A recipe for bringing people together: How Nick found a second family at Canterbury League Club

From the moment he joined us in 2016, Nick El-Hajje has thrown himself enthusiastically into everything he does. Nick’s first role with us was as an Apprentice Chef. His biggest highlight? Cooking and serving with the Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs!

Fast forward a few years, and Nick’s had the opportunity to explore many parts of our business before finding his niche as a Personal Trainer. Nick’s long-term goal involves combining his passion for food, health and fitness to become a pastry chef – with a nutritious twist!

Seizing opportunities to grow 

When Nick El-Hajje, a huge Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs fan and lifelong foodie, was looking for work, Canterbury League Club seemed the obvious choice. As luck would have it, the date we accepted Nick’s application for an Apprentice Chef position turned out to be his 18th birthday!

“I’ll always be very happy about that. It’s a day I’ll never forget! I had no qualifications when I started, but I had an interest in cooking. I’m like, ‘You know what? This is the perfect place to start my journey.’ And it really was.”

Nick had enrolled in a TAFE chef course just before joining us. And we were happy to back him in completing it because we saw Nick’s potential. Working and studying for long hours was full-on, but Nick knew the club was on his side.  

“Canterbury was extremely supportive. They helped with the tuition fees and signed off on the hours I needed to complete the course. There were some crazy, hectic weeks working and studying, but it was worth it.” 

Once Nick completed his Commis Chef qualification, he worked as a qualified Chef in our Bistro, whipping up schnitties, steaks and souvlaki for our guests. Then, in 2019, Nick applied his hospitality knowledge to a new side of the business, becoming a Food and Beverage Attendant, helping to manage some of our biggest functions.  

“We’d have these functions with so many guests, sometimes at Belmore Sports Ground. I did a fair bit of function work at our Lakemba venue, too, for Anzac Day and other special events. And for a few years, I soaked all that up.” 

Nick then seized the opportunity to follow his fitness passion, moving across to our C-Life Health Club as a Personal Trainer and Gym Attendant. And here, too, he’s had opportunities to upskill. We’ve supported him to complete a boxing course, and he’s trained in administering the gym and supporting our gym clients. 

Nick couldn’t feel more at home coming into the Health Club each day, and his can-do attitude means he’s always looking for new ways to grow. 

“Coming to work just doesn’t feel like work because it’s such a friendly environment! And that’s 100 per cent because of the culture here – we raise everyone up. There’s always room for you to improve here. I’ve just heard that one of our Team Leaders has moved up to Restaurant Manager. When you hear things like that, it makes you realise you have that ability to grow.” 

Where there’s food, there’s community

Born in Western Sydney to Lebanese Australian parents, Nick grew up living and breathing food. In fact, by the time he was 12 years old, Nick was in the kitchen cooking Jamie Oliver recipes alongside dishes from his cultural background.

“As a child, the table would be loaded with big platters of rice, chicken and lamb. Today, I love cooking big quantities of food like that, and the main reason is that it brings people together.” 

At Canterbury League Club, we couldn’t agree more! It’s one of the biggest things we’ve sought to build here – a sense of community, through food and good times. The friendly culture at the club is something Nick has valued enormously while working with us. 

“I came to the club all the time with my family growing up, so it’s always been a place that’s familiar to me. And they just take care of you here. As an employee, you’re not treated like a number. They put you first and give you good support. Honestly, working at the club has been just like working with family. It’s like having a second family!” Nick laughs.

When Nick worked as a Chef, his parents would book in for dinner, and he’d get to cook for them. These were real moments of pride for him. But Nick’s best memories of those days were when the Bulldogs team showed up at the restaurant to lend a hand.

“The boys would run tables, wearing aprons and serving the guests. It was such a good vibe, good times. People used to come to the club just for that. Then they’d realise everything else we’ve got! Every time I go to the club, I have those memories of working with the Bulldogs. They will never fade.”

Create your future with us. Join an inclusive team and help us make memories. Join Canterbury League Club today!