Hitting the spot: Glenorchy Cafe manager and chef Richard Wilson. PICTURE: TRACEY ROXBURGH


The GYC’s got a new lease on life.

The Glenorchy Cafe closed about two years ago, and after neighbouring business Bold Peak Lodge shut up shop in August, locals were running out of food options.

So Richard Wilson decided the time was right to unpack his knives and see what he could do with the iconic cafe.

By the age of 18 Wilson, whose father and grandfather established the Kiwi Birdlife Park, underneath Skyline’s gondola in Queenstown, was already a qualified chef, starting out as a dishwasher in Luciano’s, now Farelli’s Trattoria, when he was just 12.

Before long, he graduated to cooking, and was trading school time for work experience.

‘‘I used to be able to run away for two hours and go and cook [at Atlas Beer Cafe] for a couple of periods and then run back to school again,’’ he says.

But cooking soon became more than just a way to avoid hitting the books.

At 15, he won a competition granting him free study through Otago Polytechnic, and from there he was ‘‘good to go’’, heading off to Australia where he ‘‘fell into’’ pastry cheffing.

‘‘I came back home after a few years and got diagnosed with stage four cancer — I got diagnosed twice actually — so then I spent the next three years in hospital.’’

But soon enough he was back on the tools, doing some time in the kitchens at Amisfield and Matakauri Lodge.

He says if his cancer diagnoses changed anything, it’s that he now works more than ever.

‘‘I don’t have time to sit in bed, I’ve already done that for that three years, so yeah, I’m not afraid to bust out a big day.

‘‘It just gives me a new outlook on life and I’ve got a baby on the way and a beautiful wife that I’m about to marry in a month, so it’s all go.’’

Wilson says one of the reasons he wanted to have a crack at the GYC was to give locals another hub to hang out in.

His revamped menu, which changes daily, includes everything from gluten-free to vegan, but he’s kept the overall vibe rustic.

‘‘We didn’t want to change too much… it’s a great site and that back area is just to die for.

‘‘For me, it’s one of the best locations in town … I’m pretty sure it is a historic building, so there fore it can’t really be touched too much.’’

Wilson’s running the GYC on behalf of owners Grant Treleaven and Carrie Whyte but has plans to buy it mid-next year.