In late 1998 Craig Fox and 3 of his mates who were all working for Brisbane’s biggest catering companies, took over the restaurant and functions center at the Airport International Motel in Hamilton. With two Front of House professionals and two of the city’s most creative catering chefs, the opportunity then arose to create a side business offering offsite catering.
In March 1999 Wine and Dine’m Catering was born. It wasn’t until 2005 that the four stepped away from the motel to focus solely on catering. Now in it’s 20th year of business, Director Craig Fox sat down with us to talk business (and wine!).
What is an average workday in the life of Craig Fox like?
It generally starts with a morning catch up with general Manager Ammie Watts, followed by reviewing the events happening that day and their catering requirements. Each morning the office team meet to discuss the day ahead and any potential challenges. I will review management reports, attend site visits for any upcoming events with the sales team and attend the events we have on that day.
Was Wine & Dine’m your first business venture?
When I was 12, I had a lawn mowing business. It was the most profitable business ever as I used Dad’s lawn mower and he paid for petrol.
Where would you like to take Wine & Dine’m in the future?
I see WNDM continuing in its primary focus of delivering memorable events with consistent high-quality service and food. The move toward a business that “treads a little more gently through the world” and future proofing this industry for the next generation of hospitality workers is something I am invested in. I would also like to continue creating side brands like Express Catering that challenge the traditional view of catering.
And of course, planning to take over the world (think Pinky and the Brain)!
What were the challenges in adapting from owning a catering business to owning Baedeker?
Starting a new business again for the first time in over 15 years was a challenge to myself to see if I could still “do it” and I think it’s everyone’s dream at some point to own a bar. Although we work in other people’s venues every day it wasn’t as simple as it first seemed and the experience has helped change the way we as caterers, operate in other venues and our business model has had to adapt.
What are your top 3 favourite Brisbane restaurants?
Joy Restaurant in Bakery Lane – the epitome of a great hospitality experience. The customer is taken on a journey with 5 or 8 courses guided by some true hospitality professionals. Tim and Sarah just nail it.
Honto in Fortitude Valley – there’s something dark and brooding about the space that just draws you in and of course, the lobster katsu sandwich.
But it would be amiss of me to not mention anytime I get to eat the food from our outstanding team of chefs.
Are there any past catering trends you would like to bring back?
They say everything old is new again. I am always inspired by the fine dining experience and Gueridon Service. I have also always been a fan of baked ham carved at the end of a function with crusty bread rolls and English mustard.
What is on your food bucket list?
Osteria Francescana in Modena Italy. Massimo Bottura’s passion is infectious and the food is clever and speaks to the place. Beyond his culinary prowess, his partnership with Oz Harvest and feeding those in need is a great inspiration to what we aim to achieve with The Mini Farm Project.
I am also waiting for the day that my nephew who is a chef opens something of his own.
What is your current favourite WNDM menu?
I think my favourite canape would have to be the Sand crab éclair, baby cucumber, white soy emulsion. It shows off the talent in our kitchen. It is delicate, savoury and delicious.
When did you start collecting wine?
When we started the business one of my partners had an idea that if we bought a 6 pack of wine every month and cellared it, that we would be drinking 10-year-old wine all the time in 10 years. The 6 packs became more regular and because the wines were kept offsite in a temperature-controlled cellar, I didn’t realise just how many we had accrued. Adding to this were some memorable purchases from wine auctions.
The collection of wines from my home cellar, or part thereof have now found their way onto the Baedeker Museum List. I am obsessed with a couple of collections including the Magnums of Penfolds St Henri. We now have a vertical of 24 magnum vintages and will be hosting a dinner around this idea at Baedeker.
HOW DOES CRAIG FOX SPEND HIS WEEKENDS?
Reading a book in the sun, going for a walk and catching up with mates over a wine or two. Plus hanging out with my chickens.
What’s a hobby you have that people may not know about?
A number of years ago I demolished my old house and kept all of the timber. Several of the floor joists were transformed into the private cellar table at Baedeker. My family and friends also received hand-made cutting boards from the timber.
What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever been given?
Aside from your mother is always right, you’re never too old to learn and treat others as you would like to be treated yourself.
Who inspires you?
My father – he taught me so much about life. My colleagues inspire me everyday
If you weren’t the Director of Wine & Dine’m Catering and Baedeker, what would you be doing?
I would like to think I’d be a rockstar but I have no musical acumen at all. I have the greatest respect for people who create, so possibly making furniture.