Life begins at Halcyon

Culinary Keith has them eating out of his hand

17 September 2019 | by Halcyon Waters

Keith Rice’s heart for cooking and head for numbers have blended perfectly to serve up thousands of hearty meals to Halcyon Waters’ home owners over the years. The former accountant has always loved cooking and after retiring he dabbled in catering for small groups, but things went up a notch when he and wife Aine moved to Halcyon Waters in 2013.

“We’d go up to the Leisure Club for Happy Hour on a Friday night and the social group had a little pie warmer with pies and sausage rolls,” he recalled. “I thought we could probably do better than this so the following year I joined the social group.

“To build my confidence I just started doing things like hamburgers and hotdogs for about 80 people.
“I began to get a feel for how the Leisure Club kitchen worked – what I could do and what I couldn’t do.”

Keith persuaded the social group to buy a warming oven, allowing the preparation of roast dinners.
Home owners started voting with their appetites and Keith knew he was doing something right.
“As I started getting more adventurous, we were getting 120 people coming up to Happy Hour on a Friday night,” he said.

“I’ve had a crack at just about everything; I love it, but it’s risky. “I’ve had a couple of failures but the thing that the community loves is when I use the warming oven as a slow cooker.

“I go up on a Thursday night at about 8pm and put the meat in the oven and let it cook overnight.
“For many people a roast is about how tender the meat is, so you’ve got them eating out of your hand straight away because so it’s nice and tender.”

Keith’s also a cost-conscious cook and that’s where his accounting expertise serves him and  fellow home owners well. “I’m always working to a budget; I’ve got spreadsheets a mile long for every meal I’ve ever done,” he laughed.

“I know how many peas I get out of a kilo in terms of how many people it will feed.” Keith’s favourite event to cater is Halcyon Waters’ Christmas in July, which he started in 2014. It has become an annual tradition for the community.

“That’s a big one because we do ham and turkey and I make the Christmas puddings three or four months in advance and keep them in my pantry,” he said.

This year, 127 people sat down for the Christmas in July feast and festivities in the Leisure Club.
Keith said he could not do any of it without his dedicated helpers who make the job easier and bring a cheerful ‘buzz’ to the kitchen.

“There’s always been a group of ladies and a couple of men that come in and help with the prep and serving,” he said. “We have an enormous amount of fun in there. “There’s lots of banter, chatting and we have a laugh because they know that I’m a bloody fusspot about how things should go.”

Health issues have reduced the number of Happy Hour nights that Keith caters for these days, but he’s hopeful other passionate cooks in the community will step up and give it a go. “There’s people who I know can cook and enjoy cooking but they’re just reticent about cooking for 100 or so people,” he said.

“I’d love to get them all together and take them through how easy it is once they understand how everything flows.”

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