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Byron Shire
May 22, 2024

Lismore’s back alleys come alive with art and food

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Indigenous chef Clayton Donovan prepares a kangaroo dish. (Darren Coyne)
Indigenous chef Clayton Donovan prepares a kangaroo dish. (Darren Coyne)

Darren Coyne

Kangaroos and crocodiles were spotted in Lismore’s Back Alley Gallery last night but there was no cause for alarm …  they were being served up on plates.

Celebrity Indigenous chef Clayton Donovan and Bundjalung artist Digby Moran were the star attractions at an evening of food and art, hosted by the Lismore Business Panel.

Lismore mayor Jenny Dowell gave a welcome, during which she pointed out how the alleys used to be an ‘ugly dark side of Lismore’ but had been transformed with world class street art.

She also said that under the bricks, cement and asphalt, the land remained the home of Aboriginal people.

Both the artist and chef constantly referred to that connection with their culture, during talks with MC Pam Brook, of Brookfarm.

Mrs Brook told how Clayton Donovan had walked through the rainforest with her husband at their property and had been able to identify scores of plants that were edible.

Mr Donovan, who stars in the Wild Kitchen television show on the ABC, kept his audience amused with his ‘World According to Clayton’ anecdotes such as working with Hong Kong chefs who taught him French-style cooking.

Specialising in creating dishes influenced by his Indigenous heritage, but also his passion for Asian cuisines, Mr Donovan served up dishes featuring crocodiles and kangaroo, snapper from Byron Bay, as well as various native plants and spices.

He described his food as ‘reconciliation on a plate’.

‘That’s because everyone shuts up when there’s food in front of them,’ he quipped.

Following Mr Donovan, Mr Moran spoke of his early life growing up at Cabbage Tree Island near Ballina, watching his grandfather creating patterns on boomerangs and sticks with fire.

It was not until he ‘reinvented himself’ at 42, after early years of drinking and fighting in Jimmy Sharman’s boxing troupe, that he began to take his art seriously.

“I did a TAFE course but it was too European for me so I gave it away and decided to do my own stuff,’ he said.

‘Art has taken me all around the world.’

He also said he and Clayton Donovan were related, but had not seen each other for many years.

They had both jumped at the chance to appear together for last night’s event, and Mr Donovan will also be appearing at the Taste festival in Bangalow on Saturday.

All proceeds from the evening go to Namitjera House, a northern rivers drug and alcohol service started by Aboriginal people for Aboriginal people 35 years ago.


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