Rachel Deegan may wish she didn't love her job. The hours are unsociable and the work is engrossing, but she gets a thrill from making people feel at home at Frederics, where she is co-owner and manager.
Last year, she was named best host/ hostess at the Taranaki Halamoana Hospitality Awards, beating Mark Louis, of Our Place, and Kerry Vosseler, of Chaos cafe. The award was a surprise, for both Vosseler and Louis are well- liked, strong personalities and Deegan did not think she would edge them out.
Asked about the reasons for her award, Deegan says: "I think it's because I make people feel welcome. I don't stand behind the bar, I wander around. I treat people like my brother or sister because I want them to feel at home.
"I had two weeks off week recently and I missed talking to people. This is like my second home."
Deegan started at Frederics four years ago, soon after it opened, although she is a trained chef and at the time had more experience working in kitchens than out front.
Bred in Opunake, she trained at Waikato polytechnic (since renamed Wintec), where she gained a scholarship to work for a year in an English town called Southwold. During that stint, she worked in a range of establishments run by a brewery company based in the seaside settlement.
Over the following years she travelled and worked, fitting in kitchen jobs at ski chalets in France and time in London, before returning home to New Plymouth.
For about four years, she worked for Macfarlanes Catering, before leaving for another overseas sojourn - this time to Canada.
When she returned home again, her intention was to stay a short time.
She started working for Macfarlanes, in what she thought was a temporary job, but she realised New Plymouth was a good place to remain.
The city's cafe and restaurant scene had mushroomed and hospitality was the industry for her.
"When I was little, I loved playing restaurants and serving people, so I think there was that in me, from the start.
"That's what I enjoy doing, having contact with people."
At times, she thinks her passion is stupid.
It's a struggle to catch up with family and friends because of the weekend and night work, but the satisfaction of being around food and seeing people happy means Deegan is staying put.
- © Fairfax NZ News
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