20 Jan Dans Story – Early Days
A brief childhood history (for the record)
Born in Adelaide but didn’t stay long. Moved to farmland in southeast South Australia (just outside Mount Gambier) at four-years old. Grew up just outside of the Coonawarra wine region. Built cubby houses up gum trees mostly.
The early days
I first fell in love with wine and service whilst living in New Zealand. I was working at The Bunker, a Queenstown fine diner where Central Otago Pinot Noir and wild local venison was a staple. This restaurant was a uniquely beautiful place to eat and drink, a hidden gem down a back alley in the heart of town that only locals and concierge really knew.
I’ve always believed it’s the clientele that really makes the place. At The Bunker this was certainly the case. We lit the fire and picked the songs but it was the guests that brought the room to life every night. They carried the great taste and conversation through the door with them and so just lived up to it. It was all quite new to me but this finer side of dining just felt right, so I stepped it up. Looking back I’m so glad I did.
The Bunker had a huge influence on me. I was a bar manager and waiter amongst a team of five or six well skilled front of house staff and we made magic happen. Eddie McGuire was a regular, the locals saved up to come and anyone that wanted the best in town came to us. The boss would always get chef to put up a dish from the menu and pair it to a glass of vino as staff (family) dinner – a rare, heavenly gesture. We talked as we dined and I fast learned how to describe synergies between chef’s take on local produce and our wine list. I discovered wine could promote the ingredients and good folk so they would remember the experience grew into a passion for me. I remember thinking, “Could I really take wine, food and service on as a career, a lifestyle?” After my experiences in Queenstown, the answer was a resolute yes.