Christopher Doutre


This is a tribute to a very dear friend who left us not so long ago.

He was a fellow Tea Planter and had many other friends in different parts of the World- a very remarkable man who accomplished much in his life. He had a winning personality and was liked and respected by all who met him. His working life was centred mainly in India, Papua New Guinea and Australia and although he occasionally encountered setbacks in his endeavours, his resilience and his great work ethic always resolved them.

Fellow Tea Planter, Great Bloke, Accomplisher of many skills - Copra, Cocoa administration: Inception. Application and Administration of the PNG Government Plantation Acquisition Scheme, National Plantation Management Agency (NPMA) and his determination and success with the first Indian Restaurants in Brisbane with Tandoori cuisine. And finally the achievement of his ultimate goal, the establishment of ‘Passage Foods’ in conjunction with Flavour Makers which one of the largest privately owned Food Processors in Australia.

That is Chris Doutre.



                                                    Christopher  Meredith  Doutre


Chris was born in Lucknow in 1946

His Father, Meredith Doutre was the first Indian Principal of La Martiniere College in Lucknow and Chris, who had been a pupil there, must have acted upon the Founder of the College Major General Claude Martin’s Motto:- “Labore et Constanta” -Work and Constancy because that was his way too.



                                                     La Martiniere College 1858

Chris’s Dad after his tenure at La Martiniere retired and a short time later brought his skills  and experience to Cambrian Hall, a college in Dehra Dun, where he was appointed as Principal.  He died at his desk while conducting an impromptu staff meeting, from a massive heart attack and is buried in the Dehra Dun Christian cemetery.

Chris at this time was living in PNG, and after settling Meredith’s affairs Aileen, Chris’s mother, sister Penny and family followed Chris to Australia; they moved to Darwin in the Northern Territory. They had a house there but were luckily visiting friends in India when it was destroyed by Cyclone Tracy that struck on the 24th to 26th December 1974. Sustained winds of 110 mph and gusts of 125mph caused widespread damage and 71 people lost their lives.


                                                   Chris with his Parents in Lucknow


Chris told me many stories of life in the College and the pranks that they used to get up to and despite being the Principal’s son he was accepted by the other students not as the privileged son but simply as another pupil and friend. A former student from earlier times that I met in Cambridge some years back - Stephen Brookes, author of ‘Through the Jungle of Death’ walked out of Burma as a 10 year old with his family in 1942. He was a pupil at La Martiniere and he too fondly remembered his time when Chris’s father was Principal in 1951 and of the great camaraderie of all the boys of different ethnic backgrounds and religions. He said Schoolboy Pranks like Chris had told me were the same in his day. An Elite and Happy College.

Chris joined Tea with the Andrew Yule Company and travelled on the Jamair DC3 from Calcutta. He was met on his arrival at Telepara Airfield  by Martin Holl and Narendra Pal  in 1964 - and so started his career in Tea! (Martin, after tea, retired to Melbourne and often visited Chris and Jane who lived nearby).



                                                                          Ready for his ‘Tea’ interview in Calcutta


Chris joined the Yule’s Banarhat Tea Company at Karballa TE. The Manager there was George Torwood and the Assistant Narendra Pal. Chris quickly settled in as a fledgling Tea Planter and during his years there he made many friends one of whom, also an Assistant with Yules, became a firm friend. That was Hermann Muller and Chris would later meet up with him in Australia.

Chris was a keen sportsman and played in many of the Soccer and Rugby Tournaments and below is the photo of the Dooars Rugby team that played the CFC on the Maidan in September 1963

This photo was first posted on the old Koi-Hai site about 10 years ago by Doug Armstrong and I had it copied, framed and gave it to Chris on one of his Birthdays - his wife Jane told me that he treasured it and had it displayed on his Office wall.



           Back: Chris Doutre -Simon Palmer-Simon Boss-Ian Irvine-Bob Phillip-Simon Wood-Bob Smith-Ron Weir

           Kneeling:         Saiyad Khalid-Doug Armstrong-Clive Roberson-unknown-Sandy Pearson


Chris was transferred later to Khowang Tea Estate in Assam where he again met up with Hermann-Peter Rex had a dual role as the Superintendent of the Company as well as being Manager of Khowang.   Like many who were in Tea in the late 1960’s, when changes were happening, Chris thought that there might be a longer term future for him in Australia where his good friend Hermann had gone. He was living in a town in NSW called Wollongong and previously had a job in PNG so Chris thought he would visit to find out how the land lay!   I recollect travel outside India in the 60’s had the Foreign Currency allowance when leaving at only USD ten dollars or so - that would just about cover a snack and soft drink in Singapore. The small additional amount of money in his shoe got him to Sydney’s City Centre and he was left with just 10 cents in his pocket!

