Hele Family History
Owners of the Hunter Valley Resort + Farm
In the intricate tapestry of life, where celebrations, traditions, and identity intertwine, the Helé family's story unfolds as a testament to the profound connection between food and memory. With each bite, every feast, we commemorate not only the sustenance before us but also the moments etched in our hearts. Food becomes a conduit for celebrating our world, our identity, and our shared past. But what happens when the world shifts, when traditions evolve, and when our very identity undergoes transformation? The Helé family's journey encapsulates these nuanced shifts, weaving together a narrative that spans generations, cultures, and continents.
It's a universal truth that the dishes we savor often hold more significance than their ingredients alone. Consider, for instance, the curious phenomenon of an Australian Christmas roast devoured in the scorching heat of a 40-degree summer day. The flavours may resonate, but it's the childhood memories of Christmas cheer, rooted in the Anglo-Saxon heritage of Australia, that make the heavy meal feel like a cherished tradition. Yet change beckons, and while some customs bend to its will, others stand resolute, their significance as profound as ever. It's a complex dance between preservation and adaptation that the Helé family knows intimately.
The inverse is equally captivating—a foreigner's perspective of a region like Scandinavia, renowned for its luxury and international cuisine, suddenly coming to a standstill to indulge in the age-old dishes of dopp i grytan and lutfisk during Christmas. These culinary icons, while unfamiliar to outsiders, resonate deeply with the locals. They embody a symphony of textures, flavors, and rituals passed down through generations—a testament to the way we embrace food not just for its taste, but for the memories it evokes.
KEEPING IT IN THE FAMILY
In the tale of the Helé family, these themes come alive. The story begins in Copenhagen, a city steeped in European elegance and Scandinavian charm. Here, their lineage of hospitality flourished. The great-grandfather, Ernst Weinold, owned the revered Grand Hotel from 1935 to 1970—a time when dining was an art form. The hotel's dining room exuded opulence, and the sumptuousness of the meals was integral to the lavish experience. This era, when people dressed meticulously for dinner, celebrated the interplay between fine dining and ambiance—an art that Ernst perfected.
The legacy was entrusted to Wibrand and Elli Kesby, the grandparents, who continued the tradition. They owned the Hotel Eyde during the turmoil of World War II and later built the iconic Richmond Hotel Copenhagen in the 1950s. Echoing family values, the Richmond Hotel epitomized elegance on an international scale. The Fielding's Travel Guide of 1967 praised its international cuisine and opined, "The Richmond Hotel offers just about the top—international cuisine of the country." Egon Ronnay's guidebook echoed the sentiment, describing the hotel's cooking as "undeniably three-star."
The family's narrative flowed through Julian and Anni Helé, the parents, whose journey transcended borders. After meeting at London's Dorchester Hotel and marrying while working at a hotel in Montego Bay, Jamaica, they landed in Australia in 1964. Their imprint on the Australian hospitality landscape was profound. From the Yachtsman Hotel in Lake Macquarie to The Ascot in Wahroonga and the Sackville Hotel in Balmain, the Bel-Air Hotel in Newcastle, Bonnechere’s Restaurant at Newport, they redefined the culinary scene. Their innovation, however, shone brightest in their reimagining of the classic grill house, paired with a buffet. This transformational concept at the Fox + Hounds at Wahroonga, grounded in their belief in the power of local, high-quality ingredients, resonated deeply with Australians.
CURRENT GENERATION - Philip Hele OAM
Enter Philip Helé, the current torchbearer of the family's legacy. As proprietor of the Hunter Valley Resort, he not only embraced his family's heritage but became a leading ambassador for the Hunter Region, earning the moniker "Mr. Hunter Valley" ensuring the Hunter Valley brand is known as a 'must-do' place to be visited across the world.
Over the past 30 years, he has constantly re invented the offer, Hunter Valley Resort now as "Hunter Farm" - a mix of resort, Adventure Centre with animals, horseriding, segway tours. Education also with Wine + Cooking Schools, also with a collaboration with 4 Pines Brewing bringing the best of craft beer to the region.
In 2014, his contributions were recognized with the Order of Australia Medal (OAM), and in 2022, his Wine Country peers hailed him as a 'Living Legend' of the Hunter Valley—an honour bestowed upon those who influence the trajectory of the region's wine and tourism industry for over three decades.
CATERING FOR THE KING
Wibrand and Elli Kesby were the chosen caterers to King Frederik IX of Denmark and Queen Ingrid for many years. It was their responsibility but also their pleasure to cater for many royal events. When the heir to the Danish throne Her Royal Highness Princess Margrethe married Henri Count de Monpezat on the 10th of June 1967 the Kesby family and the staff at the Richmond hotel were employed to prepare and serve the wedding dinner at Fredensborg Castle. They also catered for the wedding of Princess Anne-Marie when she married King Konstantin II of Greece in 1964, as well as other events for royalty and dignitaries.
TRADITIONS AT WORK
Their journey, marked by a shift from Denmark's grandeur to the Hunter Valley's serene landscapes, encapsulated a delicate balance between honouring tradition and embracing change. The acquisition of the Hunter Resort in 1991 symbolized this transformation—a move from Copenhagen's elegance to the rustic charm of the Australian landscape. The Helé family's culinary evolution reflected this journey, infusing their Danish roots with the essence of their new environment. From classic gravlax to an Australian-infused sugar-cured ocean trout with hints of Asian inspiration, their cuisine became a testament to the fluidity of identity.
Amidst this transformation, the family clung to their Danish heritage. Anni Helé's efforts to keep traditions alive, through the baking of Danish Christmas biscuits, served as a poignant reminder of their roots. They continued to celebrate Christmas on the 24th of December, adhering to Danish tradition, thereby blending their past and present seamlessly.
ROOTS AT HOME
Their story encapsulates a journey that began amidst Copenhagen's European sophistication and ended nestled among the gum trees and Brokenback Ranges of the Hunter Valley—a landscape that merges the elegance of Australian authenticity with the values of Scandinavian heritage. Through this convergence of cultures and traditions, the Helé family embodies the quintessential Australian narrative. It is a celebration of the interplay between evolution and preservation, a testament to how the old and new, when harmoniously blended, give birth to a captivating identity.
In a world defined by the confluence of cultures, the Helé family found their place—a story that resonates with the spirit of Australia, where traditions merge, cultures evolve, and memories are woven into the fabric of identity. Their journey, like a symphony, harmonizes the past and present, crafting an intricate melody that is uniquely theirs.
For more information, please contact Philip Helé OAM
Phone: +61 (02) 4998 7777
Fax: +61 (02) 4998 7787