Exec Chef Telina Menzies: “Best food is shared amongst friends or family, creating memories”

Looking back over her many impressive career achievements in hospitality, multi-award winning Telina Menzies has a modest take, “They say if you love what you do, you never have to work a day in your life”.

A view which most definitely applies to Telina, Executive Chef VIC | WA | Regional NSW and National Activations for world-class hospitality group, Australian Venue Co.

Today, Telina is busy as ever mentoring and training a talented team of chefs across 28 locations, including 15 iconic Melbourne pubs, 10 venues in Western Australia, 3 in regional NSW. At the same time, she manages innovative and creative menu solutions for new venue projects, off-site promotions, pop-ups and any national activation.

Her passion for the industry has also led to a deep involvement in related social causes. Telina is a fierce advocate for mental health, culture and diversity within hospitality. During the recent Covid lockdown, Telina championed a ‘Meals for Hospo Mates’ programme, which provided 65,000 free meals to VISA workers and out of work hospitality staff in Melbourne.

“Coming from a family of chefs, life has always revolved around food”

But as with many a successful career, Telina’s lifelong dedication to hospitality began with her childhood love of food and cooking, and its ‘feel good’ vibe. “Coming from a family of chefs, to me life has always revolved around food. In my opinion, the best food is shared amongst friends or family at the dinner table, celebrating, creating memories”.

Awakened to a desire in “creating, using my hands and keeping busy”, rather than pursuing an academic career (“I couldn’t sit still long enough to absorb Pythagoras theorem”), Telina started her chef’s apprenticeship at the Hyatt Regency Perth.

Telina isn’t just useful with her hands in the kitchen! Source: @telina_menzies

From there she joined the team at the Perth Convention Exhibition Centre (PCEC) in 2005. Under the guidance of celebrity chef, Adrian Tobin, Telina honed her craft as Chef De Partie and soon worked her way up to become Sous Chef.

She soon found herself preparing food for the Royal Family and Richard Branson

It wasn’t long before Telina was once again pursuing her passion in further developing chef skills and expertise. Heading off to the UK, Telina spent 2 years at the renowned catering company, Create, as Head Function Chef leading a team of 30. She soon found herself catering for major events such as the Chelsea Flower Show, and preparing food for the Royal Family and Richard Branson!

Returning home to Perth, Telina joined The Publican Group as Head Chef at The George before relocating to Melbourne in 2014 as National Executive Head Chef for the Group. Telina was now overseeing an expanding portfolio of 12 restaurants, bars and pubs in both Melbourne and Perth, and was to apply a more “fun” approach to food. Telina was also involved in the planning and launch of several of the new venues.

Experienced her share of feeling the pressure

Busy as ever and thriving under the various new responsibilities, Telina admits she has experienced her share of feeling the pressure.

“Stress is part of life. As I moved up in my role from head chef, to executive chef, to business development manager, I’ve found it actually gets harder, not easier”. Telina says that when she was  younger and less experienced, she was always feeling “constantly burnt out”.

Telina believes how you deal with stress plays a huge role in your ability to succeed. “You must have positive outlets away from work, away from alcohol, or whatever your poison is”.

“For me it was throwing myself into my hobbies outside of work, gardening and growing my own herbs etc, being creative and starting different projects, or cooking at home. I use these tools to disconnect from everything and hit the recharge button”. 

Telina Menzies in the herb garden

Telina on lamb duty.. of course with fresh herbs from her garden!

Making a name for herself in Western Australia’s hospitality industry

All the hard work (and the pressure) was to pay off as Telina was starting to be noticed! Making a name for herself in Western Australia’s hospitality industry led to several awards and accolades: Fine Food Show Most Outstanding Chef (2007); Australian Hotels Association (AHA) Cookery Service Employee of the Year Award (2013); #16 on The Sunday Times WA’s Biggest and Brightest list.

In late 2017, The Publican Group was acquired by Australian Venue Co (formerly Dixon Hospitality). Telina accepted the role of Executive Chef, overseeing the group kitchens, and developing food concepts for their new venues.

“Being a Chef has given me many opportunities to travel, explore, learn, grow”

Telina is level-headed about her achievements, “what I love about being a Chef is that it has given me many opportunities to travel, explore, learn, grow. I’ve worked around the world as a Chef, and food is common ground everywhere”.

Life away from the pass for Telina is equally as down to earth, “ I really love cooking at home, I know that sounds funny, but in my role, I don’t get to cook as often as I used to, so cooking at home for me is really enjoyable”.

Telina Menzies Gone Fishing

Gone Fishing for this fresh Snapper

Telina also loves to “load up the car and get away, go fishing, drop a line in”, and has recently started putting her creative hands to pottery. “It’s the first time in 20+ years of being in the industry I can completely switch off and I don’t think about work, I just relax and get totally lost for a couple of hours a week. I’m not that good but I don’t care I just love it. I will get better I’m determined to start making my own plates one day”.

A goal – like the drive and ambition in her hospitality career – Telina is bound to make happen!

Practical advice and tick-box essentials

The Executive Chef offers this practical piece of advice to anyone starting out as a chef, “Be patient, not everything is as instant as people are used to it being these days, progress takes time”.

Telina also lists her tick-box, self help essentials, “constantly check-in with yourself, are you happy? Are you in a venue where you’re learning? Are you being challenged and stepping outside of your comfort zone? These check-ins ensure you’re on track towards your goals, without it you can very easily become lost”.

Summing up her feelings and thoughts on food and hospitality, Telina adds, “Food for me has always been about catching up with friends and sharing a good meal. Nothing fancy or overcomplicated, just simple dishes packed full of flavour, enjoyed over a conversation”.