Mexican restaurant Hot Tamale named as finalist in Telstra Business of the Year Awards


Hot Tamale’s head chef Jamie Steele, owner David Robinson and manager Anneliese Grazioli

Hot Tamale’s head chef Jamie Steele, owner David Robinson and manager Anneliese Grazioli are all excited that the restaurant is a finalist in the NT Telstra Business of the Year awards. Picture: Helen Orr

MEXICAN restaurant Hot Tamale has been named one of 14 Northern Territory finalists in this year’s Telstra Business Awards, impressing judges by addressing Darwin’s shortage of skilled staff.

WebsiteBanner_Finalist_BlueOwner David Robinson, who started the waterfront restaurant with wife Kellie in 2012, said the restaurant was the first in Darwin to treat people to Mexican food that goes beyond a stodgy, packet-mix taco.

But he said delivering consistently high standards in Darwin could be difficult, with its thin supply of well-trained hospitality staff.

“Backpackers can do a lot, but it can be hard to find people who have the right skills when it comes to your core staff, like restaurant managers and head chefs,” he said.

Mr Robinson said that since opening, they had placed a strong emphasis on training existing staff.

“Our restaurant manager, Anneliese Grazioli, started out as a waitress, now she’s working for us in a position that we’d probably find hard to fill by recruiting elsewhere,” Mr Robinson said.

Overseas workers have also helped fill gaps in their roster, with the restaurant’s first head chef having been from Mexico, and several current staff on Regional Sponsored Migration Scheme visas.

“It can be a real hassle from the immigration side of things but the staff in the (NT Government) migration office have been fantastic, and really understand the processes that need to be followed and the time pressures faced,” he said.

Mr Robinson said the nomination process for the business awards had been surprisingly helpful.

“The application process forces you to go back over your strategic plans and long-term goals, which is not something you necessarily do as often as you should,” he said.

Telstra Business Awards Ambassador Will Irving said many of the NT businesses named as finalists had found solutions to staffing issues, which were virtually endemic in the Territory.

“Many (businesses) are building on local opportunities and establishing a skilled workforce,” he said.

Mr Irving singled out Katherine-based Gorge Health Services as another Territory business excelling despite staffing issues.

Hot Tamale is up against Yarrawonga-based Plumbing NT in the start-up category of the awards.

The four NT winners will be announced at a gala awards evening on July 3.

The winners will be short-listed for national prizes, to be announced at a gala ceremony in Sydney on August 20.