Jane told me of his predicament where he sat on a bench at the train station in St Martin’s place, a forlorn figure that at once reminded me of Forrest Gump!

Forrest had plenty of money but didn’t have a destination address - Chris knew where he had to go but had no money to get there.

Jane also told me that the indomitable Chris patiently sat on that bench and with a gentle smile that conveyed his lost look, finally, one passer by stopped and after an enquiry and short conversation was moved by Chris’s plight.  He gave him the Ten Dollars needed to get to Wollongong to meet Hermann and Chris was soon on his way. (Chris paid back the Good Samaritan and extended an invitation for him to lunch at one of the Restaurants he later established in Brisbane!)

The meeting with Hermann set Chris on the path to Papua New Guinea. He applied to W R Carpenter Estates, a large Company that had interests there in Copra, Cocoa and Tea in the various regional centres. Chris went to Kar Kar Island and was in charge of their Dessicated Coconut Factory.

(See Chris Young’s attachment)

I got to know Chris really well after he had left Carpenters and joined Bali Corporation in Rabaul where he became the General Manager. Hermann had worked for a time with Bali before settling permanently in Australia and he had no doubt told him about his time there and the other prospects in PNG. The Bali Corporation was owned by John Dowling, one of the early Australians who went to PNG. His right hand man and General Manager of the Plantations in charge of the Plantations was Jack Dunbar-Reid, another of the early Australians, a thoroughly nice and extremely capable gentleman. He really liked Chris and his work ethic and was mentor to him so that he could take on the General Manager’s position.

Chris by this time had married Jenny, who was the niece of Jack Emanuel, the District Commissioner of the East New Britain Province. There was much unrest in the Province at this time and the Mataungan Association was the most militant group. Much has been written about the incident where Jack Emanuel, while trying to quell a disturbance, was waylaid by some members of the Association and murdered. A sad and great loss to his family and the Province.

Chris and Jenny had one little girl, Caroline born in 1974 - the same year as our second daughter, Natasha, born in Mount Hagen in the Western Highlands. Myself and my wife Joan and Natasha briefly met Chris and family in the Moresby Airport Hotel when we all were going/returning from Leave but all I can recollect is two little babies playing on the carpet! A little boy Shaun was the next member of their family.

Chris was not the only one who sought greener tea fields after India and the choices for many were the Tea Countries of Africa: Malawi, Kenya, Uganda, Mozambique or the Western Highlands of Papua New Guinea. I looked and visited some of them but friends said PNG was the best bet and could provide a stepping stone to Australia later as it was a Protected Territory of theirs. David Copland and David Billingham gave a thumbs up reference for me and I joined Warrawau without even an interview!

Mt Hagen Tea Growers was owned by Ivor Manton, a man who had owned large Department Stores in Melbourne.  When he gave parties at his house he was a great host and one of the first things that happened was a 40oz Single Malt was placed on your side table with a bucket of Ice and a Water Jug!

The garden had been planted out by Michael Grant-Cook, a third generation Ceylon Tea Planter who was ably assisted by Archie Bell-then along came Walter Johnson, Mike Thomas, David Copland, David Billingham – and me.

 Down the valley at Bunum Wo and Kindeng  Bruce Blakely, Bill Brown, Sandy Fraser, the Aimsley brothers, Willie Campbell, Terry Kemble, Mike Griffith, Doug Armstrong, Pat Casely, John McNicol, Rex Naug, Andy McArthur, Alan Richardson, Angus McFarlane, Victor White Henry Burnett- Ex Planters all and many others that are I’ve forgotten to mention., An old friend of Chris and myself, Iqbal Singh, later joined us at Warrawau-probably the first ‘Pugree Wallah’ to be in the Highlands!! Even earlier ex India planters were Davey Lamont, Jock McKean, Alan Muddle, David Bell were some.

Many Indian friends came a few years later.

With the arrival of a new General Manager from a large Victorian Fruit canning concern the future of Warrawau became uncertain and luckily for me Chris paid a visit and offered me a job with Bali Corporation!



Chris told me that I would take over Londolovit Plantation from a young Australian, Paul Jamison, who was returning to Australia. He said Paul would ‘show me the ropes’ at Londolovit  before he left. Not knowing what to expect I sent my wife Joan and our two girls  back to Shillong as I anticipated it might take a little time to settle in. So, after spending a few short pleasant days with Chris I was soon a passenger in a little twin engine Beechcraft Baron and landed on a grass airstrip at Londolovit.

