What brought you to Byron Bay?
I rolled into town escaping the crazy Melbourne summer heat about 10 years ago in search of the ocean and hungry like-minded folk in food and music.
What inspired you to start the Byron Bay Cooking School?
I have been teaching cooking since 1999, starting out with short courses in Melbourne and rolling out corporate events across town. So it was a natural progression to continue here as I observed a gap in the marketplace for corporate events with a clean eating focus.
What have been the biggest challenges you have faced as a start-up business?
In the late 90s, no one was talking about organic food, and my restaurant peers were jesting that the wellness industry I was helping to create would never gain momentum! Securing brand IP and maintaining nutrition industry standards for accurate health claims is also high on my agenda, as is keeping the integrity for the food as medicine philosophy that I have created worldwide.
What are some of the changes you have witnessed in Byron Bay over the years?
The rise of artisan food producers is paramount, and Byron Bay as a brand is now more sought after and recognised. Life here seems busier now than before, yet you can always escape to Wategos for a weekday swim, surf or walk.
What are some of the best food producers in the region?
Without a doubt the folk at Brookfarm contribute so much to the global macadamia industry, not to mention their latest venture, Brookie’s Gin. The team at 100 Mile Table have brought so much to the regional feast with the various offering including weddings and delicious pop up events around the Shire. The local Farmers’ Markets collectively deliver some of Australia’s best produce every week, while Freckles at Byron Bay Seafood Market is the best independent fishmonger in the county.
Future plans for the Byron Bay Cooking School?
Developing more event formats including Clinical Cuisine showcases and more fun MasterChef style team building events where guests can sharpen their skills and tackle their team mates. The ideation for my second book is slowly coming together too.
What has been the most exciting conference that you have been a part of with Byron Business Events Bureau?
Sample Events recently hosted the Byron Bay Food & Beverage Festival. This included an extraordinary The Mixed Dozen Gala Dinner, featuring 12 chefs and 12 wineries teaming up with guest chef Neil Perry. He joined many of our favourite chefs as a special guest to create an unforgettable evening at Elements of Byron.
Can you share with us a favourite recipe that uses the best produce from the region?
Here’s recipe I designed for the Byron Bay Cookbook – Sample Food Festival that showcases the taste of the region:
Char siew Bangalow pork belly, nectarines, watercress
750 grams Bangalow pork belly, cut into 2 long pieces
1 tablespoon Chinese Shaoxing
1 tablespoon soy sauce
1 tablespoon oyster sauce
1 teaspoon Chinese five-spice powder
¼ teaspoon white pepper, ground
1 tablespoon maple syrup
100 grams brown sugar
4 nectarines, pitted, sliced
1 teaspoon grated ginger
1 cup watercress
1 lime, juice only
1 tablespoon macadamia oil
Pinch Chinese five spice
For the pork, combine marinade in a large bowl. Add pork belly, massage marinade through each piece. Marinate overnight. Preheat oven to 200oC. Place a wire rack over a baking tray and transfer pork belly to wire rack. Reserve marinade. Bake for 20 minutes skin down. Turn skin side up and bake a further 20 minutes until skin is crisp and crackly. Remove from oven, allow to cool slightly. Slice into batons while still warm.
For the salad, combine all ingredients. Add char siew batons. Toss well and serve on individual plates or a large platter. Garnish with herbs and edible flowers.