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5 minutes with chef and restaurateur Cameron Cansdell

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Chef and restaurateur Cameron Cansdell chats to Open House about his latest restaurant Fish Dining and his plans for more venues on NSW’s Central Coast.

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Fish Dining, Cansdell’s third restaurant on the Central Coast with wife Hayley, recently opened its doors with a focus on serving sustainable Australian seafood, marking another leap forward for the region’s growing dining scene.

5 minutes with chef and restaurateur Cameron Cansdell.

What was the driving force behind opening Fish Dining?

We wanted to open a flagship seafood restaurant for the Central Coast with a menu that is seasonally driven and dishes which reflect the Australian climate. We might have a beautiful warm fish pie or a Spanish seafood stew in winter and then in summer the menu will lend itself to more grilled seafood dishes using fresh salsas. The entire menu is driven by Australian seafood; we’re not using anything that’s imported and we’re sourcing some of the best seafood Australia has to offer. In saying that, we’re using local seafood and there is a lot of seafood in New South Wales but that’s not the entire picture that we’re trying to paint here. We have such great seafood all around Australia so it’s important for us to use it all. We might get mud crabs from the Northern Territory or Cone Bay Barramundi from Western Australia, salmon roe from Yarra Valley and kingfish from South Australia.

Fish pie on the menu at Fish Dining.

Was it easier opening a restaurant the third time around?

It’s a lot easier because we have incredible support and networks. At Bombini we have incredible staff there, so we have a good foundation which we can build upon. It was different the first time around because we had fresh staff and Hayley and I were doing a lot of it ourselves. We had support from family and friends but now we’re set up in a way where we have a good network of contacts so we can get things moving a lot quicker and more efficiently.

Fried snapper wings.

How has the Central Coast’s dining scene evolved over recent years?

I’ve been here since 2007 and since then there’s now so many more great venues here on the Coast. Back then if you wanted to go for an incredible night out to a great restaurant, you had to go to the city. For us opening Bombini, then Bombini Woodfired Pizza and now Fish Dining we’ve filled some of those gaps. Ultimately, these are the sorts of restaurants we want to dine at. That’s sort of our inclination of thinking – what do we feel would sit on the Central Coast really well and what does the Coast need to make it a reasonable dining destination – that’s our driving force in doing this.

Did winning the 2016 Electrolux Young Restaurateur of the Year drive you to open Fish Dining?

It was an incredible achievement, it was a lot of hard work and I was up against some incredible competition. Hayley and I, we had a [restaurant] name before I started the competition to open other venues on the coast. I think winning the Electrolux Young Restaurateur gave us more drive in setting our goals and to make them come into fruition a lot quicker. If anything I think it reinforced our values as business leaders on the Coast and what we are able to do. It wasn’t a driving force but it definitely gave us incredible support networks to make us do more, quicker.

Cameron and Hayley Cansdell.

More venues in the pipeline?

Yeah, definitely. For us, it’s about creating a network of businesses that can support young individuals and couples who want to establish themselves on the Central Coast instead of moving to Sydney but also creating places that can help people grow in the industry as well. They’re the two driving forces for us to open more venues. And we want to help other people who are opening venues on the Coast to make it a great regional dining destination of Australia. Without the help of all our great customers and employees we’re unable to do it. Hayley and I can’t just open these venues; we need all these people to come along on the journey.

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