It was all about the breaking of bread and beasts on Saturday night at Harvest in Newrybar, where 65 guests came together for the first in its Collective Chef Series: On the Pass. The events are a chance for executive chef Brett Cameron to collaborate with the culinary luminaries who share his ethos for produce-driven, nose-to-tail cooking and celebrating old-world techniques. First up was Cameron’s former boss, TV celebrity Colin Fassnidge of Sydney’s Four in Hand and 4Fourteen restaurants, whose mischievous sense of humour and spontaneous cooking style set the tone for a jolly and relaxed evening of fun and feasting.
‘This is Harvest throwing a party,’ said co-owner Tristan Grier, who was delighted that Fassnidge had attracted a sprinkling of new faces among the regulars. ‘It’s about breaking the monotony you get sometimes with restaurant style [dining]. To start off with Colin and Brett, it’s family. And Harvest is family. We’re not about being trendy or alienating people… So we’ll get in as many people as we can and drink and have fun!’
The six-course dinner, matched with vibrant biodynamic wines from Castagna vineyard in Beechworth, Victoria, was a bold selection of dishes, casually plated, with some, including Roast Bone Marrow, Crab & Sorrell DIY and Whole Woodfired Suckling Pig – Fassnidge Style, designed to share as a table. The duo didn’t hold back, laying on the meat, the fat, and unctuous, earthy flavours without restraint.
The chefs were particularly chuffed with the ‘butter’ they served, invented on the fly – potatoes cooked underneath 120-day dry aged beef rib, blended with the dripping and presented in ceramic dishes spiked with a bone. There were some moments of bright and feminine reprieve for the senses in a painterly scattering of multi-hued beets that accompanied the second course of smoked eel with creamy horseradish and the piercingly zesty Piccone Citrus dessert, which featured mandarines and kumquats the pair had collected from a local fruit farm – a highlight of Fassnidge’s trip to Byron.
‘We really just made stuff up today,’ said Fassnidge with a laugh, introducing the menu to diners who had moved upstairs to the cafe following champagne and canapes by the fire in the old bakery. ‘If you’re a vegetarian, you’re fucked!’ he cracked, with Cameron chiming in: ‘You’ll all probably have to go for a run tomorrow’.
The high jinks continued throughout the night as Fassnidge sipped wine behind the pass, and cavorted for the cameras while carving a whole pig (when tipsy guests cried out for crackling: ‘It won’t crackle, it’s a baby,’ he retorted). Both chefs plus Grier and his wife Kassia, and special guest winemaker Adam Castagna, mingled with diners during the evening, encouraging the lively atmosphere. ‘We want to hear you all talking; I don’t want to be able to hear the music!’ said Cameron at the start of the meal.
By the end of the laidback dinner he’d achieved his wish, glasses clinking and laughter rippling long into the night. The next Harvest Collective Chef Series dinner will take place in September and pairs Brett Cameron with Indigenous chef and native foods proponent Clayton Donovan of Janning Tree.