Humans of Willoughby: Mathew ChanJune 28, 2020
Mathew’s Peacock Gardens has recently survived lockdown and a kitchen fire, but now the family favourite Chinese restaurant has opened its doors again. Here’s owner Mathew Chan’s story in his own words…
“In 1975 I took over the lease of a local shop and Mathew’s Peacock Gardens was born. It looked like a good opportunity, there weren’t as many restaurants in Crows Nest in those days. Now 44 years later, we are still here.
I’m not sure if I’m mad or crazy after running a restaurant for more than 40 years. When I come to work every day, I still enjoy it. There’s a reason it’s called the hospitality industry – it’s about being hospitable. I like to make people feel good, to feel happy at the end of the meal and give them a reason for coming back again. I think running a restaurant is in my DNA.
We have customers who have been coming to us from the very beginning and I love seeing them return – with their children and now their grandchildren. We also have many items on the menu that were there from the beginning – the crispy duck pancakes, mustard prawns, and we even introduced sang choy bow to Australia. Our priorities have always been the food, the presentation and the service and I think that’s why we’re still going strong nearly five decades later.
Over the years in Crows Nest I’ve seen a lot! We’re pretty famous for the long lunches – people from the surrounding media channels staying well into the evening after starting at midday. Times have changed a bit but the long lunches still happen, people still need to celebrate.
I’ve never had the urge to open another restaurant. I’m quite old school, I like to be hands on and get to know all my customers and you can’t do that if you have an empire of restaurants. I still work the floor everyday but I must admit that I don’t do the double shifts anymore. In 1993 I suffered a stroke but I decided to continue working and I’m no closer to retirement.
The question of retirement? I thought it would come to me naturally one day but you really need to plan for retirement for a couple of years, start to wind down. And the problem is I’m still as committed to the restaurant as ever.
I have wonderful staff and managers in place who have been with me for years but they are heading into their 60s and thinking about retirement themselves! None of my children are interested in taking over the restaurant, I think they all saw what a tough industry it is. So, in the meantime I’ll keep going, I just can’t see a time when I don’t want to do this anymore.”
MATHEW CHAN, Managing Director, Mathew’s Peacock Gardens
Peacock Gardens Restaurant
100 Alexander Street Crows Nest
(02) 9439 8786