Trenton and Rebecca Brennan of Ocean and Paddock
“Passion and Purpose”
A Fish and Chip Shop ‘re-imagined’ does not just come out of the blue. It is the culmination of the lifetime journeys of two passionate foodies joined by chance 7 years ago.
Born and raised on opposite sides of the world, Trenton and Rebecca decided on a new start for their young family. While still living in the USA, they decided to buy a run-down fish and chip shop in an old building and make it into something special. After finding the underdeveloped business on Gumtree, they had a friend do a video walkthrough while viewing from the other side of the world and made an offer to purchase that same day. They flew over from Aspen and arrived in Albany for a final viewing and took it over straight away. They moved their young family of three into the back of the restaurant and lived there for the first two years while they built their dream.
But let us step back in time…
Trenton grew up on numerous sheep stations in the Murchison, his dad a shearer and his mum a teacher and part-time shearers’ cook. He picked up the passion for cooking at his mother’s side in those station kitchens and the backpackers hostel they owned for a large portion of his childhood. Highschool was in Geraldton before moving to Perth to nurture his culinary passions with an apprenticeship at the Hilton Hotel. This became a 7 year learning experience at two more Hiltons in Adelaide and Tokyo, resort hotels in Malaysia, Papua New Guinea, the Maldives (where he built his knowledge on specialty dishes and spices) and resorts on Orpheos and Daydream Islands (working 80 hours per week as an executive chef of the Island with 6 restaurants under his authority).
Rebecca grew up in New Jersey in the United States. She is the youngest of 4 children and has been building her passion for the culinary field since the age of 3. She began her career in the culinary arts at the age of 13 as a volunteer prep chef before she was legally old enough to earn a pay cheque. She was accepted into the Culinary Institute of America at the age of 17, obtained an associate degree in Baking and Pastry Arts and then went on to earn a Bachelor degree in Business and Hospitality Management. She fast tracked her studies and proudly completed her degrees before the age of 21. After graduating, Rebecca was recruited as a Pastry Chef on Daydream Island where she met Trenton.
Rebecca and Trenton began dating within weeks of meeting and felt strong enough to continue their relationship regardless of where in the world they might end up. After Rebecca finished her working holiday, the pair ended up in Aspen, Colorado in 2013 where they were married and began to build their family.
As Aspen is a seasonal town, they both held multiple jobs that varied in culinary specialisation to keep a foothold on the local culinary scene. While there, they participated in events that allowed them to cook for traveling celebrities as well as helping to open a new Japanese restaurant. In addition to that, they started a personal chef business that allowed them to bring a ‘resort to your home’ for wealthy Americans. Among their list of clients were the family of Calvin Klein and a variety of American professional basketball players.
Many of their roles over the years included start-ups and fixups.
When they landed in Perth in 2017 from Aspen with a young child and the idea of having more, it was obvious to them that a fixup business was required to continue their life purpose of “bringing beautiful food to people”. It may also give them the opportunity to settle in one place for a while!
Enter Ocean and Paddock.
Over to Trenton and Rebecca to explain
Fish and Chip shops have an image of being cheap, unhealthy and not locally sourced. We dreamed of something quite different. We wanted to redefine and re-imagine the humble Aussie fish and chip shop.
While living with our young family at the back of the shop, we gutted the place, fixed the leaks, and put in a commercial kitchen, all on a very small budget.
Our philosophy is to be sustainable and healthy at every level, including our staff.
We hired high performing, enthusiastic young kids (mostly 16 and 17 year olds, but from as young as 14 years old) and gave them high level induction and training in all roles. It is a staged learning experience from washing dishes, to customer service to food preparation. We talk of our work family as our own family. Many are siblings and many of our young workers who move away often come back just to work on school holidays.
Our produce is fresh, sustainable and sourced locally where possible. We buy our meat from the local Spencer Park Butchers, our produce from AVEG and our fish from Great Southern Seafood amongst a large group of other local suppliers. We support the producer to consumer concept.
We make our own sauces, dressings and even spice mixes inhouse while maintaining a clean kitchen and restaurant.
It is all these traits that enabled us to win the Best Fish and Chips in WA award in 2017, after less than a year of business. We are extremely proud of this achievement. It was recognition for our effort and brought our whole story together. Customers understood what we were about.
The award brings in the tourists but our consistent, quality food brings back the locals. We love to see customers get excited about our food.
Tell us about the effect on yourselves and your business of COVID-19
Initially we were a bit scared for our staff and for our own health. We already had a cleanliness mindset, but we stepped it up significantly from the start. We continued restaurant meals but from disposable containers to limit handling. Things moved quickly and we changed to takeaway only. We quickly allowed order and pay over the phone and were one of the first to offer delivery to your car window. We continued for another 2 weeks.
Many of our employees’ families have compromised health conditions, as does Rebecca. Our employees themselves were too loyal to us to not take shifts and it was only after concerned calls from their families that we understood the true extent of the risks we were all exposing ourselves to. We immediately had a meeting with all our staff and discussed closing the take-away as well. We realised that they were being loyal to the point of endangering themselves. There were plenty of tears including Trenton’s. It was an obvious decision to close. It completely fitted our philosophy of being sustainable and healthy.
The first week we were closed was very tough. It felt like our purpose in life was taken from us. However, we felt satisfied that our staff were safe.
The JobKeeper subsidy for employee wages provided some relief, and quite a boost for our staff. However the government pulled the rug when they changed the rules after a month which made school kids ineligible. We only have one employee who can continue on JobKeeper, making it very difficult for us to re-open when things settled down. It was frustrating that we had to scramble to borrow from the bank to pay their wages because of a 6 week delay in getting the JobKeeper subsidy.
It seemed like a rushed and clumsy stimulus package. The fairness is atrocious. We don’t begrudge anyone in hospitality getting assistance during this time because hospitality owners already earn far too little for the amount of work they do.
But we have heard of businesses getting JobKeeper where they haven’t appeared to be affected by COVID-19, which is very hard to swallow when some affected industries can’t get help.
But we are resilient and will bounce back.
What lessons have you learnt during this time
We are very lucky to live where we live.
Our community is overwhelmingly supportive and loyal.
The concept of buying local has never been stronger, and on the other side we will be even better at that.
We now manage ourselves better physically and mentally.
It has been a reboot and has made us question what is important in our lives.
We have looked deeper into our business procedures and efficiencies. The simple things including the flow of people, contactless preparation, delivery and payment of our items.
We don’t expect anything from our staff that we wouldn’t do ourselves.
We were already tough and resilient so would have preferred not to be dealt this lesson on that front.
The downtime has certainly not been a waste. We have completed some renovations, painting and cleaning projects. Some of our staff have learnt skills they might have never done before this.
What will be different on the other side?
We fully expect a second wave of the virus and we will be prepared. We hope to stay open for takeaway in the most sustainable and healthy way, with completely contactless options.
We will be smarter and leaner.
We hold a strong belief that by supporting local, prices will lower, making it easier for everyone to support the local circle.
Financially we have been set back for at least a year but that recovery has just started.
We re-opened 5 days ago and so far the signs are very good. Our customers are so loyal, supportive and excited about our return.
They are invested in our story and ask about us and our children’s wellbeing.
We intend to pay back that loyalty by “bringing beautiful food to people”.
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