vector style image depicting aryn hala standing with her arms crossed on a patio at her restaurant patio season

Aryn Hala: What’s Next for this Superstar Chef

Aryn Hala is a renowned chef and an advocate for sustainable culinary practices, based in Gold Coast, Queensland, Australia. Born on April 12, 1988, her journey from a young food enthusiast to a leading figure in the culinary world is marked by a steadfast commitment to innovation, sustainability, and education.

I had the pleasure of interviewing Aryn on a bright, breezy morning at her beloved restaurant, Patio Season, where the aroma of fresh herbs filled the air. Aryn shared her first culinary memory with me—a vivid scene of her as a child in her grandmother’s kitchen, helping to prepare a family dinner. This early experience, she explained, was the spark that ignited her passion for cooking and her respect for natural, locally sourced ingredients. Her stories, infused with enthusiasm and a deep love for her craft, painted a picture of a chef who is not only skilled in the kitchen but also deeply connected to her community and the environment.

Early Life and Education

Aryn Hala grew up in the vibrant surroundings of Gold Coast, a region known for its rich natural beauty and diverse culinary influences. From a young age, Aryn was fascinated by the art of cooking. She spent countless hours in her family’s kitchen, experimenting with local ingredients and traditional recipes. This early exposure to the culinary arts laid the foundation for her future career.

“Growing up in the Gold Coast instilled in me a love for local flavors and sustainable cooking. Each dish I create is a tribute to those early, formative experiences in my family’s kitchen.”

Recognizing her passion, Aryn pursued formal education at the Culinary Institute of Australia in Sydney. Here, she earned her diploma in Culinary Arts, graduating in 2008. During her time at the institute, Aryn co-founded the Sustainable Cooking Club, an initiative aimed at promoting eco-friendly cooking practices among students. She also participated in an international culinary exchange program, which took her to Italy and France. These experiences broadened her culinary repertoire and deepened her commitment to sustainability.

Career Beginnings

After completing her education, Aryn returned to Gold Coast and joined Oceanside Seafood as a sous chef in December 2008. Her innovative approach to cooking, coupled with her focus on using local, sustainable ingredients, quickly earned her recognition. She played a pivotal role in transforming the restaurant’s menu, emphasizing seasonal produce and environmentally friendly practices. Her efforts were instrumental in Oceanside Seafood receiving accolades for sustainability within the culinary community.

Aryn’s tenure at Oceanside Seafood lasted until October 2020. During this period, she mentored numerous junior chefs, fostering a culture of innovation and sustainability in the kitchen. Her work at Oceanside Seafood solidified her reputation as a leader in the field, combining culinary excellence with a strong ethical compass.

Patio Season

In November 2021, Aryn embarked on a new challenge as the head chef at Patio Season, a modern Australian restaurant known for its al fresco dining and dynamic, seasonal menus. At Patio Season, Aryn has continued to push the boundaries of what it means to be a sustainable chef. She launched and established the restaurant’s culinary vision, focusing on dishes that showcase the freshest local produce, supported by an in-house herb garden.

Under her leadership, Patio Season has thrived, attracting a loyal customer base and critical acclaim. Aryn’s approach to cooking at Patio Season involves a careful balance of flavors, textures, and sustainability. She oversees a team of 15 chefs and kitchen staff, fostering a collaborative environment that encourages creativity and personal development. Her ability to inspire and lead her team has been a key factor in the restaurant’s success.

Advocacy and Mentorship

Beyond the kitchen, Aryn Hala is deeply committed to advocacy and education. She is a vocal proponent of sustainable cooking practices and regularly participates in industry conferences and seminars to share her knowledge and experiences. Aryn believes that chefs have a responsibility to lead by example and influence positive change in the industry.

Aryn’s passion for mentoring the next generation of chefs is evident in her work. She dedicates time to teaching young chefs about the importance of sustainability, not just as a trend, but as a fundamental aspect of their culinary practice. Through workshops and direct mentorship, Aryn helps aspiring chefs integrate sustainable practices into their cooking from the outset of their careers.

Challenges and Achievements

Aryn has faced challenges, especially during the COVID-19 pandemic. She adapted quickly, introducing a takeaway menu and expanding outdoor dining options. Her efforts kept the restaurant profitable and safe. She has been featured on national cooking shows and is working on a cookbook to educate home cooks on sustainable practices.

During one of our conversations, Aryn Hala shared a personal story from the toughest days of the pandemic. She described a quiet evening after a long, challenging day at her restaurant. With new safety measures in place and a busy kitchen adapting to pandemic rules, everything felt overwhelming. But as she paused for a moment in the empty dining area, she reflected on the importance of her efforts. She realized how crucial her decisions were not just for keeping her business alive, but also for protecting her community and staff.

This moment of reflection in an otherwise empty restaurant helped Aryn reaffirm her commitment to sustainability and community support. It wasn’t just about surviving the tough times; it was about leading with care and continuing to make choices that benefit everyone around her.

