Story and photo by Vivienne Pearson
Monique Guterres runs her catering businesses true to the ideals that first brought her to the northern rivers. In the 90s she lived off the grid near Protesters Falls.
Monique, or Mon as she is to most, recalls these years fondly. ‘I lived in buses and cabins, heating water by fire. I loved how everyone used their talents and it wasn’t all about money.’
These themes still play out in her work, despite now mainly catering for lavish weddings and corporate events. Her environmental footprint is small: ‘Because I source produce from farms, there is minimal packaging. Everything is composted and, even from a huge event, I usually end up with a half a red bin of waste and some recycling.’
Mon uses native ingredients, inventively incorporating them into Japanese cuisine. ‘My dad is from Portugal and my mum was born and bred in Japan,’ she says. ‘They both cooked and fished and we’d go to the markets every week.’
Her cooking style reflects all these traditions. She started cooking commercially in the early 2000s when she and a friend carried baskets of freshly prepared food around Byron Bay and the industrial estate. ‘People may remember,’ she says. ‘We wore sleeveless kimonos and offered dishes such as snapper nori rolls and fresh noodles with king prawns.’
Mon now has not one but three different businesses – not a bad feat for someone who describes herself as ‘so not a business person’. Seaweed Cuisine is high-end catering for no-expense-spared events.
Hungry Like the Wolf, was created in response to those who sought her style of catering without the big budget that Seaweed Cuisine’s intricate preparation requires. ‘It’s still local produce but a more fun, festive style,’ she says.
Her new venture – so new that you could consider this an announcement of the launch – is JUJU, a roving licensed bar, which will focus on fun, gathering-style events powered by music and wines matched to her delicious food. ‘Each event will fit with the name, meaning mystical or surprising,’ she says.
Mon still sees the magic in the region. ‘Some people think Byron is gone but the magic is still there,’ she says, adding that she thinks more could be made of our special environment.
The girl growing up in Adelaide and hating school might be surprised to find where her life has taken her. Less so the girl who would cook the crabs she and her family caught on the beach and who kept reading about the northern rivers and thinking about how people were really free there.
Seaweed Cuisine: https://seaweedcuisine.com.au. Hungry Like the Wolf: hungrylikethewolfbyron.com
JUJU: Instagram @jujubyronbar
Monique at home with Saski