All chefs accept the job comes with unique challenges and pressures, but you can imagine Peter Prins’s surprise when invading Iraqi soldiers stormed his kitchen and forced him out at gunpoint.
Recently appointed as Nellie Melba retirement village’s head chef, Peter was just 21 at the time and working in the restaurant at an exclusive French hotel in Kuwait.
“Soldiers came straight into the main restaurant,” he says. “All the guests were told to go away, they were given time to pack their stuff and were told to leave, and the staff were told to leave as well… and they took over the hotel.
“We packed our bags and took off, we just went on the road. We got into a vehicle and we just started driving, and every time we had to go through a checkpoint we needed to give something to get out. We started giving money, we started giving clothes, we started giving whatever we had – stereos, TVs, everything we had we just gave.
“By the time we reached the airport we were empty-handed.”
With help from the United Nations, Peter was put on a flight back to safety in his native Sri Lanka.
“From that point onwards, I had to start again from scratch.”
And start again he did, building a career that has seen him work in some of the most interesting and exotic parts of the globe.
In his 38 years in the hospitality industry Peter has worked in exclusive restaurants and five-star hotels in Sri Lanka, Dubai, the Maldives, Hollywood and, most recently, at Melbourne’s Crown Casino.
But now, he says, it’s time to give back.
“I thought now is the time to step down and share my passion and expertise for older people and that’s the reason I joined [Ryman Healthcare].”
Peter immigrated to Australia nine years ago with his wife and two daughters and has settled just a few minutes’ drive from the Wheelers Hill village.
Peter says he plans on taking Nellie Melba’s kitchen to “the next level”.
“If you are serving older people or the sick you should have love for everything you do. If you have love and care in what you do the product you put out will reflect that.
“I have 38 years of experience and I want to put out the best that I can do and treat [the residents] the way they should be treated, and that’s the passion in me.
“I’m so excited about it.”