Meet the Chef

RonHargrave

Chef Ron Hargrave was born and raised in Rockhampton, Queensland, Australia - the "Beef Capital of Australia" and the place to be for the best kangaroo carpaccio on earth! Yes, it's true: kangaroo is eaten in Australia - and exported all over the world. And why not–it's the leanest source of iron and protein in a red meat and because it's not farmed, there

are no growth hormones or antibiotics, just free-range meat that tastes like a good beef fillet and has the leanness of skinless chicken. Sounds tempting - I think I'd chance it!

As a child, Ron enjoyed helping his Mom out in the kitchen and at 12 he became known as the family's chef when he presented his sister with a homemade cake for her birthday. At 14 he started working in restaurant kitchens until he graduated high school in 1987 when he then enrolled and completed two Professional Catering and Food Service Certificates in 1988. Once the culinary decision was made, he started a four-year apprenticeship program through the Ambassador Hotels Group that eventually transferred him to Melbourne in Victoria to finish his time. From Melbourne to Port sea!–and to one of Victoria's most prestigious Boutique Hotels called Delgany Castle, where Ron worked hard as a Saucier and Entremiter chef in their 3 Hat fine dining restaurant for about three years. 

Around 1995 Ron decided that his career plans should follow the hotel/corporate route instead of the private restaurants path so he moved back to Brisbane, Queensland, where he started at the Park Royal Hotel as a Chef de Partie. With an urge to learn more and further his career, he got the opportunity to open the luxurious Key West Hotel on Alice Street. About eighteen months later Ron moved over to the Hilton where he gained further experience as their Junior Sous Chef in Victoria's fine dining Restaurant.

Everything changed by chance one afternoon in August 1998 while at the horse races with his mates in Brisbane. He saw a very small, two-line advertisement in the local paper that said "Cayman Islands need chefs. Phone xxxxxxxxxx". With a direction to travel and broaden his culinary experience Ron phoned and after a great telephone interview with Executive Chef Patrick Maloir of the Westin Casuarina Resort, he accepted an offer and moved to Grand Cayman in February of 1999. Ron started at the Westin as a line cook and worked his way to becoming one of their Sous Chef.

Shortly thereafter, Ron started competing in local and international cooking competitions and actually won Chef of the Year in 2001 Culinary Society's Competition - the first year he competed! - Ron has taken home an assortment of silver or gold medals won in the local competitions and had the opportunity to Captain the Cayman culinary team in the Taste of the Caribbean against 12 other countries in Ocho Rios, Jamaica in October 2003. The team returned with a well-deserved silver medal for the team event as well as an assortment of individual medals from all on Team Cayman.

In 2002 Ron got the chance to be a private chef for a well-to-do family in Cayman. He enjoyed that experience for about nine months cooking both on and off property in all facits of cookery from designer buffets to 10 course degustation menus and got to travel with the family around the world and get to know them very well. Sadly this chapter closed as the family relocated to Miami and even though Ron was asked to relocate, he decided to stay in Cayman and look for another endeavor.

Playing a round of golf at the Hyatt with Steven Carl, the Executive Chef, set up the next set of challenges. Asked if he would work for them as Sous Chef in their Banquets department he declined, knowing the offer would still be there in another 6 months. He decided instead to work in Hemingway's & later moved over to the Garden Loggia or Main kitchen to work at the Hyatt's famous brunch with Chef Shetty as well as run the Hyatt's hot banquet department.

In October of 2003, Ron was offered the position of Executive Chef of the Marriott Beach Resort and to help rebuild the quality and culinary service standards required for this property. The first half of 2004 was a very busy time for the hotel with record occupancies and food sales every month, and with a generous low season to look forward to. Sadly, the arrival of Hurricane Ivan had different plans. Ron revealed that the post-Ivan period was the hardest challenge on a day-to-day basis he had ever encountered. Directing the kitchens and restaurants through hurricane Ivan and its recovery was a tremendous accomplishment especially given that they had more than 250 staff, hotel guests and displaced residents residing in the hotel.

After a quick stint back in Australia due to family health commitments, Ron returned to Grand Cayman Nov 2006 to spear head the team at Deckers Restaurant. Not only did Ron bring another level of fine cuisine to the already well-known establishment, he provided a window for the owners to branch out and open several more exciting establishments (Prime @ Governors Square & Abacus @ Camana Bay).

The decision to join the Decker s team also proved to enhance Ron’s personal life as well. He met the front of house manager, Lana, a young Canadian woman from Victoria B.C. who had been there for a period of two years and had been great success with new ideas and theme nights. They worked together for the next three years creating a professional and personal bond that has now led them to their next exciting chapters: Marriage, Tukka!...and a baby boy, and then a baby girl.

Tukka Restaurant had been a dream of Ron’s for many years. He had themes, menus, and original ideas accumulating over the years and finally in April 2010 he found the ideal location to launch the Tukka concepts. The site! Formerly Portofino Restaurant in Gun Bay, East End underwent a cosmetic overhaul in Sept 2010 and was opened the 8th of October that year.

Tukka has been open for 3 years and still going strong!