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How a top chef Sampled the region

By Vivienne Pearson

The story of Darren Robertson’s move from the UK to Sydney’s Three Blue Ducks to living and working in Byron Bay has been well told. 

A lesser-known story is how the Sample Food Festival helped Darren find his feet in his chosen new home. 

‘It was during the eight or so months between moving up and opening Three Blue Ducks at The Farm,’ says Darren during an exclusive interview with The Echo. ‘We were invited to come and cook at Sample. It was really downplayed so I was seriously expecting a few trestle tables in a field.’

This was Sample 2015 and, even then, the event was huge, attracting something like 10,000 visitors over the day. ‘I was blown away by the size and calibre of the event,’ recalls Darren, who introduces himself as ‘Daz’, a nickname that suits his shaggy hair, warm smile and slight hint of an English accent. 

The result was that they sold out of food within a few hours. This turned out to be a blessing in disguise. ‘We wanted to keep cooking, so we went to all the providore stalls at Sample to stock up,’ says Darren, of buying up pork sausages from the Singhs and vegetables from various local farmers. ‘We then cooked everything up on the fly!’

In doing so, the Three Blue Ducks team met local food growers as well as other local food identities, including Karl and Katrina Kanetani from Town, the Indigenous chef Clayton Donovan, and the team from Brookfarm. 

‘Sample was our launch pad,’ says Darren.

Three-and-a-half years later, Three Blue Ducks is an established part of the Byron food scene and Sample goes from strength to strength. The reins of the festival are being passed over from founder Remy Tancred to ex-music festival organiser Rose Taylor (who has worked on Splendour, Falls, Bluesfest and is still involved in the Mullum Music Festival).

Things have changed for Darren too. He has two children, the younger who was born only a month ago and just a day before the launch of the Three Blue Ducks’ latest incarnation, this time in Brisbane.

Darren is excited to be onboard as an official part of Sample 2018. He will be a judge of the luminous Golden Fork competition and he launched the event at the Gold Coast Airport – a less incongruous partnership than it first seems when you realise that many people now plan their trip to the northern rivers around attending Sample. 

Sample Food Festival is on Saturday 1 September at the Bangalow Showgrounds. For information on this and other events happening around the festival, see samplefoodevents.com.


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