Alanna Sapwell-Stone has clocked time in some high-powered kitchens in her time.
Among her career highlights: a stint as head chef at deeply influential Sydney seafood restaurant Saint Peter; the head pastry chef gig at dearly departed Brisbane fine diner, Urbane; and opening ARC Dining, the now-closed riverside bar and restaurant at Brisbane's Howard Street Wharves precinct that earned Sapwell-Stone a well-deserved Best New Talent title. For her next trick, Sapwell-Stone is looking – and cooking – at somewhere a little more approachable.
In early June, the Queensland-born chef started a three-month residency at The Eltham Hotel, a historic pub in the Byron Hinterland that's been feeding, watering and accommodating locals and visitors for 120 years. Now, after a successful winter run, she plans to stay at The Eltham long-term.
Since 2019, the pub has been under the ownership of the Mosey On Inn Group, a trio of hospitality guns that includes Matt Rabbidge, Luke Sullivan and chef Matt Stone – another former Gourmet Traveller Best New Talent winner and, as of March this year, Sapwell-Stone's husband. Despite Sapwell-Stone's pedigree, she has no intention of rocking the boat when she takes over The Eltham's kitchen.
"I want people to feel like they can drop in for a home meal, made well," says Sapwell-Stone who held her wedding at The Eltham. "The menu is going to be a big nod to Women's Weekly and the CWA and [it] is going to be full of warming classics we all grew up with."
Translation: if you're in the mood for chicken parmies, fish and chips and other pub staples, they'll be on the menu. But daily counter meal specials ensure regulars will always have something new to try. Among the new dishes, you might find a "proper" quiche and salad, barbecued bonito with green beans, potato and garlic butter, plus self-saucing chocolate pudding and strawberry gum roly-poly with bay leaf custard for desserts.
While The Eltham is changing chefs – Tim Goegan, the pub's current head chef, will move into a new role overseeing the Eltham as well as the group's other two venues, Ciao, Mate! and You Beauty – management also know to leave well alone.
The hotel will continue running its ambitious live music program; the drinks list will celebrate both the old (Tooheys on tap!) and the new (wine from maverick local winemaker Jilly, say); and clued-up guests can still stay upstairs in one of The Eltham's five character-filled rooms, each named after and inspired by a Northern Rivers woman that's lived (and loved) at the hotel.
Turns out The Eltham has a long history of attracting capable, ambitious women to this part of the world.
Alanna Sapwell-Stone will continue as head chef at The Eltham