By Lachlan Peter
The question of ‘what do you want to be when you grow up?’ is something we have all heard at some stage in our lives, and we spend our time working towards the goal of our ‘dream job’. On average, people tend to change careers up to ten times in a lifetime, but that number is just a drop in the ocean for 52-year-old Bronte Peter who has worked a staggering 58 jobs in his lifetime—and counting.
Growing up was an adventure for Bronte, being the youngest of three children with ten years between him and his sister, Jenny, and thirteen years between him and his eldest brother, Steven. Bronte had to amuse himself, as his siblings were too old to play with and his parents were constantly working, owning the busy historic pub in the small coastal town of Port Broughton.
The Broughton Hotel was a popular spot with tourists and was also the birth place of Bronte’s first job. ‘I used to walk down to the local jetty when I was about five and catch crabs in a net I got for my birthday,’ said Bronte. ‘I’d cook up the crabs and sell them in the front bar to the tourists and locals for 20c each. My dad used to hate it because they’d (the customers) make a huge mess with the crab shells and he’d have to clean it up. He told me later on that most of the time he’d give them their money back because the crabs were usually undersized and undercooked.’
With older siblings influencing Bronte, he found that he was a lot more mature than most kids his age and developed a keen interest in making money. He told a story about a small hole that was in the roof of the front bar of the hotel. ‘The locals used to try and trick me by flipping pennies into the air and making them disappear; it was a pretty good trick until I realised there was a hole in the ceiling and I climbed onto the roof and pocketed all their pennies.’
School wasn’t a strong point for Bronte and it was no surprise to his parents when he decided to drop out after Year 11; the only condition was that he needed to have a job. ‘I was working on and off as Broughton’s postie at the time. It was a pretty laid-back job and I liked doing it, so when I was asked to take over full time, I didn’t have to think too hard about it. The trouble was that my dad had teed up an apprenticeship with the local butcher who used to come into the pub.’
Bronte turned down the offer to become a postman and started his apprenticeship at the butcher’s. ‘I hated every minute of it. It was the worst four years of my life!’ stated Bronte with a sense of anger and hatred in his voice. ‘I learnt everything there was to know in about six months and then just did it over and over for the next three and a half years. I couldn’t wait to get out of there.’
After completing his apprenticeship, Bronte soon realised that the small town he grew up in offered very little opportunity for career development and job prospects. ‘Broughton is surrounded by farm lands; if you weren’t a farmer, you were nothing. All of the kids at my school lived on farms and they all knew from a young age that they were going to take over the family farm when they grew up. That’s just how it was. I didn’t have that; my parents owned a pub. I knew I had to move closer to Adelaide if I wanted to do something other than work in a pub or cut up dead animals for the rest of my life.’
At just 19-years-old, Bronte made the move to ‘The Big Smoke’, but instead of finding a job, he found love, as well as a new found passion for travelling. He and his new partner Alison up and left Adelaide with no plans, no jobs and very little money, with the sole objective of seeing the world. ‘I took any job that was going,’ said Bronte. ‘I was a bartender in Darwin, a security guard at a RAAF (Royal Australian Air Force) Base, a highway worker, a truck driver in the desert, a labourer in Egypt and Greece, a cook in Amsterdam, and I even got some work as an extra in the movie Evil Angels alongside Meryl Streep.’
Bronte and Alison returned back to Adelaide, married and with a baby on the way. ‘We were flat broke when we eventually came home and it started to sink in that we had no savings, no jobs and we were about to start a family,’ Bronte said unhappily. ‘I resorted back to working in a pub and in a butcher’s shop, exactly what I left Port Broughton to avoid.’
Although Bronte admits that this was a low point in his life, he believes that without this struggle, his life may have panned out very differently. ‘I became the head chef at the pub and this developed my love for cooking and preparing food. I finally had a bit of direction with where I wanted to go with my career and started throwing some ideas around with Alison about owning our own restaurant.’
Money was still a big factor for Bronte and Alison and was holding them back from achieving their goals. By this stage Alison was pregnant with their second child and Bronte made the tough decision of leaving his family to work as a chef in the mines to earn the money his family desperately needed. ‘It was one of the hardest things I’ve ever had to do, leaving my family for weeks at a time. But I had to do it; we just weren’t earning enough money.’
While Bronte was working away, he was gathering qualifications and certificates in countless areas surrounding food and food preparation. ‘I would turn up to these courses and by the end of the day I was up the front teaching it. I had more experience than anyone there, including the teacher.’
Bronte’s stint in the mines lasted just over a year and in that time he had earned enough money to buy a small café-come-restaurant in the Adelaide hills that he and Alison still run as a team. Statistically, small businesses fail within the first three years of opening. ‘Kelsey Cottage’ has had its doors open for 11 years and counting.
‘I don’t regret anything I have done in my life; it has taken me to where I am today. I have always said that there is no point in doing something if you don’t enjoy it and that’s something that I have told my kids their whole life. It took me 58 jobs to find what I enjoyed doing but I feel there might be a few more before I retire. I sometimes wonder what my life would have been like if I had taken that job as a postman.’