STEPHEN Tuckwell is the very busy owner and chef of the 120-seat Conti Restaurant in Park St, Brunswick Heads, and Pantry Number 8 opposite.
Watching him at work at lunchtime last week it's obvious he is the key man in this operation as he cooks the food, directs the staff and chats with his regulars.
He even managed to find the time to chat to the Northern Star.
Mr Tuckwell believes that in the restaurant business you just have to work very hard.
"You have to be here pretty much all the time to oversee the operation because it's so easy to drop the ball," he said.
"I have been living on adrenalin for the last 15 years.
"It would be great to have a sleep in one day or have a day at the beach.
"I could get someone in to do the cooking but it would be very hard to get someone in who can replicate all the other things I do.
"Customers love to come in and see the owner at work and because I have such an open structure to the kitchen they tend to start conversations with me whether I am busy or not."
Mr Tuckwell comes from Sydney but has lived in the Northern Rivers for the last seven years.
He has worked in a variety of hospitality operations around Australia including four years at an eco tourism resort on South Stradbroke Island.
He moved to the North Coast to start a family and now has three children between the ages of two and five.
"When we moved here to Brunswick Heads I could see it would start to develop the same way that Bangalow and Cabarita have over the years," he said.
"There is a real community feel here and everybody knows everybody else.
"But no-one wants to see the town to develop too quickly.
"It needs a good mix of businesses to become a strong destination that people will come to visit.
Mr Tuckwell started working in restaurants as a dish washer when he was 15.
He was thrown in at the deep end of the kitchen one night in 1989 when one of the chefs went home sick.
"I found myself prepping and cooking food in the kitchen and I never went back to the dishes again," he said.
"I also learnt a lot from my mother who was a wonderful cook".
Conti is open for breakfast and lunch but Mr Tuckwell is awaiting council permission to operate at night.
"Every day I get several people asking when we are going to open for dinner," he said.
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