Paul left after 4 days having shown me the “Ropes”: how Cocoa and Copra was harvested-how it was processed-stored-the two Aluminium boats, the big one for ferrying to the “Yampi Lass” for onward shipment to Rabaul - the Labour-records to be kept-the Trade Store-many other instructions and probably the 3 most important-trimming the wicks of the house Kerosene Fridge and Freezer units-operation and tuning of the Crammond VHF radio-First Aid including sharpening the thick Hypodermic needles on an Oil Stone plus the unorthodox way to sanitize them!!

I spoke to Chris almost every day but the Crammond VHF Radio sometimes had a mind of it’s own and in one instance when I was running short of food and made a call to Chris about this.

After exchanging niceties with Chris I told him the only food I had left were hard Navy Biscuits from the Trade Store……. And the conversation went thus…..


Me:    Chris I have no food could you send a carton of Baked Beans and a carton of Meat Pies

Chris:   Don’t get you -say again.

Me:      Some Meat Pies and Baked Beans- have no food.

Chris:   Say again.

I try to better tune the radio and the little pointer is still erratic.

Me:   Baked Beans, Meat Pies

Chris:  What? Not getting you say again

After a few more unsuccessful attempts I’m about to give up when a big Booming, Aussie voice comes from Konos, another Plantation about a hundred miles away…….

“The poor stavin’ bastid wants Mite Poyz n’ Biked Bayns”

  Chris: Well why didn’t he say so!


Chris and Jack Reid visited a couple of times and Joan and Chris got to work in the kitchen to prepare Dinner. Their combined skills prepared a treat that would have been relished by many. But..

Throughout the night we could hear poor Jack Reid heading down the passageway and later the flushing toilet! 

My Radio tuning skills soon became good and it was easy to speak to Chris almost every weekday and our family often had a weekend in the main town of Rabaul as our eldest daughter was attending a pre school and we met up with Chris on these visits.  

Chris’s and his wife, Jenny moved from Rabaul to Port Moresby where Chris  in conjunction with the Government set up the National Plantation Management Agency (NPMA). This Agency was instrumental purchasing and taking over expatriate owned Plantations and Chris worked closely with the PNG Development Bank. A Management service was provided and ongoing support given to the local owners. Chris had a team of mainly ex India Tea Planters: Doug Armstrong, Rex Naug, Bob Clayton, Alan Grant, John Wilkinson and others.

Six months after the birth of their second child Shaun, Jenny was diagnosed with secondary melanoma cancer and they decided that she needed to be treated in Australia. Chris saw her settled and then returned briefly to settle his affairs and hand over the management reins to Doug Armstrong. I saw him before he left and he too didn’t look at all well. Sadly, Jenny didn’t win her battle and Chris decided he would stay in Australia, follow his dream of starting a restaurant, which he did in Brisbane. 

Chris had a few difficult years in Australia and after the loss of his wife Jenny he was left with two young children to raise and I imagine that life would not have been easy but unexpected happiness came his way - he met Jane and not long after he proposed to her. As the saying goes, behind every great man there’s a great woman. This was to be and Jane was there through thick and thin when Chris had his ups and downs and together they overcame difficulties - and they had a few.



                                                 A happy Jane and Chris on Holiday


Thus began the final Chapters where Chris pursued his dreams - all were related to Family, Restaurants, Sauces, Herbs and Spices, Aromas, Flavours and Tastes, and India.




                                              The MASTER CHEF  at  work


‘Scherhazade’ and ‘Chutney Mary’ were the two magnificent Indian Restaurants that Chris opened in Brisbane – I believe that they were the first true Indian Restaurants opened in that City that had true Tandoor Clay ovens and with Chris’s skills many new and exciting India treats were in store.  The Scherhazade Restaurant opening at Toowong caused quite a stir in Brisbane as an Elephant bedecked with Finery and Flowers made it’s way through the Brisbane streets - no, Chris was not the Mahout but he led the procession dressed in sequined tunic, bejewelled turban, gold threaded brocade jacket - picture perfect - to cut the ribbon  at Scherhazade’s gilded doors! In addition to both Restaurants he also opened a ‘Koala Café’ in Brisbane’s Edward Street which was popular for smaller meals. His dream had now begun.

I wish I had one of Chris’s Menus – they wonderful old Raj and colonial names like “Lord Kitchener’s Paneer” and other like titles.

The Restaurants were acknowledged by all the patrons and Food Critics as being the best in Brisbane and perhaps Australia. Celebrities, visiting Indian Cricket Team members ,tennis stars like Martina Navratilova friends from Papua New Guinea and India all tucked into great meals at either of the Restaurants.




                          One of the number of American Express Awards presented.


                                 Brisbane Radio Personality and Comedian facetiously

                                 gives Indian Ware to Chris after Prestigious Awards!













