Food and conversation go hand in hand for James Parer.
The chef and restaurateur is as comfortable in the kitchen as he is having a chat with pretty much anyone about pretty much anything.
“In hospitality you realise you can talk to anyone – I think you learn the art of conversation because you are talking to people from all walks of life about pretty well anything,” he said.
“Because you’re often talking to complete strangers, you have to leave any problems you might have at the door, whether you’ve had a rough night or bad day, you can’t bring that to work – you have your game face on, and that becomes normal.”
James was born at the Mater Hospital in 1970 and grew up holidaying at Surfers Paradise.
He recalls his early days in the kitchen at the Ship Inn at South Bank during Expo ’88 after starting his chef apprenticeship at the Holland Park Hotel in 1986.
It topped off an idyllic Queensland childhood filled with memories of meat and veg for dinner, his first outing to Pizza Hut and time with his cousins and siblings at the beach or shooting cans on farms with .22 pistols.
He went to Nudgee Boys College until grade 10, when he was ready to enter the workforce.
“Growing up, our families all had a few houses at Budds Beach on the Nerang River near Surfers, so with the cousins there was 30 kids all playing on the beach,” he said.
When James went to Hong Kong for a friend’s wedding in 1991, he didn’t come home.
Over there, he managed restaurants for nearly two decades and in the early 2000s met his wife Joelle, a teacher.
They were back and forth between Hong Kong and Australia as they had their kids and returned for James to work with his cousins, who had bought the Robins Kitchen retail chain.
Now James and Joelle have been married for about 20 years, are well and truly settled at Cedar Grove with kids Maya, 19, Jack, 16, and Annie, 15 and Joelle teaches at Hills International College.
James enjoys entertaining at home when he can and is President of Beaudesert Pistol Club, where he has been involved for about 16 years.
On the 2022 Beaudesert Show weekend, James opened Ned’s Restaurant in Beaudesert.
He now employs about 15 locals and Joelle and the kids help out a lot.
“I really enjoy hospitality – it’s the satisfaction of giving someone an experience where they walk away feeling really good,” he said.
“Being the person who can do that for someone, you feel like you can make a difference and it’s exciting, always changing and no two days are the same.”
In his first year of local business, James is pretty consumed with work, so it’s just as well he loves what he does.
“Happiness is what’s most important, doing something you love and enjoy,” he said.
“It’s also not sweating the small stuff and not worrying about too much you can’t control. I think a lot of people spend a lot of time, especially online, getting worried and worked up about things that really don’t affect them and never will.
“It’s really doing something you want to do, whether it’s a lifestyle choice, a work choice – you can be a schoolteacher, you can work in a restaurant.”