Hoping for the golden egg
By Marie McInerney
Starring in one of Australia’s latest reality TV programs hasn’t been about fame and fortune for Adelaide’s John and Justine Hall, but more about future and family.
Justine is the latest in a swag of former South Australian Catholic students to have done well on national TV shows.
The Cabra College scholar and her husband John have revelled in the challenge of setting up restaurant The Greedy Goose in North Adelaide to compete in Channel Seven’s My Restaurant Rules.
The couple have made it to the show’s final series. They are Australia’s first ‘reality TV family’, with sons Lachlan, 6, and Noah, 3, forming part of the publicity campaign to keep the Halls from losing “The Goose”.
Part of that campaign has involved a vocal Catholic fan club from Lachlan’s primary school – St Bernadette’s at St Mary’s. Justine and her siblings also attended St Bernadette’s from 1979 before moving on to Cabra. And she thinks her Catholic education may have helped her take on the challenges, like the former Adelaide stars of reality TV show Popstars and the first series of My Restaurant Rules.
“It must be the philosophy of the education,” she told The Southern Cross.
“I guess it’s just empowering isn’t it?” she ventures. “I think that’s coupled with having Catholic parents to make you realise you can do whatever you want to do … A lot of Catholics aren’t well off but they try to do their best to help their children … not through money, but through spirit”.
Running their own restaurant in Adelaide was a dream Justine and John fostered after working three years in London, where John was head chef at two restaurants and Justine taught computing and accounting at a Church of England school. On their return to Adelaide last year, Justine’s mother suggested they apply for the My Restaurant Rules  show – although they’d never seen the program. “We never thought we’d get through, but we just kept going to the next stage and the next,” says Justine.
The only downfall has been time missed with her children. Justine has been working gruelling 17-hour days, six days a week, throughout the popular series’ production. Still, it was an intense learning experience, not least when they were roundly criticised by one of the judges for ‘abandoning’ their children to be part of the show.
It’s also been a big insight into the nature of television and celebrity. “I guess I’m a bit of a cynic now I know what goes on,” she says.
The Halls’ strategy to avoid being portrayed selectively and inaccurately was to “try to be as normal as possible” – a strategy very much helped by their boys who started off being very excited about the show but soon settled down.
Part of that has been having Lachlan at St Bernadette’s. “I’m so happy he’s there, it’s really good that he’s going to the school that I went to and that my brother and sisters went to,” Justine says. “It makes you feel more that you’re part of a community and one that doesn’t change.”
Certainly they’ve seen the benefits of that, with school friends, teachers and families dining at the restaurant and the school also backing their bid to win. For principal Frank DeTullio, it was a thrill to watch the Halls progress through the audition stages to be on the show, particularly given Justine had also been a student at St Bernadette’s.
He said the school valued their efforts and he too believed it was more than just coincidence that so many former Catholic students had thrived on reality TV. “I think we encourage our children to dream, to take a risk and to have confidence in their own abilities.”
- The Southern Cross, June 2005