22 March 2024

Five minutes with Joel Groves, High Jinks

| Claire Sams
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man pouring drinks

After time spent working in Sydney, Joel Groves is coming back to Canberra to manage High Jinks. Photo: Henry Nguyen.

Who are you?

I’m Joel Groves and I’m taking up the position of venue manager at High Jinks [in late March].

What is your venue?

The main thing that we offer is a silly goose time, which means we try not to take ourselves super seriously and make sure our guests are having a fun time – all the while making drinks and service at a very, very high level, but keeping it all relaxed and laid-back.


High Jinx brings ‘rambunctious fun’ to New Acton. Photo: High Jinks.

Describe yourself in three words.

I’d say I’m pretty calm, very hard-working, and perhaps a little obsessive about my hobbies. I really like motorbike riding, callisthenics and reading a whole bunch of books … and using weird ingredients to make cocktails.

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How did you get involved in the hospitality industry?

I did a double degree in IT and criminology.

When I was there, I started off waiting tables for functions at the National Arboretum, which I absolutely loved, but the drink side seemed very interesting. I started working at a couple of pubs and nightclubs and eventually landed in cocktail bars. I still had the aspect of interacting with people, making their day really awesome, and putting a smile on their faces – which I loved from the get-go – as well as the hospitality community. But it was that extra element of making drinks, putting all these weird, cool liqueurs and spirits together, and then finding cool ingredients to use that really tied it all up in a bow for me. I realised it was what I really wanted to do.

How did you get your current job?

Noriel Calub [the owner] called me a little while ago with the offer and we talked about it quite a bit. I had no plans to come back to Canberra – I thought I was going to be in Sydney for at least another year or two. People would ask me if I would come back to Canberra, and one of the things I would say is that if the chance to run High Jinks came up, I would definitely think about it.

After working in this industry for the past eight years, I think it’s time to step up into a more leadership and management role.

Inka restaurant, Bunda Street

Inka’s food is a stand-out in Canberra, Joel says. Photo: Michelle Rowe

What was your most memorable dining experience?

Many years ago, I did the degustation at Pilot and that was up there in terms of the dining experiences I’ve had. Inka is great – their Peruvian-Japanese fusion is pretty unique for Canberra, and I think it’s awesome food.

In Sydney, I recently went to No 92 in Glebe, an upmarket Mexican-style restaurant. Every bite of food was amazing.

What is your favourite or must-use ingredient when cooking?

Onion and garlic are staples in my cooking. I like to try new things all the time, but different curries are a bit of a comfort food for me – whether it be Japanese curries, Thai curries, whatever they are.

What was your dream job as a kid?

I actually wanted to be an architect. But when I was in high school, I really loved computers and was always using computers. My dad was a software engineer, so I really ended up liking them and just went with that.

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What TV show or movie are you watching right now?

I just finished watching an animated series on Netflix called Blue Eye Samurai, which a friend recommended not too long ago. All I can say is that I’m very excited for the next season.

Who are your biggest culinary influences?

I look to chefs a lot. I was very fortunate while living in Sydney to work at a bar that does chef takeovers every week, so I’ve had the chance to talk to chefs from heaps and heaps of different places in Sydney, be it Quay or Rockpool or No 92. They always have cool ingredients from which I can find inspiration.

In my spare time, I read a lot for inspiration. I’m currently reading The Aviary Cocktail Book.

flaming cocktail

Joel says High Jinks offers a “silly goose time” where everything is laid-back and fun – but there are still some great drinks. Photo: High Jinks/Facebook.

What is your approach to food?

If I cook at home, I try to keep it relatively simple – but interesting – because I prepare meals for myself. Stuff that’ll last is always good.

In terms of work, my approach is to use a technique or an ingredient when it’s appropriate. Don’t overcomplicate things because, at the end of the day, we’re serving drinks, and it’s all supposed to be fun.

An easy one to finish – what’s your go-to coffee order?

When I was living in Sydney, it was a cold brew since it’s a lot warmer there. But now I’m coming back Canberra, I’m going to go back to a flat white.

High Jinks is located at 2/15 Edinburgh Avenue, New Acton, and is open Monday to Thursday from 5 pm to 1 am, on Friday and Saturday from 4 pm to 2 am and on Sunday from 6 pm to 12 am.

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