Executive Deniz Coskun Mantle Group Hospitality - survival of the fittest

Survival of the Fittest – chef life, secrets of success

Executive chef Deniz Coskun shares his secrets for success in the Hospitality industry.

Deniz Coskun is Group Executive Chef of Mantle Group Hospitality which includes The Charming Squire, The Squire’s Landing and most recently The Lucky Squire which has just opened on the Gold Coast.

Deniz, you are the executive chef of Mantle Group Hospitality across some of the busiest kitchens and most successful venues in South East Queensland & NSW. Please tell us a bit about your career to date and your greatest challenges and achievements. Any defining moments or lessons learnt along the way? What are you proud of?

I started in kitchens from a very young age as my parents owned and operated a restaurant. After moving to Australia, I decided to follow this same career path and worked in a number of restaurants around Brisbane. I spent eight years working under Alastair McLeod at Brett’s Wharf Seafood Restaurant and Catering.

It was while I was working there, I had one of my greatest achievements. We hosted an event for Virgin Australia at their airport hanger in Brisbane Airport. It was attended by 3000 guests who received a three-course sit down dinner. This was logistically no mean feat. My other great achievements have been opening new venues with Mantle Group Hospitality (MGH). Opening The Squire’s Landing at Circular Quay and Babylon Rooftop in Sydney’s CBD were massive undertakings but watching their increasing successes and popularity has been satisfying given the duration of both builds.

This year has been one of the most challenging years in my career. I will never forget watching the press conference on that infamous Sunday night in March and hearing the Prime Minister deliver the news that all hospitality venues had to be closed within 24 hours. This was a huge challenge with over 200 chefs and kitchen hands on the books across 17 venues in two states.

I am most proud of what we have achieved as a team over the last eight years. MGH has grown substantially with the construction of more venues throughout that time and our team continues to deliver exceptional meals consistently, across all venues.

How have you personally got through the Covid shutdown period and can you share how your venues and restaurants have been affected or adapted as a result of these challenging times?

Personally, I decided to continue to work from home in the background to ensure when we reopened everything was ready to fire back up. There was a lot more downtime and this was spent with my beautiful 18-month-old daughter. Our restaurants and bars like all those across Australia have been hugely impacted by COVID-19, but as Queenslanders continue to follow the guidelines, we are reopening and business has been good despite the restrictions surrounding trade. We have ensured that all of our staff have undertaken a COVID-19 Safe Training programs and have adapted and implemented additional measure to ensure our venues comply and supersede best practice.

You have recently announced the opening of ‘The Lucky Squire’ on the beautiful Gold Coast.
Can you tell us the work involved in planning and setting up a custom commercial kitchen and any success tips in making it all happen?  What are your 3 non negotiables in the kitchen?

The Lucky Squire, like many MGH projects, was not a small undertaking. Our new build venues are all large format venues sitting upwards of 500 guests. One of the contributions to MGH’s success and essential ingredients in ensuring our customers have a great all round experience, is deliberate and well thought out fit out and design.

Most large projects take around three years from lease negotiation/concept development through to serving the very first meal. The Lucky Squire was no different. Once the site was secured, planning starts on kitchen, bar and microbrewery locations. As the project develops there are always many challenges to overcome.

I always work closely with the architect and kitchen draftsman and develop a kitchen food concept followed by layout of equipment. Once the kitchen layout is finalised then the small detail work can start; tile selections, wall finishes, fridges and custom equipment like our wood fire grill.

My non negotiables are:
1. A good size wash up area
2. Good sized cold room and freezer
3. Good kitchen design – a kitchen needs to flow well and this is due to the right layout and quality cooking equipment.

From an executive chef perspective, what do you see as key trends and opportunities as we step into our new normal? And what’s important, at work and in life?

I’m an optimist. I believe this will pass. It will likely take a year or two but I believe there is light at the end of the tunnel. For many restaurants, you need to make tough decisions now to allow your business to run on lower turnover for at least another 12 months. People are still enjoy dining out and having a beer at the pub so demand is definitely there.

When you’re in the restaurant business for the long haul, we’re guessing you rely on equipment that goes the distance. What are some of the things you look for in key equipment pieces and what are some of your favourite brands?

Foremost, I look for durability and reliability. Our kitchens are operating 12 to 15 hours a day, seven days a week and we need to ensure our chefs have equipment they can rely on. Some of the key brands we use are Cookon, Williams refrigeration, Winterhalter and Waldorf