The big man is back on the pans. Fenton Keogh puts Ipswich on a plate and talks about returning to a commercial kitchen for the first time since 2015.
Fenton Keogh is in the kitchen at The Ipswich Club and the fire has never burnt brighter.
It’s Thursday afternoon, prep for Friday is well under way and Fenton – when you’re as popular in Ipswich as Elvis, Bono and Madonna you don’t deal in surnames – is back feeding the city he loves.
“Our last service at the old Fenton’s was Mother’s Day 2015,” Fenton said.
“We opened in 2000 and after all those years the time was right to focus on the kids (Jorja, 2 and Jackson, 3) and the family.
“After a break I felt like I had unfinished business in Ipswich. When this opportunity came up I grabbed it with (wife) Lisa’s full support.”
Fenton took over the kitchen at The Ipswich Club in July.
He caters for functions and hosts Friday afternoon tapas at the historic Gray Street venue.
Like many locals he has fond memories of the 68-year-old club.
“When I was at high school at St Eddies I did a work placement here and I absolutely loved it,” Fenton said.
“I kept going and I actually did my apprenticeship here, my whole four years from 1988 to 1992, and Lisa and I got married here in 1998. It’s a very special place.
“People are excited we’re back – Lisa out the front and me in the kitchen – and that’s very encouraging and humbling.
“The key for me is giving people something that they can’t do at home. It’s about doing something a little bit special, doing it right and doing it consistently.”
Fenton found national food fame as the winner of the 2007 reality TV series The Great BBQ Challenge on Foxtel.
Appearances on Today and Sunrise soon followed and three episodes of the cooking show Fenton Fired Up! aired on Lifestyle FOOD in mid-2008.
He’s experienced the highs and lows of the Ipswich food scene and continues to play a part in the evolution of the industry on a local level.
“I’m a hospitality teacher at Bundamba TAFE, I’ve been doing that for three years and it’s something I love,” Fenton, 45, said.
“The only down side is I can’t do lunches at The Ipswich Club because I’m busy working at TAFE, but at the same time I have access to an incredible talent pool and all my staff here come from TAFE.
“I just love food, love cooking and really, it’s all I can do and all I know how to do so I’ve got to keep doing it for my family. That’s what keeps me going every day.”
Fenton fires up our Ipswich on a Plate series in the video at the top of the page, paying tribute to local meat workers and showcasing fantastic produce alongside his famous fatboy chips.