Nicky Riemer
Nicky Riemer

Nicky Riemer

Born:  Brisbane, Queensland


“Any chef should say that they are writing a menu for their own tastes. You have to stay true to yourself.” ~ Nicky Riemer


History:  With an hotelier father, the only thing Nicky knew growing up was the hospitality industry and claims.  Today she’s chef and co-owner of Union Dining that opened in May 2011 to a whirlwind of positive reviews.  Nicky Riemer was nominated for Chef of the Year 2012 in Melbourne’s respected The Age Good Food Guide.

Her career began at Stephanie’s in Hawthorn that eventuated into a head chef role upon opening Richmond Hill Café and Larder with Stephanie Alexander.  Later Nicky underwent a stint at mecca, then opened Mecca Bah with Cath Claringbold where she met friend now Union Dining business partner, Adam Cash.

After that success, Nicky became the only female head chef at Langton’s Restaurant until head hunted as H-One Executive Chef in Hong Kong. Homesick, she returned to Melbourne and launched Trunk as head chef then transitioned into a similar role at Karen Martini’s The Melbourne Wine Room.

Have you always wanted to be a Chef?

I literally grew up living in hotels.  My Dad, as the manager, would have an apartment in them and I didn’t know how to live in a house. The only thing I knew was the hospitality industry.  Being around waiters, chefs and bartenders was the norm.  I cut my chemical engineering degree short upon realizing that I loved food so I left and pushed through the ranks of an apprenticeship. 

How would you define your style?

Going to Italy made me realise that cooking should be about a really simple plate of food, about quality. You have to have skill and technique in the kitchen, but you should never, in my opinion, make that technique more important than the produce.

I think the best way to describe my cooking style is traditional and provincial. I love the traditional techniques and skills of cooking and caring for seasonal ingredients. This is what makes my general approach to cooking provincial, as I like to focus on what ingredients are from Victoria. Here at Union Dining we have become well known for our use of local Victorian ingredients, not just with the food but with our wine and beer!

Your greatest culinary influences?

I had been an apprentice at Stephanie’s restaurant in Hawthorn and then went on to open Richmond Hill Cafe & Larder with her in Richmond.   So I had worked for Stephanie Alexander for about 6 years – some of the best times in my career to date!  She really shows off the skills of women in our industry! 

To be a leader is hard, no matter what the industry or what sex you are but I will say that as a woman in the hospitality industry there have been times when I have felt frustration. I believe strongly in the ability of a woman in a kitchen to be a calm and positive role model. I have learnt that to lead, you need to listen (to others), watch (what is happening around you) and learn (from your mistakes).

Signature Dish:  Baked barramundi with mustard herb crust, parsley puree & balsamic shallots.  It’s been receiving lovely reviews from our diners and has evolved from one of the first dishes I learnt to prepare as an apprentice at Stephanie’s in Hawthorn.  To prepare this dish we give care and attention to the ingredients and enhance their flavours with different cooking techniques. 

What do you love about this industry?

I love what dining out offers people.