If you are yet to dine at Racine Restaurant, I recommend you book yourself a table. The food is divine, the restaurant overlooks a picturesque vineyard just on the outskirts of town, has won too many awards to mention and is run by super talented chef Shaun and his wife, creative mastermind, Willa. In addition to the restaurant they also own an artisan bakery right in the heart of town, offering organic breads, pastries, sausage rolls and the most amazing croissants you’ll ever taste (Willa swears by them)! Willa has a beautiful nature, she’s so relaxed, not at all precious and I can tell she has a true passion for her business and a serious love for her family. I had the pleasure of catching up with Willa, one rainy Tuesday morning, to talk fashion, business and family.
Willa, you are exceptionally creative and have a great sense of style, what does your winter wardrobe look like?
Thank you! My winter wardrobe is very basic and comfortable. I like classic styles and neutral colours, black in winter with greys, navy, and a bit of cream. I really love natural fabrics, so wool, cashmere, denim and cotton in these colours, then I add a scarf or earrings and some great boots. You rarely ever see me without a scarf in winter (or summer) they are very handy for breastfeeding, wrapping up cold small people or wiping dirty faces. I never wear multicolours, if I wear colour at all it’s just one. I am a practical dresser, so it’s nice that you think I have a great sense of style.
What do you love most about owning a business (or two) in Orange?
So much, I get so much creative satisfaction from both business’ in the décor, the marketing, the garden, the product development, uniforms, signage, the lot. It’s amazing and I could only do a lot of that by having a business in a regional area. I mostly look after our wedding business which is 1-2 a week in the busy season, so that’s a lot of work and a lot of interaction with people and I love that aspect too. Most recently I have had a lot of fun doing up our new apple packing shed, that’s been a great achievement and so much fun. I guess why I love owning my business’ in Orange is because I have a great work/life balance. Orange is such a beautiful place to work visually and such a creative open place for a business like ours, it has a great food and wine culture and an appreciative audience, we can’t be mediocre here because the locals will let you know. That’s a great thing for any business, it keeps you challenged and interested. I love that I can do what I love on a big scale and still have the benefits of giving my children a country upbringing like Shaun and I had. I love the people here, there are so many different types of people and a lot with young kids and I love that diversity. Plus we have all the facilities and perks of a big city, theatres, good galleries, good cafes, restaurants, doctors, schools… you get my drift. I love Orange, I feel so lucky to have ended up here.
Racine Restaurant 42 Lake Canobolas Rd, Orange.
If you could recommend just one thing on the menu what would it be? And why?
Restaurant: The pressed duck, it’s our signature dish and is always on the menu with a different garnish to suit the seasons. It’s not something you would ever make at home and it is so intricate and interesting, but most of all it is really delicious!
Bakery: Our vanilla slice has almost reached cult status, but for me, nothing beats our croissants. They are the perfect balance of buttery, flakey perfection and a real treat. Either sweet in a chocolate croissant, plain or for lunch with prosciutto and cheese rolled and baked inside (epic). I have become a complete croissant snob and I don’t think I have tasted one as good in Australia, even other bakeries that claim to have the best aren’t as good as ours ( I don’t have anything to with it, so I am allowed to brag). It takes a lot of skill to make a good croissant and they simply can’t be mass produced….can you tell how much I love them!
Racine Bakery 166B Summer Street (Woolworths carpark), Orange.
You’ve got two young children, what’s your best tip for juggling family life and business?
I don’t have one, I am totally making it up everyday. Some days I win, many I don’t. My kids come everywhere with me or Shaun, I don’t really have any help (unless you include Nashdale Public School from 9-3.30). But they are both growing up in our business, so they are very adaptable, they sleep anywhere and they are comfortable with anyone. Shaun and I share parenting, so we just work it out. We are lucky that they can come to work with us, that’s the beauty of having the restaurant on such a large property, there’s always an adventure and plenty to eat. I think they are lucky to grow up like this, they will never be precious in attitude.
What’s your ideal date night?
It sounds corny, but going out is such a treat, so I want to make it special. It starts at a cute little wine bar with a glass of French champagne, because that is guaranteed to make me feel like it’s an occasion. Followed by a great dinner in a buzzy, atmospheric restaurant. It doesn’t have to be fancy but the food and atmosphere have to be good, I hate paying for mediocre food. The wine must be topped up, so that Shaun and I can solve the problems of the world and plan our next business venture (pretty much like our first date). Finally I would wake up in my own bed without a hangover.
Where would we find you on a lazy Sunday afternoon?
Gardening , reading a book or painting (all with my kids). Dinner would be on the stove and music on the stereo.
And lastly, what’s your favourite Belle Armoire label and why?
I really love the pieces from the C/MEO Collective, they are clean lined, beautiful deep colours and neutrals. They have some really interesting shapes and designs. But truthfully, whenever I go into Belle Armoire I want to buy everything!