"I'm an unbearable a*****e! I get really wound up when I go out for dinner and (staff) don't give a damn."
So when British restauranteur Max Mason was hiring staff for the Henry Austin, perhaps Adelaide's most ambitious hospitality project, he turned experienced applicants away.
He brought in an acting coach to teach staff about human interaction, and also taught staff chess to entertain guests while they wait for their date.
This unconventional approach isn't unusual for for Max. In England, he once employed a homeless man as his head chef and convicted murderers as kitchen staff.
He also thinks differently about the business of hospitality. After being lured to Adelaide's historic and vacant Chesser Cellars building by a friend and also the South Australian government's Renew Adelaide department, Max adapted to his surroundings. He called it the Henry Austin, and moulded his ideas for the restaurant, bar and bottle shop around the dilapidated building and turned it's weaknesses into strengths. The small plate menu of modern Australian yum cha is easy to run up and down stairs and there are flexible and unique spaces for functions. Amazingly, Max's bottle shop is the first of it's kind; he holds the 8,000 wines and pays winemakers as they sell. He's cut out distributors, and they hate him for it.
The Henry Austin is just one chapter in Max's story. He travelled the world as a maritime archaeologist and then a British Naval Officer before getting into the restaurant game. He then developed quite a reputation in London and Oxford, before being brought out to Adelaide for pop up projects such as the Adelaide Festival restaurant project, Lola's Pergola.
Enjoy truly unique insights about food, wine, hospitality, business and life from the eccentric and energetic Max Mason at the Henry Austin.
Rooster Radio is hosted by Andrew Montesi and James Begley.
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