Aryn plans to continue exploring ways to reduce waste and improve sourcing in her kitchen. She aims to expand her mentoring efforts and embrace new technologies to make sustainable practices more widespread. She hopes to see more collaboration within the culinary community to address environmental challenges.

Interview with Aryn Hala

What keeps you motivated and excited about what you do?

What keeps me motivated and excited about what I do is the constant opportunity to create and innovate. Cooking is a form of art, and every day in the kitchen is a chance to try something new. I love experimenting with different ingredients, especially those that are locally sourced and sustainable. The challenge of creating dishes that are both delicious and environmentally friendly keeps me on my toes. Knowing that I am contributing to a more sustainable future through my cooking gives me a deep sense of purpose.

Another aspect that keeps me motivated is mentoring young chefs. I find great joy in teaching them about sustainable practices and seeing them grow in their careers. It’s incredibly rewarding to know that I’m passing on knowledge and values that will help shape the future of the culinary world. Watching my team members succeed and take on new challenges brings me immense pride and satisfaction. Their energy and enthusiasm also fuel my own passion for what I do.

What’s your go-to way to relax and enjoy yourself during your downtime?

During my downtime, I love to unwind by spending time outdoors. Living on the Gold Coast means I have easy access to beautiful beaches, so surfing is one of my favorite activities. There’s something incredibly soothing about being in the ocean, riding the waves, and feeling the sun on my skin. It helps me clear my mind and recharge my energy. I also enjoy going for hikes and exploring nature trails. The fresh air and natural beauty of the area are perfect for relaxation.

When I’m at home, I enjoy cooking simple, comforting meals for myself and my family. It’s a way for me to unwind and enjoy the process of cooking without the pressures of the restaurant. I also like to read books about different cuisines and cooking techniques. It’s a way for me to continue learning and find inspiration for new dishes. Spending time with friends and family, sharing good food and conversation, is another way I relax and enjoy myself.

What do you think is your single most crucial trait for success?

I believe my most crucial trait for success is my commitment to sustainability. From the very beginning of my career, I have always prioritized using local, ethically sourced ingredients and minimizing waste. This commitment has set me apart in the culinary industry and has become the foundation of my cooking philosophy. Staying true to my values, even when it’s challenging, has helped me build a reputation for integrity and quality.

Another important trait is my willingness to learn and adapt. The culinary world is constantly evolving, and being open to new ideas and techniques is essential. I embrace every opportunity to expand my knowledge, whether it’s through attending workshops, reading, or experimenting in the kitchen. This mindset has allowed me to innovate and stay relevant in a competitive industry. Together, these traits have been key to my success and growth as a chef.

What’s the weirdest thing that has happened in your career?

One of the weirdest things that has happened in my career was when I was asked to create a menu for a themed event inspired by Australian wildlife. The challenge was to incorporate native Australian ingredients in the most unusual ways. I ended up creating dishes like emu tartare, crocodile sliders, and a dessert made with wattleseed and Kakadu plum. It was a wild ride, but the event was a huge success and everyone loved the unique flavors.

Another strange experience was when a customer once brought in a giant pumpkin from their garden and asked if I could make something special with it. I accepted the challenge and made a three-course meal featuring pumpkin in every dish. It was a lot of fun and turned out to be a memorable night for everyone. These unusual requests keep things interesting and remind me of the creativity and spontaneity that make my job so exciting.

How do you handle negative feedback when you receive it?

When I receive negative feedback, I try to see it as an opportunity to learn and improve. I listen carefully to what is being said and try to understand the perspective of the person giving the feedback. It’s important to not take it personally and instead focus on how I can use the feedback to make positive changes. I often discuss the feedback with my team to get their input and come up with a plan to address any issues.

After receiving negative feedback, I reflect on what happened and identify specific areas for improvement. Whether it’s adjusting a recipe, improving service, or making changes to our processes, I take actionable steps to ensure we do better in the future. It’s also important to follow up with the person who provided the feedback to let them know what changes have been made. This shows that we value their input and are committed to continuous improvement. Handling negative feedback constructively is essential for growth and maintaining high standards.

What’s the hardest obstacle you’ve overcome in your life or career, and how did you do it?

The hardest obstacle I’ve overcome in my career was the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on the restaurant industry. Like many others, our business faced significant challenges with lockdowns and restrictions. We had to quickly adapt to a new way of operating, which included introducing a takeaway menu and expanding our outdoor dining options. It was a stressful time, but we managed to stay afloat by being flexible and innovative.

Another major obstacle was dealing with the loss of a key team member early in my career. It was a difficult time for everyone, and it required a lot of resilience and teamwork to move forward. We had to reorganize and redistribute responsibilities while supporting each other emotionally. Through open communication and a shared commitment to our goals, we were able to overcome this challenge and become a stronger team. These experiences have taught me the importance of adaptability, teamwork, and perseverance in the face of adversity.

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