Chef - Andrew Hines

At age 13 or so, what did you want to do when you grew up?

A motor mechanic. But my grades weren't terrific so the options regarding my chosen career of motor mechanic were limited. So I took up being a kitchen hand to finance my cars until an apprenticeship came. That's when I entered the hospitality industry and ended up loving it. I started being a dishwasher and realised that being a chef would be a lot better than dish washing, and I'm terribly glad I did. I discovered my true calling.

What town or city are you from?

Bathurst, NSW.

What were your educational/technical qualifications when you first worked in Antarctica?

Year 10, a commercial cooking apprenticeship and qualification as commercial cook.

What was your work experience before undertaking your position in Antarctica?

I worked for three months at a five star hotel in Sydney and for two years with Contiki Holidays in London, one year of which was on canal boats in the Midlands, and one year working on a tourist boat in Athens in what was really an isolated situation. I also worked as a relief chef in London, so I had worked away from home for extended periods.

Why did you want to go to Antarctica?

For a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, for the adventure of it, a place I'd never been before and sounded like fun. I was due to go back to Contiki when I heard an ad on the radio from the Commonwealth employment service. I rang the Antarctic Division, but I never thought I'd be selected, especially when I heard there were 400 applications.

What is your Antarctic experience?

Winter at Mawson in 1993, and summers at Casey in 1990-91 and Davis 1995-96.

What did you do in Antarctica?

I was a chef, and at Mawson I was also the fire officer.

What skills did you need to do that work?

Well, cheffing skills of course. And the experience of cooking in isolated spots so I knew I could cope in stressful situations alone. Most Antarctic chefs have worked in mines or on oil rigs or cattle stations, or have worked with the armed services.

What did you like most about living and working in Antarctica?

The people you get to know so very well, as well as you know your brother or your sister. And getting up at four a.m. to bake the bread with the radio turned up really loud, watching the icebergs cruise past the window. And the freedom to cook what you want, without any direct supervision.

What was the scariest thing that happened to you?

Responding one morning to a fire alarm in the mess at one a.m., knowing there was a party in progress and some of my close friends could be injured or in danger. It was a false alarm, but in those moments before I reached the mess I felt very scared.

What was the greatest challenge for you?

Not running out of food. We had a very high proportion of construction workers at Mawson when I wintered, and they would have liked steak every night. But we only had enough steak for once or twice a week. So it was a daily task to come up with new and different dishes that would appeal to them (spicy Thai chicken became a bit of a hit). You have to find 50 million ways of cooking chicken and fish so everyone likes it.

What did you miss most about Australia?

My family.

What was the most striking thing you noticed when you returned from Antarctica?

  • Smells - trees and grass mainly.
  • Traffic lights - remembering that the green ones mean you can go and the red ones mean you have to stop.
  • As fire officer at Mawson, I was always waiting for an alarm to sound. When there was a power shortage, this would increase the chances of a fire alarm going off. One of the first nights I was back in Australia, I sprang out of bed, not hearing the power house running, thinking we had a black out…

Do you want to go again?

Yes, but not until my kids have left school. I just couldn't leave them. I'd go back for the people and the work. Sure, it is absolutely breathtaking, but it's the dynamics of people which is so fascinating. Each station is a smorgasbord and lottery of people and each year is different because of that.

What do you think should happen to Antarctica in the future?

It should be a World Park for future generations.

This page was last modified on July 1, 2014.