sydney and Melbourne, but I think we are rapidly catching up to the bigger cities ...

If you’re a local foodie, chances are you’ve come across Jeremy Davidson before. The UK-born hospitality guru has been involved in some of the city’s most renowned foodie hubs (Sheraton, Brooklyn Depot, Pigs and Pints, et al) before collaborating with family members to create one of the Gold Coast’s most iconic unique dining destinations – The Collective at Palm Beach. The ‘collective’ restaurant made an impressive entrance on Boxing Day 2016, and it’s been attracting locals and visitors in droves ever since. From humble beginnings working for Luigi in his hometown’s Italian restaurant to putting his name on one of the city’s most iconic food destinations, Jeremy’s passion for the industry remains the driving force. You’ll find Jeremy at The Collective on the daily, in the trenches shoulder-to-shoulder with his team as they work to perfect the Gold Coast’s most unique dining concept. Jeremy took time out to have a chat about collective kitchens, childhood (food) dreams, and the Gold Coast dining scene.

Has the hospitality industry always been in your blood?
Well, at the age of 14 I got my first job in a really old school Italian restaurant in Newcastle (UK) and all the way through school, I’d finish up at rugby training then I’d go and work in the restaurant – i just loved it. I loved watching the kitchen and watching them make the food and serving people. The owner was a very old-school Italian, very passionate about his food and also the service as well – I think a lot of my service ethos has come from him and his personable nature. From that age, I always knew that I wanted to be in restaurants.

The Collective is a very unique concept. When and how did the idea first come about?
When we were travelling around. I had just finished up with Pigs and Pints at the time, and we had a big trip around Europe. We did lots of the market places around Barcelona, Madrid and San Sebastian and we really loved that style of eating where it’s very social and you can pick lots of different items. There’s lots of choice and plenty of atmosphere – and that’s what we wanted to recreate. Places like Miami Marketta I guess paved the way for something of this nature. Seeing the success of them, and loving what they do, we thought, well how about creating a different concept that brought more of the table service elements to it – which is what we’re really passionate about.

What’s your earliest memory of food?
You know those times when you’re looking back and you remember those nostalgic family moments?  Well, every single photo of me as a child, from being a baby, I am holding something edible. We noticed a patten that in every candid moment, I was eating something. Which makes sense. But my earliest memory of food would be back in Derby (UK) when my dad would take me for baked potatoes with beans and cheese. They’d bake them over a fire, they would be wrapped in tin foil and loaded up. In that cold climate, that’s a really warming food.

What’s your view on the Gold Coast dining scene at the moment?
I think it’s a really exciting time right now. Since I’ve been here (ten years), the Gold Coast has always been seen as being behind Sydney and Melbourne, but I think we are rapidly catching up to the bigger cities. There is a really nice feeling, particularly around the other hospitality owners and managers and crew, where we all go and eat at each others venues and try and support each other, which is something that will see the hospo scene on the Gold Coast go from strength to strength. There are lots of places that are really starting to flourish, which is really exciting.

What about the growth we’ve seen in Palm Beach in particular?
Well, we live around the corner, so we think it’s great. We love eating out, and even though I love cooking, it’s so great to eat out at these exciting places. We eat at 8th Ave Terrace regularly, Lester & Earl, plus there are so many new things popping up which gives us so much choice. Palm Beach locals are really getting behind it as well.

What is the greatest lesson you’ve learned along the way?
To listen to people around you. You know, I never have the right ideas for absolutely everything, and I guess people around me will admit that I can be quite stubborn and don’t listen to them straight away … but then all of a sudden something will tweak in the back of my mind and I’ll think “that was a brilliant idea” then I’ll explore it with them. It’s kind of like what happened with The Collective – this was a melting pot of ideas from everyone involved – there were and continue to be genius ideas from everyone … it certainly doesn’t all come from me!

What do you think is the most difficult part of what you do on day-to-day basis?
The most important thing for us is the culture – the culture of our staff and within the team. People are always one of the hardest parts of running a business. We’ve got staff who are ‘in’ the business that are very important, but we’re also ‘in the business’ of looking after people, which is a big part of what we do. It’s about maintaining that culture and listening people and making sure they are happy. That is probably the most important yet toughest part of what we do – making sure the people that work here are happy and are excited about what we’re doing in the business and where they are going personally. If we get that right, then we create this amazing atmosphere, which is why people come to The Collective.

What is it that you find most rewarding?
There are a couple of people in this business who have followed me from other places, which is is genuinely why I love this industry – I have been fortunate along the way to have had people show and teach me, and I’ve had some great mentors. So, being able to pass on what I have learned and see people grow in their careers and into a new position is the most rewarding part for me.

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