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Balance not burnout on the menu for Sparkke's new head chef

Restaurants

Sparkke at the Whitmore’s new head chef Kane Boase wants to help turn around what he says is a rising prevalence of early-career burnout and a high attrition rate of young chefs.

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“The only thing I think should go in a deep fryer is chips,” says Kane Boase, the veteran cook with a passion for smoking and barbecuing who has been appointed Head Chef of Sparkke at the Whitmore.

And, he’s already started making a few changes.

“At the moment we’ve got a schnitzel on the menu – I’m not excited by that and it’s coming off,” he says. “We are going to change the direction of the restaurant slightly and the idea of a schnitzel to me is something that’s been twisted and played with in an inappropriate way.

“I really want to focus on the menu being fresh and fun.”

Boase has previously worked at the Botanic Gardens Restaurant, Fino Seppeltsfield, and 2KW.

His penchant for pub food without the typical schnitzels and burgers is a good fit with the venue’s food ethos, laid down by its previous head chef Emma McCaskill when the brewpub was first launched to high acclaim in 2019, before launching its restaurant Fare in 2020.

With the departure of McCaskill last year, and the instability created by COVID-19, the venue has appointed Boase to bring stability and share his passion and experience with the kitchen team. He will oversee both the venue’s approachable brewpub and its more upscale restaurant, Fare.

With Sparkke being a female-founded business in the male-dominated hospitality industry, his role is somewhat of a caretaker as the venue aims to eventually appoint a new female leader in the kitchen — be it externally, or from within.

“I’ve been brought in as a caretaker of sorts, to rebuild the food profile that Emma had put in place, and we’ll go on a search to find that strong person to put in that position and let them run it comfortably. At that time, I would play a support role,” he says.

Boase hints that there are other projects in the works, including Sparkke’s expansion into Melbourne with a new venue The Vine set to open in Collingwood next year.

He sees his new role as an opportunity to help younger-career chefs and apprentices, having seen many drop out of the industry recently.

He is concerned about the prevalence of burnout and a high rate of attrition in chefs and is passionate about helping young chefs to find their passion.

“We’re trying to change the way people look at the industry because I really want the industry to survive, and I’m worried it’s not going to,” he says.

“Since COVID-19, I’ve spoken to a number of chefs who have left the industry, and they’re much younger than me, not even 25, and they’ve just had enough. I’ve seen some apprentices go through their training and not want to continue and I just think that’s devastating.

“Every generation’s different, but I think it’s just getting harder for these guys who are coming up to have that same passion of, ‘I love my job’.”

The chef’s values are also a good fit with Sparkke’s ethos of equality and sustainability. Sparkke Change Beverage Company produces natural, award-winning beverages and raises awareness and funds for various causes through alcohol sales.

“I think it’s fantastic what Sparkke has done for the industry in terms of equality,” he says.

The experienced cook grew up at Whyalla, spending time on his relatives’ farm. Today, he lives in the Barossa, commuting each day, and also assisting his wife on her family’s sheep farm.

“I chose this career based on my upbringing on a farm when I’d be in the kitchen cooking with my aunty for the shearers. I was about seven or eight, baking cakes and all that sort of stuff and I loved it. I became a chef and I’ve been doing that ever since I was 18.

“I’m 46 this year and I’m still doing it and I still love it.”

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