The recent Australian Hotel Association (AHA) ACT hospitality and accommodation awards saw big wins for new city bar Luna, which walked away with Best New or Redeveloped Venue and Best Bar. It was also a big night for Luna’s chef Adrianne Davos, who was named Chef of the Year.
But for Adrianne, this award represents so much more.
“The person who got me into cooking was my Grandmother. She passed away three years ago, which was very hard because I couldn’t go back home to the Philippines to pay my respects,” Adrianne, known as Adi, told Region.
“It was her anniversary the day I won, so it was very emotional. My passion and drive are all because of her so it was cathartic and it made me very proud of the journey I’ve taken.”
As well as a chance to honour her past, Adi says this award is a chance for her to speak up about issues that have long plagued the hospitality industry. The visibility afforded to her by this award – and her healthy Instagram following – has already given her the opportunity to make a difference.
“I was surprised after I won, I started to receive messages from young chefs all over the world. They said they wanted to be like me because I look so happy and positive. I always try to be positive because the industry is stressful enough!”
Some of the messages troubled her, though, as young chefs said they planned to work even harder, stay for longer hours, and push through illness to reach the same levels of achievement.
“I thought, ‘Hang on, this isn’t the message I want to convey!’ Although this industry is fun, it’s also tough and challenging and can sometimes take advantage of young chefs. I want them to prioritise their mental health as well as their physical health.”
In late 2022, Adi prioritised her mental health and took a break from the industry. This gave her the opportunity to reset her priorities and eventually led her to Luna where she’s been able to create a menu that reflects the kind of food she’s passionate about.
This advice is typical of Adi’s holistic approach to her work. She believes that in order to be the best they can be, chefs need to feel safe to bring their whole identity to the workplace. Adi initially trained as an artist, and she views cooking in the same way as other creative pursuits.
“Good chefs don’t just follow recipes or a particular cuisine: you work out what you want to share with the world.”
As a self-described “brown, queer, female”, Adi is also well aware of the multiple barriers others like her face in the hospitality industry. During her apprenticeship in a male-dominated kitchen, Adi says she faced “multiple bad ‘isms’: sexism, racism and homophobia”.
“We have to do something about this. There needs to be a big change in the industry if an 18-year-old apprentice is messaging me about the same issues I encountered 10 years ago,” she said.
Adrianne’s message to other chefs and businesses is to lead by example and create positive workplace environments that value creativity and good mental health.
She says that at the end of the day, while it’s gratifying to receive an award, she sees this win as a way to give other young chefs the opportunity to see that they can succeed.
“I want to see more queer chefs, female chefs, brown chefs blazing their own paths and surpassing me on their own journeys. That would be great.”
Original Article published by Lucy Ridge on Riotact.