Zebu Bar + Grill and The Beach House are set to be revitalised with the arrival of Food & Beverage Director Vlademir Milevski to Port Macquarie. Aussie born Vlad has already made a splash in Port Macquarie with his signature style and some exciting new ideas for two of our most iconic waterfront venues. Drawing on his experience both here and abroad in organisations including the Le Meridien, The Chedi, The Hyatt, Sebel Pier One and The Sydney Intercontinental, Vlad takes time out with Kate Wood-Foye to share his culinary journey from Abu Dhabi to Port Macquarie…
Welcome to Port Macquarie, Vlad! You bring an international flavour to Port Macquarie, with an extensive career celebrating food, wine and service across the world. Can you give us an idea of the countries you have worked in and the groups you have worked with?
I started my career like most, doing the dirty work in night clubs in Sydney. A couple of years into it, I decided to get a little more serious and added in some travel. Having worked in some of Sydney and Australia’s best hotels, I headed to the UAE in Abu Dhabi, it was a hot destination for both the weather and my career. Running 13 restaurants and bars with the Le Meridien Hotel for a couple of years, I then went to Oman to a super deluxe property with eight restaurants and bars, looking after royalty and celebrities daily. Before heading back to Oz after four years in the Middle East, I did some training in Switzerland as a sommelier.
Back in Oz, I jumped in with the Rydges Group, launching a new restaurant concept in Rydges Cronulla. After that I moved onto an Arabic restaurant group (fitting, after being in the Middle East) launching 10 new restaurants with a number of different cuisines. From this I went to Sebel Pier One, to launch their new events facilities and restaurant concept. This was followed by a launch project for Rydges Airport, and now here I am in Port Macquarie.
Your speciality is food, wine and service with flair … Can you tell us about some of your food and beverage projects here in Australia?
My first launch project was with the Intercontinental Hotel – rolling out a cool, funky bar and dining venue with over 50 cocktails. Rydges Cronulla was also a really enjoyable project, creating a Spanish tapas bar serving tapas with a twist. Mexican Cantina in Surfers Paradise was a flavour packed little venue doing some exciting Mexican foods married with awesome cocktails. My largest project would have to be the Arabian restaurants, with a breakfast twist and some interesting Arabian street food, having launched 10 venues in just four years.
When did you first develop your passion for this crazy and exciting industry?
I became an engineer after uni and after three months of working in the field, I realised I love being amongst people, so I became a bar attendant – and somehow here I am today, still in this crazy industry and loving it.
You have opened 17 venues across the world – If you could name just one project that you are most proud of, what would that be?
Every new venue I launch gets bigger and better and more and more creative … However, my proudest was a launch in the Middle East, where every staff member was Arabic. I had to learn to speak and communicate and train the entire team in a different language while talking about western cultures … To this day, that venue only has a full team of Arabic staff.
Who is the person that inspires you most in the world of restaurants, bars, food and wine?
I don’t have one person who inspires me. I get inspired by anyone who is pushing the rules of creativity and producing new and exciting experiences. Sometimes I get inspired by the mum, who can make a kickass dinner within minutes when I visit without notice. The simplest things are the best.
You have a distinct style and love for all things luxe – can we expect to see a little of that style role out to the various venues?
All of our venues will ooze a little luxe and style in times to come; it may be from our furnishings, our produce, or even our cool staff. I want to create memories that keep people talking and wanting more.
As a qualified sommelier, can you name your top five wines of all time?
If I was a father, I would answer this by saying, “I can’t pick my favourite child; however, I can pick my most desired aspects”… Currently I’m loving old world wines being made by new and exciting winemakers here in Australia, especially from the Barossa Valley, with really earthy favours.
Cocktails are at the heart of Zebu’s success, with a new cocktail and bar menu being launched this month – any insider tips on some of the best creations?
My philosophy to great menus and drinks is to… KEEP IT SIMPLE. The new menu will reflect on classic cocktails with a twist.
Your extensive portfolio includes restaurant and bars that range from relaxed, casual dining, to fine dining and funky bars and tapas … What can we expect to see in Zebu Bar + Grill?
My vision for Zebu Bar + Grill is all about good times. We want people from all walks of life to feel a connection through our food and drinks. Our menus will change regularly, focusing on great local seasonal produce, so you always feel like every visit to Zebu is your first – we’re all about creating memories.
You and GM Denny Keane have been sampling all that our region has to offer in the way of dining and local produce. What is your take on our local produce, and what would be the standout to date?
The local produce has been great! We have tried the local wines, beers and seafood caught that morning. The local oysters and crab have been a favourite to date, but we are still exploring and sampling produce.
You and new GM Denny Keane are somewhat of a dynamic duo, bringing in an exciting new style and dining experience to Rydges eateries and bars … What are the three most important elements to leading your teams and venues to success?
We love what we do; we encourage our staff to enjoy working within such a great environment and team. We encourage forward and creative thinking, to provide a memorable experience for our guests.
If you could create a dinner party for 10 guests from across the world – who would be the nine guests you would invite to share your table and why?
I would pick the nine best comedians from around the world, sitting back with a great glass of red wine and just laugh. Life is too short not to enjoy every moment with a smile.
Thanks Vlad! Zebu’s new bar and cocktail menu launches Thursday 28 July …