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Byron Shire
February 26, 2024

Danielle Alvarez: thoughtful guest chef at Harvest Newrybar

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Harvest has a beautiful deck, as well as an indoor area. Photo, Jess Kearney.

Simon Haslam

One of Australia’s most exciting chefs, Danielle Alvarez (formerly of Fred’s restaurant in Paddington) is bringing her love of old-world cooking techniques and thoughtful approach to flavour to the Northern Rivers, for three days only at Harvest Newrybar; cooking a series of dinners/lunches over the weekend 20–22 January. 

Danielle is known for her farm-to-table cooking, where seasonality, locally-sourced produce and a sense of occasion come together – a beautiful fit with Harvest – and Danielle will very much take on Harvest’s ethos for the weekend, visiting the producers they work with (including the Harvest family farm – the Picone Exotics orchard) to pull her menu together in the days prior to the events. 

One of the benefits of the Northern Rivers, for Sydney chefs that work closely with producers, like Danielle, are the large number of small producers of high quality product in the near vicinity. ‘I’m really excited to see some of the farms we will be buying from for this event,’ says Danielle. ‘I’ve been lucky to visit Picone Exotics already and it really blew my mind. There are not many places in the world (if any?) like that. The variety, the quality and intensity of the flavour of the fruit is so exciting.’ 

‘And as for other farms, I think it’s interesting that there are so many farms in a relatively small area. This means the freshness will be at its best. In and around Sydney, there are few small farms and they are located really far from one another, so I have to imagine this proximity also creates an incredible sense of community. I really look forward to meeting the producers, seeing how they work, and of course tasting and cooking with all the things the farmers of the Northern Rivers produce,’ she said.

Whilst it’s important for producers to have restaurants to buy and showcase their products, Danielle stresses the leading role of farmers in sustainability and innovation. ‘When thinking about all the small farms I’ve worked with over the years in Australia, just as much as I feel I am encouraging sustainable practices, I think the reverse is even more true. The small farmers have always pushed me to be more sustainable and to try new ingredients I hadn’t worked with before (quality has never been an issue – it’s always amazing). 

‘At the beginning of my time in Australia I would try to get seeds of produce I had worked with in California and ask farmers to grow it for me, but I realised pretty quickly that the farmers will always know their land and their climate better than anyone – so I should just do more listening! I’ve learned to use produce, even if it’s not my favourite or I don’t understand it, because that is the most sustainable act I can do. If the farms are not supported, they will cease to exist and we need them,’ says Danielle.

I also asked Danielle what it’s like to work in the open kitchen, which at Fred’s is even more ‘front and centre’ of the dining room than at Harvest. ‘Stressful at times’, answered Danielle, ‘but ultimately it creates the best connection between food and guest. With the open kitchen, I like that we are never trying to hide anything – that honesty can be difficult to communicate to the diner if you’re behind walls. I also like to see firsthand if guests are enjoying their food, and feel the atmosphere of the restaurant – this also informs the food I cook. Harvest has that beautiful connection as well, so I’m sure I will feel at home.’

As for what’s on the menu, Danielle will be planning her three-course menu, plus snacks, around what’s tasting best that week. Think vegetables and bread cooked in Harvest’s historic wood burning oven, pristine seafood, grilled meats and fruit freshly picked from the famed Picone Exotics orchard.

Danielle Alvarez will be cooking dinner in the Harvest restaurant, Friday and Saturday from 5.30pm, and then a long Sunday lunch from 12pm, to wrap up the weekend.

For bookings see
harvestnewrybar.com.au

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