The Junction Hotel will soon bid farewell to chef Cheryl Wilson, a talented woman who has long been the driving force behind some of the venue's most delicious meals and sweets.
Having spent 38 years developing her craft at a variety of venues from Sydney to New Zealand and here in the Hunter, industry stalwart Cheryl Wilson is preparing to serve up her last dish, but only in the professional sense.
"Cooking is what I love. It's who I am and that will not stop just because I am retiring. In saying that though, I have found incredible pleasure cooking for others and it has always brought me so much joy," she said.
"Cooking is what I love. It's who I am and that will not stop just because I am retiring. In saying that though, I have found incredible pleasure cooking for others and it has always brought me so much joy..."
Cheryl's career started from humble beginnings in the early 1980s at The Australian Club in Sydney where she was the first female kitchen hand to ever be employed at the venue.
"It was a challenging environment in those days, but I was proud of my role at the club because it was a prestigious venue and proved a great start for my career," she said.
Cheryl later moved to yet another iconic Sydney venue, the Sydney Journalist's Club before a tree change took her to Glenn Innes where she started her first business, a pub bistro launched with some friends.
"It was our first real go at running a business and I probably didn't completely realise it at the time, but those lessons would serve me well in the years to come," she said.
Cheryl Wilson and Junction Hotel head chef Warren Fouracre
After learning the ropes of running a business, Cheryl and her partner moved to his native home of New Zealand where they opened their own vegetarian cafe and also attended trade school to become qualified chefs.
"At that time in the mid 80s the Australian dollar had good value in New Zealand and so we bought the cafe in Dunedin which was already being run by Australian owners," she said.
"Back then you couldn't even really go and buy a coffee in New Zealand and import restrictions made things difficult, so we went to the markets each day for things like spinach and cauliflower. It certainly took some creativity to formulate an interesting menu in that kind of environment."
When Cheryl and her husband started a family in 1988, they returned to Australia, first to Eden on the South Coast and then to Port Stephens where they spent time working as chefs at both Shoal Bay Country Club and Anchorage Resort.
"It was lovely up there, but when our girls became teenagers we moved down to Newcastle and that's when we opened Cha Chaz at the Junction. My husband and I ran that business together for 15 years, living just around the corner and putting in some very long hours.