STEFEN Leach is quickly finding his feet in his new role as manager of the Ohope Chartered Club.
Moving from Raumati on the Kapiti Coast six weeks ago to take up the position, he says Ohope bears many similarities to the home he and his family have left.
“Both of them are beach communities for a start,” says Stefen, who left his role of manager at the Waikanae Chartered Club to relocate to the Eastern Bay.
It’s been a busy time since his arrival. With the re-opening of the Ohope club’s upstairs restaurant, C’Vue, scheduled for Easter Friday, he says preparing for that has been a focus.
The restaurant was closed six months ago after what he says has been a series of unfortunate events. “We’re reopening as a result of demand from our members, but there’s going to be a difference. For the first time, the restaurant will also be open to the public,” Stefen says.
With plans to open four nights a week, Friday through to Monday, he says the aim is to serve great food made with fresh, high-quality produce. “We’re staying with classic cuisine for now – fish, game, a carvery on Sunday nights – but later on I’d like to introduce themed months,” he says. “An Italian month for instance.
With no other restaurant open in Ohope on a Monday night, he says making Monday an open night for C’Vue seemed logical. Beginning after the school holidays, he says Mondays will also be BYO, “a first for the restaurant”.
Last week saw the arrival of Stefen’s family, wife Nicole and their children, 11-year-old Madison and Austin, eight. “It’s been an easy transition for me, busy, but I’m very familiar with what I’m doing. But the settling-in stage will be longer for the children. It’s a big move for them and not as easy as for Nicole and me.”
Stefen comes with a long history of experience in the hospitality business. “It might be in my genes,” he says. His grandparents arrived in New Zealand from Bradford, England decades ago, and their first working roles were as managers of the Paekakariki Hotel on the Kapiti Coast.
For Stefen, hospitality work has been diverse. His former role with the Waikanae Chartered Club was preceded by five years of he and Nicole running their own cafa at Raumati Beach.
“We did lots of Mexican food there and Creole and “Louisiana-style” dishes.” He says, though Nicole has worked in a variety of fields, including floristry and advertising, she also has vast experience in hospitality.”
For Stefen, experience has included owning his own bar in Wellington during the 90s, and, along with four friends, owning a Wellington nightclub which operated from the late 90s “and into the 2000s”. He has run front of house for numerous restaurants and, over the years, managed many bars. “I’ve always been drawn to hospitality”.
He says moving to Ohope and the Ohope Chartered Club feels like a good move, “a new challenge”. With a number of ideas he’d like to explore for the club quietly brewing, he says he’s not in a rush to change anything. “My focus is on getting the restaurant open and getting to know the community.”
But looking at ways to bring sponsorship to the club, and opening up events such as the clubs popular quiz night to be used as fundraisers by community groups, are definitely on the horizon.
He says leaving Raumati for Ohope had followed a long period of “feeling ready for change”. With a few options on the table, Stefen says it was Ohope that stood out. “It attracted us for several reasons, not least because it is on the coast.”
An avid beach walker, Stefen is also a shell-collector. With a collection of over 1000 shells, started, he says, years ago when he brought shells home from a holiday in Thailand, Stefen says he’s always on the look-out for something he hasn’t seen before.
“Every coast has its own marine life.” He’s hoping EasternBay waters will be washing up something new.
By Lorraine Wilson