Still high from the success of their first appearance at Eat The Street in Lismore, Kaine and Jade Hunt were brimming with enthusiasm and ideas to enhance to their fledgling catering business when I caught up with them recently.
The couple run Secret Chef Catering from their 5-acre property in Clunes, where they grow coffee, fruit trees, herbs, vegetables and chickens. They’re about to begin work on a commercial kitchen next to the house.
“It will be great in summer when it’s really hot, you can put your knives down and jump into the pool!” says Kaine.
The impetus for moving out of Sydney to the Northern Rivers in 2014 was to have a quieter pace of life, work from home and enjoy their growing family. They have two cute-as-button children, Axle, 3 and Ryder, 1.
“When we found out we were having our first child we set things in place,” Kaine says. “Secretly Jade knew all the time that this is where we were going to live, before we even met!”
Kaine worked as sous chef, then head chef of the Beach Café in Byron Bay while they settled in, before moving to Northern Rivers Seafood in Ballina and launching Secret Chef with Jade. As well as running the business side of the venture, Jade also works as a sommelier, wine wholesaler and hospitality trainer with Nortec.
Jade and Kaine met and fell in love while working together at upmarket Sydney restaurant, Cafe Sydney. Each had come to the city to make their mark in the restaurant industry; Kaine as a chef and Jade as a restaurant manager and sommelier.
“I grew up in a food and beverage family, I used to have to set the restaurant up before I went to school,” says Jade. She worked at an Italian-Portuguese deli in Brisbane’s West End for five years before signing up for a science degree, then deferring so she could study commercial cookery and hospitality management at Sydney’s William Blue College.
Jade went to London in 2003 and helped some well-connected friends open a Spanish restaurant, Fino.
“It was the place to be, where all the celebrities hung out,” says Jade. As assistant bar manager, she worked 80-hour weeks and went out with the rich and famous. She returned to Sydney for a knee reconstruction in 2005, and ended up staying put.
Kaine’s love affair with food started with his mother’s cooking.
“She would always embrace large amounts of my friends at one time,” he says. “I’m still trying to get some of her secret recipes, but she won’t hand them over freely.”
At 15 Kaine moved out of home, found a job and put himself through a full-time cooking course at TAFE. On completion, he was offered an apprenticeship at the Radisson Playford Hotel in Adelaide.
“It was very strict, and they mould you into something that will allow you to pursue a career as a chef.”
Kaine ended up back in Sydney, working at Cafe Sydney as a chef de partie. With 30-34 other chefs and 150 staff on the roster, it was like being part of a big family. He spent over 6 years there before deciding he needed to expand his knowledge of other cuisines, and he got a job at two-hatted Thai restaurant, Longrain.
Now, when creating a menu for a client’s, Kaine incorporates Asian cooking techniques and flavours alongside Mediterranean and Australian elements.
Kaine relishes the personal interaction that comes with being your own boss and dealing closely with clients.
“You get to see the reactions and you get to see them enjoying it. It’s an individual experience that you’re able to create,” he says.
For Jade, it’s all about the thrill of pulling off a perfect event.
“Seeing it all orchestrated and it being a beautiful musical, that thrill of service is what I love the most.”