Saturday, 7 April 2012

My family history in the world of hospitality

Public holidays are an especially busy time in the hospitality industry, either myself or members of my family will be working over the entire Easter weekend. Yesterday was the calm before the storm so we made sure everyone had Good Friday off. The day was spent together having a barbie and chowing down chocolate. Food is very important to my family, we enjoy cooking it, eating it and of course it is our livelihood. So I thought today, I would write a little about the slightly eccentric but very loveable group I call my family.

The photo on the left is that of my dad, i'll call him Sir Schmidt for now. Sir Schmidt aka Helge was born in Berlin, Germany to very humble beginnings. He left Berlin for London at age 17 to escape poverty and motivated by dreams of becoming a restauranteur. His first job was as a room service waiter at the Connaught hotel, he worked hard and climbed his way up the ranks to butler which is when this photo was taken. After 6 years of slaving it out in various hotels and saving his money Helge was lucky enough to get the opportunity to strike out on his own. With the help of his twin brother, Helge opened a German themed restaurant in
Kensington and called it the
Twin Brothers. The place was a huge success and Helge continued to live in London as owner and manager for the following 12 years.

It was at the Twin Brothers that Helge met his Australian wife, my mum - Jan. You can see my mum and dad both serving at the restaurant in this photo. Jan is one of the finest self taught cooks around and has been the backbone in all of our family businesses. Including running her own place Jan's cafe in Woolloomooloo and starting up The Settler's wedding reception in Mulgoa (see pic below). She is one of those women who can rustle up a meal from
anything. Leave her in a room with a tin of tomatoes and a banana and you'll return to find a delicious 3 course meal. Maybe the tomato/banana example is a little far fetched but you get what I mean.

On the right is my older sister Heidi, who opened her first cafe at the tender age of 16!! Im sure she received lots of support from our parents but unbelievable all the same. Heidi's first cafe was named Cafe Heidi - real high brow thinking there.
This photo with me was taken in her opening week. She now runs and owns the Balmain institution, Cafe Berlin.

I can't leave my little brother, Karl off the list. A now not so little 21 year old Karl's main involvement in the hospitality industry is pretty much the same as his involvement with me in this photo. Eating. Yes Karl is the number one food taster in the family.

And lastly, this is me..... I think in this picture I am sampling one of mum's famous desserts. Slightly older and hopefully wiser, I am the next Schmidt in line to start out on my own in the crazy cafe world. The encouragement and support from every single one of my family members has given me the courage to start this new and exciting chapter in my life... hopefully I'll be able to make them all proud.


  1. Trust me as the family "food eater"- the food is AMAZING! Try it and enjoy!!

  2. Beautiful story Lies, what a gorgeous, fun family! Can't wait to pop in to Palomino xx

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  4. Can I just say that your dad is an absolute legend. The Twin Brothers in Kensington was my absolute favourite place to eat from 1987 and thereafter. Had the most amazing evenings there. Every night there was a riot. I remember your dad and his brother I think quite vividly. Such wonderful characters. So irreverent and friendly and riotously hilarious. Quite simply the best restaurant I did ever go to. The food was delicious, the decor completely baroque and the atmosphere completely unique. How much I miss it. Please do share with your dad if you see this. I can only hope that one day London will tempt one of you back. They are sorely missed. Hope this finds your family well and thriving.��

  5. I knew your father when he worked in Brighton at the Old Ship Hotel restaurant, approximately 1968.

    Would love to make contact with him again.