by Scott Sawyer
WATCHING staff earn degrees and proteges cook for the Queen rank among the highlights of 34 years of food service in Mooloolaba for Ric and Fran Outtrim.
After their epic stint in Mooloolaba the pair are setting their sights on retirement, after selling Ric's Gourmet International deli/cafe.
Having started out with Banjo's Steakhouse in 1983 on Brisbane Rd, the pair have operated multiple ventures since then, before settling at the Mooloolaba International building 18 years ago with their popular cafe.
"It's just getting a bit fast for us," Ric said.
Turning 64 this year, Ric said their amazing journey had come to an end, passing the baton onto "lovely people".
He said their plan was to help their daughter establish a juice bar on the Esplanade, and then grab a campervan and relax, with plenty of surfing on the agenda.
"It's been quite a journey," he said, reflecting on the changes they'd seen in Mooloolaba.
"There were some very hard times. We worked very, very hard and had ups and downs through it all."
He said the changing face of the destination had made it tough at times, but their loyal regular customers - which he said would've counted for 90% of their business - had remained an ever-present.
"It's (Mooloolaba) a wonderful, wonderful place," Ric said.
"Our customers are really, really great people.
"They've followed us for 30 years."
He said his wife Fran had been the head cook for those three decades, helping train seniors and juniors.
Some of their staff went on to scale great heights, with two of them going to the UK to cook with Jamie Oliver and Gordon Ramsay, as well as cooking for the Queen, while others have gone on to be established Coast chefs at high-profile venues.
"Seriously it's just a wonderful experience," he said.
He said they'd had people work for them whose kids had then gone on to work for them too.
'Dishies' who went on to earn their university degrees, becoming competent cooks in the process, were also huge sources of pride for the couple.
"It's a wonderful thing to see," he said.
"If you do the right thing and you're honest with people usually you get the same back."
He said the plan was to park up on the beach for a while now, surfing anywhere from Caloundra-Noosa, with Point Cartwright and Double Island Point high on the list of spots they'll head to.
"We're trying to get into retirement," he said.
The business settled today and Fran said they'd had a great send-off with loyal customers yesterday, closing at 2pm and then enjoying some food, wine, champagne and drinks with about 100 of their regulars and friends.
She said they cooked all the food left in the place into nibblies, and said farewell in style.