SA Chef of the Year wins prestigious National Women in Business Award

Watervale Hotel Head Chef Nicola Palmer wins big at the Sydney-based awards for not only her ability as a chef, but also for her role in the business.

2022 has been an amazing, whirlwind of a year for Nicola Palmer, Head Chef and General Manager of the Watervale Hotel.

This year, the restaurant has been awarded for its excellence at a myriad of award ceremonies led by the Restaurant and Catering, Hotel, and Tourism Industries. Some awarded titles include Best Restaurant in a SA Country Hotel, Best Outdoor Area in a Country Pub, and even best hotel for environmental and sustainability practices at the National AHA awards.

However, it is the personal recognition that has truly humbled Nicola.

This month, Nicola flew to Sydney having discovered she was a finalist in the National Women in Small Business Awards for the restaurant category. Nicola won and was recognised not only for her ability as a chef, but also for her role in the business.

Nicola’s business card reads ‘Creative Licensee’ for the Watervale Hotel, as she is responsible for the entire visitor sensory experience. Nicola directed the interior design, the exterior design of the award winning beer garden, and the architectural integration of old and new aspects of the venue.

Nicola also managed sub-contractors for the renovation and new build, keeping a close watch on all the trades with the help of her Earth-mover brother, Daniel. Nicola also selected and integrated the systems including BEPOZ, Nowbookit, Little Hotelier and Rezdy into the Watervale Hotel, and learned how to use WordPress and build the website during the COVID break. Is there anything this woman can’t do?!

In August, she was awarded South Australian Chef of the Year at the Restaurant and Catering Awards. Most recently, Nicola was also nominated for ‘Best Emerging Chef’ in Australia at the Eat Easy Awards, rubbing shoulders with some of the very best in the country.

These are all incredible achievements, given that Nicola has only ever worked in two kitchens – her Mother’s Skillogalee Restaurant, and her own Watervale Hotel. Instead of the traditional career path of working up the ranks, Nicola was thrown in the deep end to run her own kitchen, immediately after formally qualifying at Nuriootpa TAFE.

Fast forward to present day and Nicola is now known for her low waste philosophy and ability to bring together authentic, seasonal flavours, using every element of an ingredient – from nose to tail, or root to flower.

This weekend Nicola flies to Brisbane to attend the National Restaurant and Catering Awards whilst husband Warrick flies to Sydney for the Australian Hotel Association awards – both held on Monday 28th November.

Related Article: Watervale Hotel wins big at prestigious industry & tourism awards

The Watervale hotel is located at 37 Main N Road, Watervale. Further information can be found at:

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