St Helens is owned and operated by Jess and Brendan Hayes.
Jess and Brendan met in Seattle on Jess’s 25th birthday. They moved back to Brendan’s home state of Victoria after having their son, Ryan.
After working at restaurants and wineries on the Mornington Peninsula and in the Goulburn Valley, the family moved to the Gold Coast to pursue their dream: opening their own restaurant.
The idea for St Helens had been growing for five years or so. Both Jess and Brendan shared a desire to open a restaurant that would introduce another side of American cuisine to the Aussie dining scene.
Jess grew up in the Pacific Northwest region of the US, surrounded by apple orchards, vineyards and hop farms. She knew that being a chef was her calling from the age of 9, and she would regularly take over the kitchen to cook family dinners.
After completing culinary school in Portland, she worked in Seattle for a decade, enjoying the seafood, beer and music scene. Life then took her to Victoria, where she spent time in the kitchens at Port Phillip Estate, Willow Creek Winery and Mitchelton Winery.
Jess’s love of fresh produce started with her Gramma Izzy, who was an avid gardener. Her uncle Ron shared his appetite for Asian cuisine, opening Jess’s eyes to new styles of food. Her biggest culinary influence was her mentor Scott Carsberg, the James Beard award-winning chef. He set the standard for all facets of kitchen life, from food style to staying true to one’s vision.
Like Jess, Brendan spent many hours in the kitchen as a teenager in Melbourne, cooking gourmet family dinners. His passion led to studying hospitality in Melbourne, before taking him further afield.
He worked as the Manager / Chef of a chalet in Austria, and all around North America in California, St. Thomas, Georgia and Boston, Massachusetts. He finally settled in Seattle as the Head Waiter at El Gaucho, a five-star steakhouse. He had to wear a tuxedo, which caught Jess’s eye… and the rest is history.
Back in Australia, Brendan worked as Front of House Manager at The Counting House, in Mornington, and Mitchelton Winery. He also remodelled the family’s Californian Bungalow in the Goulburn Valley.
Brendan is passionate about making sure all the little details come together to create an exceptional experience for guests.