The Downtime Agenda

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  • Words — Adam Johnson
  • Images — Marnie Hawson

Chefs Darren Robertson, Mark LaBrooy and Andy Allen are famously cool and casual — but like the namesake of their Three Blue Ducks cafes, there’s plenty of vigorous paddling going on beneath the surface. They share with us how they choose to unwind when they’re away from the kitchen.

Three Blue Ducks.

Mark—
How do you unwind?
I really enjoy spearfishing and free diving to unwind. The breathing exercises I do before a deep decent are incredibly relaxing and meditative. Enjoying the ocean and the freedoms of being on a boat are also deeply relaxing – my best sleeps seem to come after a day of diving.

Being a chef and owning 3 restaurants must be pretty stressful, what strategies do you have in place to effectively cope with stress?

I try not to be available for work 24/7. Spending time with the people I love seems to help. The most effective tool for dealing with stress would be communication amongst the partners. When we all speak regularly, the responsibility of owning and operating three restaurants always seems a lot easier to deal with.

Five songs on your downtime playlist?
— River, Leon Bridges
— Tired of being alone, Al Green
— Give up the ghost, Radiohead
— Reckoner, Radiohead
— Everybody loves the sunshine, Roy Airs.

Who is your downtime partner in crime?
Hannah Reid; my partner, best friend, lover, food critic, festival goer, confidant, diving partner, navigator and all time love of my life.

Darren—
Describe for us a typical day.
Get up when Archie (my 6 month old wakes up). Play and try to make Archie laugh for around 30 mins or until he gets bored of me, then head out for early morning coffee with my partner and Archie, who has usually fallen back to sleep at this point. Coffee, cross word, then head into work. My days vary depending on which restaurant I’m at, but you can expect a lot of talking with our amazing staff, suppliers, or my business partners. Otherwise you’ll find us playing around in the kitchen.

I always try to get a swim or surf in somewhere, but to be honest at the moment it doesn’t always happen.

How important is downtime to you?
It’s vital for me. It enables me to be happier and more creative in my work. It isn’t always easy, but you have to force yourself to take time out. If you love what you do, the line between work and play becomes a little blurred. But having the responsibility and amazing things that come with starting a family changes this. Your time out away from the job becomes even more valuable.

Are there consequences for you in not getting enough downtime?
Yep, you go mad!

The reason we love Three Blue Ducks so much is that no matter how packed it is, we still feel relaxed. Why do you think that is?
It’s largely down to the team – we have staff that have been with us for years. We’ve all experienced so much together. I have so much confidence in our crew. We all work hard but we have fun too. When it gets busy and you’re up against it, that’s when the magic happens. We always set out to have a place where people can come and relax, kick back and enjoy decent food and drinks. It doesn’t have to be overcomplicated. Life’s too short.

Andy—
Describe your ideal day off.
My ideal day off would start with some exercise by the water, which usually means a run from Bondi to Bronte. I finish the run off with a dip in the ocean. Being my day off today, I did this, and froze in the 16’c water, so I think it’s time to ditch the swimming.

The rest of the day would include a lot of eating out, and catching up with family and friends.

What is it about running?
As much as I like to keep fit, running for me is more about just getting out and about and enjoying where we live. I’m not out there to break any records or get a twelve pack, but I definitely feel better after a few kilometres.

Best vacation spot for Downtime?
My favourite vacation spots are the places I haven’t been to yet. Depending on what type of mood I’m in, that could be chilling by the beach, or flying into the mayhem of a new foodie destination.

Favourite movie of all time?
‘Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves’ or ‘Point Break’.

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Be sure to check out Three Blue Ducks’ new pop up restaurant ’Bob!’ — at 1/85 Dunning Avenue, Rosebery NSW.