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Last week, the owners of Hotel Vera, Ballarat and Hotel Ernest Bendigo, David Cook-Doulton and Martin Shew, announced their alignment with Restaurateurs Peter Barton and Chef Tim Foster at an event attended by the Minister for Tourism, Sport, Major Events, Steve Dimopoulos and other senior executives from the Victorian tourism industry.  The alignment will focus on enhancing and promoting tourism and hospitality options across regional Victoria.

Steve Dimopoulos officially opened the first hospitality venue in Ballarat  which will form part of the Goldfields Hospitality Group Pty Ltd (GHG).  Babae, Ballarat is the “jewel of the crown” in the GHG Group. Its name in Latin means ‘sense of excitement’ or wow! – exactly the diner reactions that GHG Culinary Director Tim Foster, will be hoping to see.

“Babae’s menu will reflect the changing seasons and showcasing the very best local and regional produce – much of that produce comes from the local Ballarat region, as well as the restaurant’s 25-acre farm between Bendigo and Ballarat,” said Foster.  “Our ethos is to champion the small producers and support the local economy.”

This shared focus on sustainable practices was just one of the commonalities that drew the GHG team together.  “We are all committed to genuine, old-school hospitality – growing and supporting local communities and producers ,” said Foster.

“By paying attention to the smallest service details, preparing our dishes with passion, and cooking with respectful acknowledgement of those who have taught and inspired us, we trust our guests will leave our venues feeling well-loved and cared for.”

The GHG will be the umbrella management entity for a growing portfolio of food and beverage operations which will invest heavily in regional Victoria.  “The Group will encompass additional hotels, rooftop bars, Asian street food restaurants, boutique wellness retreat, and also extend to organic and indigenous gardens initially in Ballarat and Bendigo”.

Foster outlines “All of these operations will be located in regional Victoria, providing increased job opportunities and premier dining experience for people in regional Victoria. The business will focus on drawing visitors (from interstate and international) to the area and providing state of the art dining opportunities in regional areas”. “We will be working closely with local and State level tourism authorities to enhance and highlight the goldfields attractions.”  Foster indicates.

Minister Dimopoulos said hospitality, food and drink venues are vital to Victoria’s visitor economy.

‘‘Restaurants like Babae celebrate local produce and showcase the Midwest region to thousands of visitors annually – cementing Ballarat’s reputation as a region with high-quality, local dining, craft breweries, distilleries and wine producers,’’ he said.

‘‘The GHG will be supported by Tourism Midwest Victoria, our first Visitor Economy Partnership who will create an even stronger visitor economy for Victoria’s Midwest for generations to come.”

Mr Peter Barton emphasises “It is our intention that, through the Goldfields Hospitality Group, we will align with Regional Training Organisations (RTOs) to launch staff training programs geared to the needs of regional businesses.” Mr Barton, has had a long connection with the Victorian Education Sector, both at La Trobe University and Monash University. He has also led the education areas for several RTOs including Bendigo Kangan Institute and William Angliss Institute.

“I’m keen to empower our staff at all venues through knowledge sharing and training – both on-the-job and in the classroom,” said Barton. “We want this to extend to supporting the regional hospitality industry to encourage and train the next generation of regional hospitality professionals.

In a logical extension of these ambitious plans, GHG hopes to eventually launch a tech platform for sharing temporary workforce services – similar to Airtasker but for the hospitality industry.

“We have a ‘big picture’ mentality within the team and a shared vision to contribute to the ongoing vibrancy of the historic central Victorian region,” said David Cook-Doulton.

Drawn to originally to Ballarat, with its lakeside walks, great cafes and bars, and grand Victorian architecture, Cook-Doulton was quick to see potential in an historic property in Bendigo – the other bookend of the Goldfields region, and the first city in Australia to be named a UNESCO City of Gastronomy in 2020. Partner Martin Shew was soon on board with the project and the dream of Hotel Ernest (named for David’s grandfather) became a reality. Hotel Vera in Ballarat (named for David’s grandmother) soon followed.

Known for their creativity, artistic eye, and deep appreciation for historic architecture, the pair already had a strong track record for creating boutique premium accommodation, having previously owned and operated Ballarat’s acclaimed Lascelles Terraces and Lyon House.

Their entrepreneurial spirit and strong business management skills will ensure the long-term success of GHG enterprises.

Most recently at the Gold Mines Hotel in Bendigo, Tim Foster owned Source Dining, Kyneton, which achieved a One Hat ranking in the Good Food Guide for 9 years and was consistently ranked as one of Victoria’s top regional restaurants.  His stellar hospitality career features tenures in other highly-regarded regional establishments in the Daylesford and Yarra Valley regions.  The GHG will enable Tim to continue to showcase regional Victoria and create successful hospitality careers for dedicated staff in destination venues.