Remon van de Kerkhof moved this year from Brabant to Australia. The son of former professional footballer René van de Kerkhof started to work as a wine steward in a restaurant run by star chef Clare Smyth in Sydney.
In no time, the ‘Messi’ of wine waiters managed to make the restaurant a success there too. Omroep Brabant looks back on 2021 with Remon.
Australia is familiar territory for Remon. His husband is from there and they have lived there before. The interview is through a video call. In Eindhoven it is 10:30, while in Australia it is 20:30.
“It’s 34 degrees today. I’m all sunburned on my neck. From sitting on the terrace”. He is happy to be back on the road after a fifteen-week lockdown. “You weren’t allowed to host people at home and I was only allowed to go a maximum of five kilometres around my house. We had just moved and our furniture could not be delivered because it was outside the five-kilometre circle”, Remon shares.
Even though he has moved away, Remon still keeps in touch with his acquaintances in the Netherlands, such as his father, with whom he communicates a lot via text messaging. Remon also buys ‘hagelslag’ (chocolate sprinkles) from Aldi in Australia and had a Dutch colleague bring him a bottle of ‘jenever’. “For in the freezer”.
This year, Remon went to work at a restaurant owned by star chef Clare Smyth, who has had a copy of her three-star London restaurant made in the heart of Sydney.
Remon advises his guests on which wine to drink. He is seen as the Messi or Ronaldo among sommeliers. “It has been a great transfer”, he says of his move from two-star restaurant De Treeswijkhoeve in Waalre to the three-star restaurant in Sydney, a city of over five million people.
Due to the lockdown, he was unable to do anything for a long time. “It started in July and that was just before we wanted to open”. Now, fortunately, everything is open again. “The last measures have been abolished. A mouth mask or QR code is no longer necessary. Almost 95 per cent have been fully vaccinated. The hospitals can handle it just fine. Let’s hope Omikron doesn’t throw a spanner in the works”.
After the lockdown it is a madhouse for Remon. “Everyone has been able to save up well and is happy to be able to spend it again”. That money is also necessary because a lunch on Christmas Day costed a whopping €630 per person in the restaurant.
“Here they drink more than in Brabant. We chat and laugh with the guests. Products and ingredients are of a higher quality. It is fantastic to work here but I do miss the Netherlands, of course. Especially when you move from the beautiful family business of Treeswijkhoeve to a multinational. I miss walking upstairs to the ‘office’ to ask if something is alright. Here, everything goes by e-mail”.
“We are on the 26th floor and the building has ninety floors. We have a view of the Harbour Bridge and we look out at the Opera House. We almost have a 180-degree view. It is phenomenally beautiful. Sometimes you have to walk a few steps more slowly to enjoy this view”.
Remon supervises other sommeliers. Because it is a new restaurant, he had to build up the wine cellar with thousands of wines himself.
Last week, the restaurant received a review from the Australian restaurant guide Good Food Guide. Although they are just starting out, the review was very good. “We got 18 out of 20 points. Three ‘hats’ we got and only three other restaurants in Sydney have that. The maximum”. Three hats gets you the stamp of ‘brilliant’. “It’s quite an achievement in a city of over five million people. Blood, sweat and tears it was”, Remon says.
Now that he is at the top, the question is: what would he like to do next? “A Brabander always remains grounded. I do not know. Maybe I will become a pilot one day”.