Table Talk – Local Leaders

April 1, 2018

Table Talk – Local Leaders

Are leaders born or made? It’s the age old question that always strikes a hearty debate. I recently caught up with some of the leaders of the Sunshine Coast over a delicious lunch at Spirit House, Yandina, to discover their take on the subject.

You only have to observe a bunch of school kids to determine pretty quickly who is the “natural born” leader of the pack. They’re the one giving the orders in the playground, organising the games and basically running the show. But will these personality types go on to become successful leaders of a firm or run their own business? And does the country in which they grow up in determine how their natural strengths and abilities are nurtured and channeled? Being a leader doesn’t necessarily mean being the loudest or the most charismatic, in fact, often it has little to do with seniority or titles but more about the ability to inspire and motivate others by leading by example.

Speaking of which, I got up close and personal with a group of local legends who have proven themselves to be successful leaders in their respective fields to share their thoughts on leadership with Profile. Joining me for lunch was revered chef, entrepreneur and owner of Rice Boi and Saltwater Mooloolaba, Tony Kelly; founder of Think Money Group, Chris Childs; owner of White’s IGA group, Roz White and philanthropy manager with Wishlist, Hans de Koning.

Thai Carrot Cake

PROFILE: Are leaders born or made?

Hans: I think it’s half and half really. There are people, like me, who have made an opportunity out of an opportunity, but I wouldn’t say that I was a born leader as such. I met kids in Year Three who were marching me around the playground and telling me exactly what they wanted me to do and they have gone on to do incredible things, so there are definitely those who are born leaders. I like to think I am an example of a leader being made and I think that anyone who puts in the hard work, perseverance and has a good work ethic can become a good leader.

Chris: Between nature or nurture, I think it’s 95 per cent nurture. We don’t realise how much we influence our children. Children who are raised in not the best environment really have to struggle to change what nurture has given them. I think you can be blessed with a healthy, resilient gene pool but it all comes down to what you are taught. I also think good schooling is important, whether it’s private or public doesn’t matter. I think having the right ethos in the school is important. It’s not up to the teachers to raise the children but it is beneficial if they are supporting what you are teaching them at home. You really have to shape your children, it makes a huge difference towards who they become.

Roz: I believe leaders are born to be made. The reason I think of it in that light is because leaders don’t have to be charismatic or dynamic, you can be a leader with your own conviction and your own set of values and strength of character. I was not always necessarily a leader. I was actually quite meek and mild. I grew up thinking a woman’s role was a subservient role and that was due to my traditional upbringing. So for me, life has been quite a surprise. Igniting what you are passionate about brings out a good leader but you have to find that passion and conviction, find your values and lead with them. You don’t have to stand and shout it from the rooftops you just live your life in a way that people go, ‘Wow’, and respect you for it.

Tony: I think leaders are born but they don’t know they are going to be leaders until they are. In my industry when someone can confidently lead a team, I don’t know if you can teach that. In a kitchen, it can be very hostile, there is so much pressure and sometimes you have to bluff your way through it but if you say it confidently and in a clear voice people will stand behind you. You can teach recipes and you can teach how to write a roster but sometimes when it all goes pear-shaped, if someone can stand up and say, ‘We will be okay, let’s just do this’, that is a leader. Some people don’t want to lead either. I know some people who could have their own business or be a head chef and they just want to work six hours a day and go home. Part of me is really envious of them because I have this burning entrepreneurial part of me that would never allow me to do that.

Chocolate Coconut Marquise with Mango Sorbet and Passionfruit Gel

Table Talk Review

The Spirit House at Yandina has a reputation that precedes itself. Regarded as one of the best Asian restaurants on the Sunshine Coast, the award-winning venue is revered for serving up exquisite contemporary Asian food in an environment that’s just as delicious.

Surrounded by lush tropical gardens nestled around a tranquil pond, the Spirit House really is a delight for all the senses. From the aromatic smells wafting from the kitchen and cooking school, to the bubbling waterfalls and tinkling wind chimes, it feels like you could be a million miles from civilisation. On the day of our recent visit, the heavy rainfall only added to the magical atmosphere.

My guests and I enjoyed the four-course banquet menu, which was a wonderful way to sample a range of signature dishes that really showcase what sets the Spirit House apart.

Asian flavours infused with a modern contemporary twist translates to a creative and varied menu. Beautifully presented, each course was simply sublime.

We started with the coconut soup of salmon with lemongrass and chilli oil. Served at the perfect temperature and exploding with flavour, it set the standard for what was to follow.

Next was crispy Bangalow pork belly with citrus caramel sauce and Hervey Bay scallops with red curried corn and salted coconut, both dishes tasted even better than they sound. The trio of dishes served for main course offered something to suit all tastes. The crispy reef fish with chilli tamarind sauce was an absolute standout and a dish I would highly recommend. Equally as popular was the green curry of duck with oven roasted beetroot, wild ginger and Thai basil. The fresh watermelon salad with green apple, ginger and hot mint was the perfect complement to both dishes.

Crispy Reef Fish

It was hard to choose from the two delectable desserts on offer. I finally decided on the Thai carrot cake with kaffir lime sugar and Thai tea ice cream and it didn’t disappoint. The chocolate coconut marquise with mango sorbet and passionfruit gel looked just as devine.

For a truly special experience, the Spirit House has recently added a new private dining room that seats up to 24 guests, complete with its own kitchen, private chef and waiter.

The Spirit House is not just a restaurant it’s an experience and one you have to put on your to do list soon!

Spirit House
20 Ninderry Road, Yandina
Phone: 5446 8994

Head Chef Tom Swapp


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