Aurora is a fine dining restaurant in the creative Light precinct in Adelaide, South Australia. Head chef Brendan Wessels has led the restaurant, recently being revealed as a finalist for ‘Best New Restaurant’ in the Gourmet Traveler 2022 Restaurant Awards.
Wessels, the former head chef of d’Arenberg Cube and Leonards Mill, has been in the head chef position since the restaurant was a pile of bricks. This meant that he had a significant hand in the restaurant’s design, shown through the open kitchen and purpose-built braai (a South African barbeque). One of the ideas that greatly excited Wessels about Aurora is the counter-culture hospitality environment that aims to cultivate a healthy and positive experience for its people.
The Light precinct is a hub for innovation, creativity and hospitality; it is a not-for-profit organization and registered charity. Co-founders Nick and Sophie Dunstone wanted to create a social enterprise that promotes the arts, entertainment, hospitality and related technologies. Revenue made from Light projects, including Aurora, goes back into supporting artistic development, staff training and other projects.
Aurora follows Light’s principles in their day-to-day work. They take risks and experiment with their food whilst supporting the ideals of creativity, diversity, inclusivity, community and self-sustainability. People and in-person experiences are put first. This means their staff wellbeing is at the forefront of their mind. As a result, they have a bigger team so that one person doesn’t have to cover more than one shift. In-person experiences are also meaningful, and they believe that technology backs up already amazing in-person experiences; this comes from the fine food. They also have live musicians and lazy weekend lunches throughout the year, which allows guests to indulge in the restaurant space for longer.
Every staff member at Aurora is encouraged to innovate and experiment, especially the kitchen staff. Even the lowest-ranked chef is encouraged to experiment with dishes and develop their palate, with their dishes receiving feedback from higher up chefs. This inclusive culture is part of how they aim to promote healthier work practices in hospitality.
Ingredients are sourced from local producers with similar ethics. Wessels’ and his team turn those ingredients into stunning fine dining dishes which draw on a wide range of cuisines to produce an imitate dining experience. Guests can order a five or seven-course degustation menu or order off the a la carte menu. The menu changes seasonally to highlight the freshest ingredients. Wessels’ aim for his food is to nourish and engage the eater.
Aurora is joining the wave of fine dining restaurants focusing on sustainability, but they take it to a new level in hospitality by sustaining their workforce alongside their food sources. They are a deserving finalist for ‘Best New Restaurant’ in the Gourmet Traveler 2022 Restaurant, and we look forward to seeing what they can achieve in the future.