Brett Hutley, Botanica

Take a chance, work hard, dream big and work harder ...

If the freshly baked bundt cakes, doughnuts and muffins beckoning from the shop window haven’t had you pawing at the glass, then one step through the creaky old timber doors of Red Hill’s Botanica is certain to have you drooling over heaped bowls full of fresh, seasonal salad. The real-food haven perched upon Enoggera Terrace has gained cult status among Brisbane dwellers, thanks to its commitment to quality and unpretentious attitude. It’s a far cry from owners Brett and Ali Hutley’s former lives as private chefs for the rich and famous in Sydney, but it’s a venture they consider their greatest achievement – formulating a dream and working their butts off to achieve it. The Weekend Edition popped in to the wholesome haven this week to chat with co-founder Brett Hutley about good nutrition, weekend essentials and chasing your dreams.

Can you share your original plans for Botanica?
Our dream was to create a beautiful space where people could come and enjoy healthy, nutritious and tasty food.

How do you define ‘real food’?
Food that came from the earth, not a packet.

What’s the most popular item on the menu and which is your personal favourite?
Brisbanites really love kale. We tear and massage as much kale as we physically can every single day and still it’s not enough. Every day we have at least one devastated customer who’s missed out. Even though it’s sometimes impossible to keep up with the kale demands, we’re so thrilled that people are so addicted. Having said all that, I personally can’t go past the red cabbage salad with parmesan, walnuts and sharp dijon dressing.

Do you have any plans to open additional Botanica stores around Brisbane?
We think about this all the time. But to be honest, there are no plans at the moment to open a second Botanica. We’re trying to find a way to extend our current trading hours so we can meet the demand to be open on Mondays. Ali also has her heart set on a cookbook, so it may be a case of ‘watch this space’.

Where do you source your fresh produce?
Our produce comes directly from the Brisbane Markets. We go through such a large volume of vegetables every single day and our friends out at the Brisbane Markets always take good care of us.

What seasonal ingredients should we be throwing into the pot right now?
Brussels sprouts! They’re way too small for me to use in a salad at Botanica, but they’re so versatile and delicious and, like many vegetables, get such a bad rap from being overcooked in days gone by. Thinly sliced raw Brussels sprouts make a delicious side salad with a sharp lemon dressing. Or roast or pan-fry them. They adopt such a complex flavour when they’re cooked. They marry particularly well with nuts, especially walnuts and hazelnuts, and if you’re a meat eater then crispy bacon lardons and Brussels sprouts is a match made in heaven.

If you could share one key message about good nutrition and eating well, what would it be?
‘Eat food, not too much, mostly plants.’ That’s Michael Pollan’s, not mine, but I don’t think there is a clearer message about eating well.

You and your wife Ali are both chefs; did you meet in the kitchen?
Yes, but on different sides of the pass.We were both working in Victoria’s Fine Dining restaurant at the Hilton; Ali was a waitress who liked to think she was a chef!

You’re a father, husband and business owner – what time-management tips can you share?
Just start. You can only do one thing at a time, so start with one thing. The more you think about it, the more you procrastinate, the less time you have. Just start.

What’s a typical day like for you?
Ali always brings our daughter Immie into our bed at 6:00 am so every morning I wake up to my baby daughter laughing at me from the other side of my pillow – it’s a wonderful way to start the day. After a couple of coffees I head down to the shop and get started. I kick things off in the pastry kitchen helping the pastry chef get everything iced in time for open and then I’m elbow deep in vegetables before midday. My kitchen hand moonlights as a trivia master so a fair portion of the day is spent brushing up on my general knowledge. I wrap things up at the shop at 6:00 pm and get home just in time to give Immie her bath. Next comes dinner, wine and House of Cards.

What would you like your life to look like in ten years’ time?
More babies, more Botanica, less work … Is that an oxymoron?!

What are your essentials for a well-spent weekend?
Coffee, sunshine, my two girls … and my golf clubs.

What do you consider to be your greatest achievement?
It would have to be Botanica. We backed ourselves. There was more often than not the sound of crickets when we initially explained to people our business plan, but we stayed the course. We had a vision, we worked tirelessly towards realising it and never doubted ourselves.

Your working history has included stints at prominent restaurants and working as a private chef for some of Sydney’s elite. What’s the greatest lesson you’ve learnt so far?
Take a chance, work hard, dream big and work harder.

What’s your idea of complete happiness?
Doing what you love and being in charge of what you do.

How do you define ‘success’?

What are your words of wisdom?
Don’t let fear make the decision.

Perk up …
Lure on Latrobe, Paddington.
Relax … St Lucia Golf Course.
Dine … The Servery, Woolloongabba.
Indulge … Montrachet, Paddington.
Shop … We just bought a house, so right now it’s Homemaker City, Fortitude Valley.
Catch up … The Rogue Rennard, Paddington.
Be inspired … GOMA, South Brisbane.


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