Originally from Brisbane, Jason and Rachael Powell have spent the past eight years in the tropical north Queensland town of Mossman. Jason is a chef and Rachael is a skilled manager and events organiser. They have come to settle on the hinterland for family reasons, a richer social life and a place to walk their dogs without the fear of crocodiles!
Why did you come here?
Jason: We were originally from Brisbane, but then eight years ago we moved up to Mossman as I got a chef’s job at the Sheraton Mirage Resort . Then for the last four and a half years I managed the kitchen at the Mossman Bowls Club bistro. Rachael was the bistro supervisor. I was basically cooking as well as looking after all the functions.
It was well paid but very busy with split shifts, and it wasn’t really the kind of work that I liked. In the end there was too much stress.
Rachael: There were about 1400 members and it was quite a busy club, particularly in the on season when all the tourists come, and you get a big influx into the town. All the caravans park there and it’ s where the visitors get their meals . Jason: It was the kind of job that I couldn’t leave to anyone else if I wasn’t there. Also, the meals were basic … fish and chips, steak and chips … and I wanted to get back to some of the skills that I enjoy as a chef … like sculptures in margarine, fruit and vegetables, as well as I wanted to try my hand at private catering.
It is a risk coming here of course, because we had full- time jobs up there. We have basically come here with no work, so we are starting from scratch. But I know as a hard-working chef that I can find work if I need it.
It was also about being closer to the family. My parents are in Maleny. The rest of my family, and Rachael’s family, are in Brisbane, and they’re all getting older.
Rachael: Our whole lifestyle has changed really… from working full-time – go-go-go up there – to coming down here and just pottering around at the moment. It has relieved the pressure for a while though. It’s also
getting used to having everything at our fingertips. Up there for example, to go to the movies was at least an hour away, whereas Caloundra is only half an hour, and we can always go out to dinner somewhere nice. Everything is so accessible here.
A margarine sculpture of a harlequin by Jason Powell
Jason: We lived in a beautiful part of Queensland with mountains and beaches, but we could never take our two dogs to the beach because of crocodiles and stingers. We don’t have such worries on the Sunshine Coast. The only negative change really is that we can’t afford to buy a house until we sell our house up there, and unfortunately things are pretty quiet in Mossman town.
Rachael: Mossman is a lovely place though with really nice people. It is much smaller than Maleny and surrounded by sugar cane farms, and it is
a long way from anywhere else. Here you have a whole range of towns reasonably close by and the Coast is so accessible. But Mossman is like the last frontier. It’s the last place before you cross the Daintree River.
I must say that I miss my house up there and it was very hard to leave friends. But I also have friends down here from our previous life in Brisbane.
What would keep you here?
Jason: Well, selling the house up there and being able to buy one down here would certainly keep us here! If our new catering business works out, that will keep us here too. Setting up at the Maleny Wood Expo was very successful for us. There was a lot of interest in the dishes we were offering.
If I had a cooking style it would certainly be Asian-influenced. But the difference for me with catering for events is making centre-pieces and carvings. It’s not something you see except with catering at the big hotels, and on cruise ships. I am sure that the carving influence came from my father, although of course he carves in wood.
Rachael: Working together here in our own catering business won’t be a big change for us. At the Mossman Bowls Club I did food preparation, cashiering, rosters, plate clearing, washing up – the whole gamut really. And Jason and I work well together. If the catering business takes off then that will certainly keep us here. My parents would keep us here because they aren’t getting younger and now we’re close enough to Brisbane to be able to visit them when we need to.
Jason: There’s a nice country feel up here and you’re out of the rat race. I have always loved the Blackall Range. Rachael and I used to get together when she was 17 and I was 16. We would come up here on day trips and go to the Mary Cairncross Park, which was very different in those days.
We would go camping and walking at Kondalilla Falls … we were big walkers back then … twenty years ago. So it’s funny where you end up, because I think this is where we will stay.
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