And another Lucknow boy, like Chris turned up with his support crew when they visited Brisbane!      The two Lucknow Boys: Chris Doutre and Cliff Richard. Cliff brought the Shadows on the next visit



Chutney Mary Restaurant was followed up by a range of Chutney Mary Simmer Sauces crafted by Chris and they were widely accepted in the major Supermarkets in Australia and Overseas. But not everyone was pleased! The late George Clayton ex Gillander’s planter from the Nagrakata area took Chris to task over the name which he thought was derogatory. Conversely, Mary Halder nee Leck and daughter of J W Leck, planter at Koomtai TE in the mid 40’s who was married to an Assamese lady, told George that she had been greatly honoured by naming his Restaurant after her!!



When Chris returned to Australia he bought the established Scherhazade Restaurant and when he talked about his ideas for expanding the restaurant and opening more a friend he had known in Rabaul agreed to join him in the venture. In hindsight, Chris would see that the 1980’s were an extremely onerous time to do business. But Chris and Jane nevertheless got their plans off the ground in fine style and established what they both loved. The day to day running of restaurants was not easy and over time fearing their own fatigue and burnout under the conditions reluctantly decided it was time to consider their future away from the Restaurant business.

Jane had a full time position in Administration with Queensland University of Technology in Brisbane and Chris concentrated on his simmer sauces. I met Chris and Jane fairly often socially and at other times at Trade Shows when we both showcased our different products me with Tea and Chris with the Sauces and prepared Indian Meals. One of his Foods Preparation Facilities was at Boonah in shared premises. These times were somewhat of a struggle in trying to grow the business but he and Jane were happy and their optimism was undimmed. David Billingham and I often visited them when they lived in Sunnybank in Brisbane and some of the highlights of the visits were when we went to New Year’s Anglo Indian get togethers! Chris was very proud of his Anglo Indian Heritage and David and I knew this. With Jane’s tacit participation we would sometimes outrageously pull Chris’s leg-if, for example, during a normal conversation about an event and should a famous person’s name be mentioned, like Churchill, one of us would tell Chris that he was an Anglo Indian-for a millisecond Chris would be taken in and then with his slow smile shake his head and roll his eyes!! It still brings a smile from Jane and from me when we mention the minor front Door repairs required at Sunnybank when it was proposed that a mutual planter friend of doubtful carpentry skills could carry them out using a flattened Dalda Tin!!  The large back garden at this home they shared with Jane’s Mum was also something that would bring a smile. Chris discussed plans up down and sideways every time we visited him – trees here, koi pools there, flower beds , paved paths – a veritable Garden of Eden in the making!

When Chris and Jane and my little friend, their son, Jordan moved to Melbourne, the garden and the solitary tree remained  untouched! I kept in touch with Chris and Jane after they moved to Melbourne and caught up with them when they visited Queensland.

On the Food, Simmer Sauce and Spices front Chris and Jane were very busy and one of the many overseas trips was a 4-month working visit to a Food Factory in Karad southwest of Pune. Chris was there to help prepare some food items that had had ingredients that were extremely hard to source in Australia and Jane was there to support him.

Jane had many stories about the trip there and of the time they spent in the Hotel not far from the Food Factory. She told me of just a couple of them: Toast and Nimbu Pani.

One breakfast Chris wanted 8 pieces of toast, to which Jane said why don’t you just order three serves as each serve is three pieces but Chris was adamant that he only wanted to share eight pieces of toast not the nine that came with three servings of toast. He explained clearly what he required in English and reinforced then in Hindi. After much nodding in agreement and Chris satisfied that all was understood the toast arrived... three pieces in eight neat stacks – a total of twenty-four pieces of toast.



Jane took a photo of the 24 pieces of Toast as proof!!



Chris got his own back when Jane decided that she wanted a Nimbu Pani but with out Sugar or Salt, just the Nimbu (Lime juice) and Pani (or in this case Soda water). After much explaining and confirmation that no she did not want the traditional additives of either chini (sugar) or nimik (salt) and it should be noted with very little language help from Chris but for his quiet chuckling, Jane finally succumbed to the questioning and Jane got her Nimbu Pani -  sweetened!! As it should traditionally be!

With his quiet manner, patience and expertise, Chris won many friends in the Factory in India and they learnt a lot from him. They were so appreciative the owners are building a specialised facility and thus immortalising Chris by naming and dedicating it to him.  


Much more could be written but I will close by recounting something that Chris said to me many, many years ago. I was preparing some rice in a saucepan and started to rinse it, which I usually did a number of times, and Chris said “There’s no need to rinse the rice” Since then, every time I make rice in a saucepan (which after cooking goes into a collander) I  not only  heed what he said but I also give a little smile and a silent thank you. Chris, like the advice,you will always be remembered.   Thanks Chris for being a good friend.

                                                Thanks Chris





Christopher Doutre - obituary