Cactus, Caravans and Chef Hats

December 13, 2018

Former Southern Ocean Lodge staff follow-up with foodie success on Kangaroo Island

From a local Kingscote café to an award-winning bistro in Penneshaw and a quirkily refurbished caravan selling bite-sized food and cocktails at Emu Bay, former Southern Ocean Lodge staff have set-up a range of entrepreneurial food outlets on Kangaroo Island. With an abundant range of fresh and diverse produce available at their fingertips, it’s no wonder our past team members have fallen in love with the artisan food and passionate producers on the island.

Southern Ocean Lodge is pleased to have played a role in their careers, a place where they gained invaluable experience as well as lifelong friendships and even partners, inspiring their futures in unexpected ways.

Yen Aun Leow & Louis Lark – Cactus Café and Restaurant
59 Daucey Street, Kingscote

Former assistant Lodge Manager Yen Aun Leow and former Sous Chef Louis Lark met at Southern Ocean Lodge six years ago where they formed a great friendship and bonded over their passion for good food. They even made a ‘foodie trip’ to Malaysia before joining forces and opening a fully licensed café/restaurant in the heart of Kingscote at the end of 2017.

Growing up on the Eyre Peninsula, Louis gained his chef’s apprenticeship in Coffin Bay before working across Europe, Canada and finally as a Sous Chef to Executive Chef Tim Bourke at the lodge. Louis also worked for South Australian food legends Simon Bryant and Maggie Beer, as well as an assistant distiller for his father Jon Lark, owner of award-winning distillery KI Spirits who supply the Baillie Lodges collection with the exclusive baillies9 gin.

Yen trained in hotel management in his home country of Malaysia, and after an initial industry placement at Southern Ocean Lodge gaining experience across all departments, Yen became Assistant Lodge Manager where he remained for the next five years.

Together Yen and Louis saw an opportunity to offer a casual dining experience with local producers supplying amazing, fresh ingredients. “It’s a chance to run our own show,” Louis said. “There’s so much potential in Kingscote to fill a gap – we can offer local food, good quality, light and healthy, at good prices.”

The smoked salmon with sourdough, horseradish cream, rocket, dill and pickles is a local favourite, and their Instagram (@cactus.kangarooisland) must be followed to keep up with their Friday night themed dinners – from Indian to Mexican to Japanese – the boys have certainly added a vibrant and exciting café/restaurant to the growing Kingscote foodie scene. In fact, you will find many current SOL staff dining at Cactus on their days off.

Cactus is currently open seven days a week for breakfast and lunch, from 7.30am in the morning till 2.30pm in the afternoon.

Jack Ingram – Sunset Food & Wine Restaurant
4564 Hog Bay Road, Penneshaw

In 2015, Jack Ingram returned to Southern Ocean Lodge to make his debut as Executive Chef having been part of Matt Upson’s team as a Sous Chef back in 2009. Working at Southern Ocean Lodge, Jack relished the range of ingredients sourced from the small-scale producers on Kangaroo Island who are dedicated to sustainable farming and organic production. Jack learned to use the whole of each living ingredient, a ‘nose to tail’ approach that aligned with the island producers’ sustainable philosophy and respect for the natural environment.

In 2016, Jack saw an opportunity with his partner Vanessa, who worked in food and beverage and the front office of Southern Ocean Lodge, to open Sunset Food & Wine overlooking American Beach. Described as ‘casual fine dining’, it was the first restaurant on Kangaroo Island to be awarded a Chef Hat from the Australian Good Food Guide in 2017, which it maintains today. Since opening, two other former SOL chefs have gone to work at Sunset Food & Wine, a testament to the lifelong connections and friendships formed at the lodge.

Jack reflects on his time at Southern Ocean Lodge as an experience in which he made “many friends and connections with producers and growers within the island and South Australia and fell in love with the passion and quality produced in this region”.

Seafood dishes are a staple at the modern bistro, a popular choice being the barramundi which is sustainably sourced from Kangaroo Island Community Education’s Parndana campus with their ground-breaking ‘aquaponics’ project. Southern Ocean Lodge also source barramundi and herbs from the Parndana campus, fostering a great relationship as the school’s largest customer.

Sunset Food & Wine is open for lunch from 12 to 4pm Tuesdays to Saturdays and dinner until 10pm Thursdays to Saturdays. Follow their Instagram @sunsetfoodandwine for a glimpse of new menu items featuring the freshest, in-season ingredients the island has to offer.

Emily Woskett – Mini de Lights Caravan Café
Emu Bay Road, Emu Bay

“Coffee at sunrise and cocktails at sunset” is the motto of former Southern Ocean Lodge restaurant manager Emily Woskett, who similarly fell in love with both the island and its produce during her time at the lodge, and also her future partner!

After growing up in Adelaide, Emily managed the lodge restaurant in 2014 and it was here that she met her partner, local stone mason Gavin Mathews. Gavin helped build Southern Ocean Lodge ten years ago and is now a guide for KI Wilderness Tours. Emily moved to Kangaroo Island permanently in November 2017 and it was then that she decided to pursue her dream of running a pop-up bar.

Mini de Lights today is a popular kitchen, bar and beer garden serving KI locals and visitors to the stunning swimming beach at Emu Bay.  The beach front, vintage-inspired caravan serves bite-sized street food such as Clifford’s honey popcorn chicken with spicy slaw, and panko crumbed prawn, ginger and carrot balls with wasabi mayo. Cocktails also feature KI Spirits; the salted caramel espresso martini is a crowd pleaser.

Emily believes her experience and knowledge gained at Southern Ocean Lodge, including the numerous contacts with local producers, was key in her establishment of Mini de Lights, sourcing 70% of the ingredients from local producers on Kangaroo Island. Emily also believes her time at the lodge was invaluable to leading her on the road to where she is right now, it was where she “fell in love with the island and all it has to offer”.

Emily worked alongside Louis and Yen during her time at Southern Ocean Lodge, remaining good mates today, in their foodie ventures on either end of Kangaroo Island.

Mini de Lights is open seven days a week through summer from 7am to 7pm. Follow @mini_de_lights on Instagram and be sure to pop in if you can!