Nick might be the baby of the Stevenson family, but he’s determined to front a new generation of business leaders who believe Ipswich is on the rise.
The bricks, the tiles, the windows and fireplace of Bakehouse Steakhouse date back to the 1800s. Heritage blends with chic, vibrant décor.
At 31, Nick’s background is in urban design. At Urbis, he played a key role in a number of city-shaping strategies across Australia and South East Asia and major developments including Queens Wharf Brisbane and The Star Casino at the Gold Coast.
But there were two burning passions which convinced him to leave the fast-paced world of inner-city investment strategy behind – to leave the tutelage of one of the best in the business James Tuma in favour of a rather large risk.
Those passions: his love for his family, and his deeply-entrenched connections to Ipswich.
His older brothers already have well-known businesses.
Chris heads up Collins Wholesale Meats which runs out of Lowood and has been supplying quality beef, pork and lamb to the domestic and export markets for more than 25 years.
Other brother Alastair runs Gilly’s Smallgoods which boasts meats from the “highest quality suppliers and freshest ingredients of which are sourced locally from small, family producers just like us.”
Add in a few pig farms including their recent investment in Byron Bay Pork, and the paddock to plate experience starts to make a hell of a lot more sense.
“We’ve always wanted to do something in Ipswich, and we wanted to do something from scratch; a passion project, if you like,” Nick says.
“We’ve got a good knowledge of food. Dad was in the meat industry for nearly 50 years, and my brothers also have a deep understanding of quality goods. With our other businesses, the restaurant became part of the cycle which will now extend to the farm.”
In its most recent iteration, Nick was a member of the consulting team which drove some of the new directions of the Ipswich City Mall recevelopment.
“It’s on the right track. It has set a vision and outcome to become a lifestyle hub that mixes entertainment, retail and leisure with business. This is exactly what every city needs in its heart,” Nick said.
He still holds that belief, and is excited by what will transpire.
Expansion on the menu
In the meantime, he wants Bakehouse Steakhouse to be a catalyst for growth in the Ipswich Central area.
“We’ve got to train people that they can break habits, to walk across the bridge from the top of town to enjoy the quality food and prices we’ve got to offer,” he said, acknowledging the ebbs and flows of a fledgling business.
Over the next three months, Nick wants to see his courtyard become a Friday gathering point for business people, their friends and families.
“We’ll be launching a courtyard menu especially for Friday afternoons, I’m keen to do Bakehouse buns as a lunch takeaway through the week, and we’ll be putting on something special for Sunday lunch,” he says.
Already, T-bone Tuesday is popular, Wagyu Wednesday offers up a different dish every month, and the venue is becoming better known as an event destination on weekends.
The Stevenson family is well known in Ipswich. Nick’s mother has worked with Peter McMahon for 30 years and taught “half of Ipswich” how to swim.
Nick’s grandfather often drank XXXX Gold at the Commercial Hotel, so much so that he has “Clarrie’s Corner” named after him.
Before Bakehouse Steakhouse, Nick hadn’t worked a day in a restaurant. But he’s got good people around him. Aside from his brothers, former owner of Two Small Rooms on Brisbane’s southside Josh Lawson is the chef.
“And we’ve built a really good team culture. We didn’t hire on experience, we hired on personality and backed ourselves in to develop the skills required to offer people good service,” Nick says.
He spends much of his time eating out in the region’s best restaurants, to continue to pick up key learnings from the best in order to bring them back to his home town.
The right vibe
“I’ve learned that it’s about creating a vibe first. This comes down to th echarisma of staff, the music, the uniforms and every other little detail that contributes to a person’s experience. We want this place to be high energy and a heap of fun,” he says.
“Recently, we had some people celebrate their 50th wedding anniversary here. They met here. They’re the type of stories that inspire me.”
Nick has been married for two years to Ashley who works in retail in Brisbane.
So what’s next for the Stevenson brothers? Pig farming will be front and centre of business expansion, then in the next 3-5 years Nick is confident the Bakehouse Steakhouse name will pop up in another destination, perhaps Brisbane.
There might even be another restaurant with a different theme, also in Ipswich.
“Ipswich is our home,” he says. “And we’re invested in the city, so wouldn’t it be great to create yet another great brand which was born here?”