The West

Stephen Clarke. Picture: Astrid Volzke/The West Australian

Two years ago, chef Stephen Clarke wondered if his restaurant would survive staff shortages.

Today, business at Clarke's of North Beach is booming and its owner attributes much of that success to his achievement at last year's The West Australian Good Food Guide Awards, where he was announced 2012 chef of the year.

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"It has been our biggest year and we have an extra member of staff in the kitchen and an extra member on the floor," Clarke said.

"Looking at the books it's been very consistent, even during winter."

Clarke said the day after the awards were announced he arrived at the two-star restaurant to find that the message bank was full and the phone would not stop ringing.

"It was absolutely flat tack," he said.

Chef Neal Jackson, whose eponymous two-star restaurant took out the inaugural restaurant of the year award, said he was humbled by the experience.

"It was the first time we had had anything like that in WA in terms of a local guide," Jackson said.

"It's an unbiased view for a general public to make informed choices.

"The win gave us a tremendous boost with numbers and the amount of business, but also for myself and the staff."

Greenhouse chef Matt Stone, who was named young chef of the year for 2011 and 2012, said the accolades kept him on his toes.

"There are certainly higher expectations from your customers," Stone said.

Clarke and chef Hadleigh Troy from two-star Restaurant Amuse agreed.

"Any sort of recognition in front of your peers is wonderful, but at the end of the day you have got to come to work the next day and do the same," Troy said.

"If anything, the next day becomes harder – as it should – because you have to live up to your reputation."

Troy, who received the The West Australian Good Food Guide's first chef of the year award, said the guide was very important because it kept WA in line with the rest of the nation in terms of rating restaurants.

Rockpool Bar & Grill general manager David Best said the Good Food Guide was a respected publication in the hospitality industry.

Celebrity chef Neil Perry's two-star establishment won two of the coveted prizes last year: restaurant of the year and wine list of the year. Best said the staff at Rockpool were thrilled to be recognised for their professionalism.

Clarke said he was "over the moon" about the award, especially to be praised for his achievements in front of his peers – particularly chefs he most admires such as Neal Jackson, Chris Taylor and Russell Blaikie.

"I was very humbled and overwhelmed to win – it means the world to me," he said.

"It is the best award I have ever won. I took it back to England at Christmas and it now sits in my mum's china cabinet in my home town of Bedford in Bedfordshire."

The West Australian

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