By: Vivienne Pearson
We’re on the hunt for celery. I’ve joined the quest, even though celery is my least favourite vegetable (I always remove it from salad or soup). ‘Perhaps at the stall over there with the eggplants?’ I suggest enthusiastically.
My suggestion is to Gavin Hughes, head chef at The Byron at Byron, who is a regular at the Byron Bay Farmers Market each Thursday morning, gathering produce for the Farmers Market Dinner he cooks each Thursday night.
The rest of the ‘we’ are guests of The Byron at Byron, who are invited to join Gavin as he shops. ‘I love luring the guests out of the resort,’ Gavin jokes. His friendliness and enthusiasm for the market-to-plate philosophy make him a natural tour leader.
His friendliness and enthusiasm also stand him in good stead for his shopping. Unsurprisingly, given that he has shopped here since the market began, Gavin is well known to market stallholders. For Gavin, getting to know the farmers who grow the produce is a highlight of his week. ‘I come here for the people as much as the food,’ he says.
Tomatoes are first up on our shopping list and one of the visitors, Greg, who is enjoying his first trip to the region, is put in charge of choosing a bowlful that range from pink through to a dark red-green. Gavin says he used to work out his Farmers Market Dinner menu on the day, based on the produce available. ‘Doing this on the hop got a bit stressful, though.’ Planning a week ahead also allows him to give stallholders a heads-up on his plans. I happily listen to him and Kerry, from Nimbin Valley Dairy, exchanging banter around deciding the best type of goat cheese for next week’s entrée.
At dinner that night, I enjoy eating the apples and beetroot we’d bought as well as a delightful dessert featuring guavas from Picone Exotics in Tyagarah. What surprises me is how much of the regular dinner menu at The Byron at Byron showcases produce from the Farmers Market – including salad greens from WiccaWood Farm, raspberries from Tallogum, and those colourful tomatoes selected by Greg (it’s fun knowing the provenance of the person who chose these, as well as the actual produce!).
Though we were unsuccessful in our quest to find celery at the Farmers Market, it did still feature in the menu. Gavin has other sources of locally grown vegetables, including ‘people who come to the restaurant back door in their gumboots – they know I’m a champion of local produces’. It turns out that locally grown celery is pretty special, and I happily ate my whole ‘Gavin’s Waldorf salad’ without removing a single piece!
Information: Farmers Market Dinners ($52 two course, $62 three course) are open to all every Thursday at The Byron At Byron – bookings encouraged in advance. Byron Bay Farmers Market is open 8–11am every Thursday morning in the Butler Street Reserve.