By Vivienne Pearson
‘I’m always humbled by anyone saying anything nice about us, even a nice comment on Facebook or Instagram,’ says Graeme Stockdale of Stockpot Kitchen based at the Bangalow Bowling Club.
So it stands to reason that Graeme (known mainly as Gray but also as ‘Big Red’, thanks to his chest-length red beard) was blown away by receiving the ‘Best Regional’ award from the Australian Good Food and Travel Guide (AGFG).
The AGFG (www.agfg.com.au) awards are open for voting throughout a calendar year. Gray was unaware that he was even in the running until he was notified in January of his win. ‘I had to ring them to find out more because I wasn’t sure which category we’d won,’ Gray says. It turns out it was the People’s Choice Award – the best award in Gray’s mind. ‘They said: “You were just ranked top in the northern rivers area full stop,” Gray says, shaking his head in disbelief.
A second humbling came when Stockpot Kitchen was included as one of the ‘Byron Bay Top 10 Eats’ by local slow-food advocate Kate Walsh. Kate, who runs the Real Food Project (www.realfoodprojects.com), sums up what the Stockpot Kitchen is about when she says: ‘Gray and Jen totally rock the Bangalow Bowlo with their versions of smoky southern goodness… burgers, fried chicken are the staples… their commitment to sourcing locally grown and raised produce is second to none and the beers are cheap. What more could you want?’
Have the accolades made any difference to business? ‘I’m not sure to be honest,’ says Gray. ‘We were already at the stage where we’re doing 100 – 350 meals a night.’
They say good things come in threes so, along with the Golden Fork their Southern Style Fried Chicken took out at Sample Food Festival in September last year, I’d say Stockpot have the trifecta.
How are they coping with their popularity? ‘We’ve become a big team,’ says Gray. ‘But we don’t want to be like the hospitality places we grew up in – we’re big on paying people properly, not working stupid hours, having holidays and having a beer together at the end of the week.’
The Bangalow Bowlo has just completed a cool new upgrade to their outdoor area, with a new verandah, umbrellas and shade sail. ‘It’s made it even more family friendly,’ says Bowlo manager Shane Ironside. A fully fenced bowling green, originally constructed to allow futsal games, has become an informal area for kids to enjoy while their parents are enjoying their food. Informally known as the Kids Cage, it’s another factor making the outdoor area perfect for summer evenings.
Overall, what makes Gray happiest is that current trends have caught up with his natural style. ‘This cooking with fire and smoke is my thing,’ he says. ‘Because this is my show, I can do the food I want to eat.’ It is the fact that so many people share his love of this food that leaves him truly humbled.
Stockpot Kitchen is at Bangalow Bowling Club. Open for Dinner Tues–Sat from 5pm, Lunch Fri and Sat from 11.30am.
Visit their website at stockpotkitchen.com.au or see Facebook and Instagram for impromptu offers and specials (@The Stockpot Kitchen).