How Ballina RSL’s new chef will make it a top 10 club
When he was a boy, Stephen Mills' grandfather would always have a "magical mystery stew" on the boil.
He cooked on wood-fired ovens, pots bubbling away, and had home-killed lamb, pork and chickens hanging in his chiller.
Curiosity soon took over for the aspiring young chef.
Mr Mills started his culinary career the "old-school way" ‒ slogging it out washing dishes at fancy resorts on weekends and cooking up a storm in his Home Economics classes at school.
When he was 16, he took up an apprenticeship in the Blue Mountains, and went on to work at various restaurants, hotels, clubs and resorts.
Hardened European chefs gave him guidance and Mr Mills quickly fell in love with the industry.
He worked in Byron Bay in the 1990s and then travelled to Kakadu and Darwin, and on to South East Asia, London, Jersey Channel Islands, France, Italy, Germany, Austria, Spain, Jamaica, Maldives, New Zealand and Papua New Guinea.
Career highlights included working at Michelin Star Longueville Manor under chef Andrew Baird, gaining Rosette Awards for the Sommerville Hotel in Jersey, working at French ski lodges and working alongside Antony Warrel Thompson in Jamaica.
Through his high-end personal chef company, Mr Mills also catered for Google executives, Michael Hill's private golf resort, Millbrook Resort, Prince William and wealthy Ukrainian oligarchs.
Years later he returned to Australia, with four children in tow.
Now he's taken up the executive chef position at the Ballina RSL.
Mr Mills said he wanted to create great food at one of the Northern Rivers' largest venues, and believed the RSL was the ideal place to share his foodie experiences.
His goal is to make the Ballina RSL one of the top 10 clubs in Australia.
To do that, he plans to surround himself with a team of chefs, pastry chefs and apprentices to deliver high quality dining experiences at the Boardwalk and Spinnakers, and for weddings and corporate functions.