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Welcoming Mark Whitnell to Spicers Retreats

We are excited to welcome Mark Whitnell as our new General Manager for Spicers Guesthouse Hunter Valley. We sat down with Mark to learn a little more about him, we hope you enjoy

What are you most excited about with the upcoming opening of Spicers Guesthouse?

Firstly, I am so happy to have joined the Spicers group. I did plenty of research prior to joining and the industry has nothing but great things to say about the company and I’m pleased to say the experience is living up to the reputation.

Secondly, it’s about being a part of the second coming of the guest house. The more time I spend in the region the more I hear stories from locals about the special times they had at the guest house. I’m so excited to re-introduce the hotel to the region.
Tell us a bit about yourself.

I’ve got two grown kids, my daughter lives in Tasmania and my son is moving with my wife Leanne and I to the Hunter Valley before jetting off to Japan for some life experience. I’m going to be a Grandfather in February, which is pretty amazing and a bit scary!

You were a Chef once, tell us about that.

I spent a long time as a chef and loved it. I did a bit of everything – fine dining, gastro pub in the UK. I like to think I was a good all-rounder and became a solid business chef where I was able to focus the needs of the owner with my creative desire to make a restaurant work. I love Italian food so I’m very excited about opening an Italian restaurant.

How has it been living in a chef share house?

Ha ha, yes I haven’t lived in a share house for a million years. Spicers Executive Chef Cameron Matthews and I have been house mates for the past two months with Sous Chef Shayne Mansfield from Restaurant Botanica taking up prime position on the couch from time to time.
It’s been an unlikely start but so fantastic.

Cam and I have really clicked and we talk produce, menus, wine, sport well into the night. Cam is inspirational and when he gets going, wow you are just in awe. I’m looking forward to seeing Cam put his twist on a variety of regional dishes. Everything will be handmade, locally sourced & only the freshest and most sustainable produce & practices used.

What gives you a buzz?

I love my sport. I’m a passionate Kiwi so the All Blacks have a special place in my heart. I’m a Collingwood supporter and don’t follow league too closely but I’m sure that will change now I’m living in NSW. I’d have to say the Warriors are my go to team however the Newcastle Knights are just down the road so you never know. I played and coached kid’s soccer for a long time, my Dad was a Pom so I was raised on ‘football’.

I like golf and I’m looking forward to getting back into it, there are some great courses in the Hunter Valley so looking forward to dusting off my clubs. I listen to all music – Cat Stevens, Neil Diamond, Australian Rock the only genre I don’t like is the bangers, which my son plays on repeat!

My first experience in the Hunter Valley was to see Neil Diamond, it was my 50th birthday and the most memorable experience. I’m so glad I got to see him before he stopped touring.

Moving to one of Australia’s most loved wine regions is pretty amazing, do you enjoy a tipple?

I love wine. I thought I knew a little bit about wine however the real eye opener for me was walking into the Royal Mail’s wine cellar with 30,000 bottles of wine and the largest store of Burgundy in the southern hemisphere. I don’t profess to have the worlds most sophisticated palate but I know what I like and after my time at the Royal Mail I know so much more. The wine list at Eremo will be both local, Australian and International with some very special Hermitage wines in the selection.