26/06/2007 - 22:00

A Gala occasion worth celebrating

26/06/2007 - 22:00


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Five years ago, Hans Lang and Marianne Kempf decided to quit the safety of their established careers as fine dining chefs at the Burswood Entertainment Complex to go it alone.

A Gala occasion worth celebrating

Five years ago, Hans Lang and Marianne Kempf decided to quit the safety of their established careers as fine dining chefs at the Burswood Entertainment Complex to go it alone.

They bought the popular Campo De Fiore restaurant, which was established by Umberto Tinelli.

But rather than cling to the safety of a well-known eatery, they changed the restaurant’s name to Gala Restaurant.

And rather than follow the trend of sleek, contemporary dining spaces, the couple kept the restaurant cosy with its wooden floral embossed chairs and tables with tablecloths.

It could have been a recipe for disaster, but Mr Lang and Ms Kempf have managed to steer the restaurant through some tough early years to come out the other side proud of the business they have developed.

They persisted with their vision for the restaurant, which now regularly hosts sell-out dinner dances and special wine and truffle dinner events.

“It was tough at the start, the first two years were terrible,” Mr Lang says. “We had no choice; it was go forward or go bust.”

Mr Lang remembers the first time the couple decided to put on a dinner dance, an event that would offer customers something different on a Sunday evening and provide the restaurant with a source of revenue on what was a quiet night during winter trading.

“We had three people ring up and book it and so we had to cancel it,” Mr Lang says.

But they persisted with the idea and coaxed their customers by putting on music tracks from artists such as Tony Bennett at regular dining times.

“They would tell us they wanted to dance to songs like that and we would tell them we were putting on the dinner dance,” Ms Kemp says.

The second attempt at the dance attracted 50 people and the next one 70. And numbers now are well up on that.

The pair encountered the same disappointment when they wanted to host a truffle dinner, with their first attempt to showcase the delicacy in a special menu failing to draw a crowd.

Now, the couple runs a truffle dinner during the local truffle season, and a French truffle dinner outside the local season.

The Manjimup truffle dinner held on Tuesday was sold out several weeks in advance.

Mr Lang says the most stressful part of establishing a restaurant is trying to work out whether he was doing everything “completely wrong” or whether he had it right.

Luckily, a bit of time provided the answer to that.

“The last two years have been much better for us,” Mr Lang says

The German-born chefs also realised that their food, no matter how fancy, was not the reason people were firstly attracted to the restaurant.

“We wanted the food to come first; it had to be good and we still think that, but we realised that it is not the food that gets people in the first time, it’s a lot of different things,” Mr Lang says.

“They may be just walking past or they’ve come with friends and it’s just pot luck.

"But the food and the service gets them back.

‘‘We think it takes about two or three years to earn the trust of the customer,” Mr Lang says.

“People go out a lot but not to the same place that often, so it takes time to build it.”

The pair are celebrating five years in business with a menu featuring some of their popular meals served from the Gala kitchen during that time, including duck foie gras and truffle risotto, and veal fillet medallion and braised veal shank tortellini.


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