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133 Buckhurst Street, South Melbourne, 3205

You may have never heard of the historic village of Newrybar – tucked in the Byron Hinterland in northern New South Wales. But chances are you have heard of its locally owned & operated cafe, deli and bakery – Harvest. Whether it be via Instagram drooling, through Facebook photo envy – or being lucky enough to enjoy its country charm in the flesh – those with a passion for food definitely have Harvest on their radar.

I must confess to being a victim of pining from afar (Insta was my social weapon of choice) until I got a morning to myself – and the chance to savour in the deliciousness I was promised at Harvest. Having an ethos of using local, seasonal and only the freshest produce – and priding itself on it’s sustainable business practices – Harvest is a win for many diners – even prior to any plates being presented.

But even then, this little beauty doesn’t disappoint. From what comes out of the kitchen, to the outlook, to the friendly service – Harvest is truly something to experience. My only complaint? It’s ruined me for all others. How can I settle for the regular eggs benny, a big brekkie or a breakfast bruschetta when I’ve had the joy of the spiced roast cauliflower at Harvest?

In an effort to bring a little Harvest home with me, I took the opportunity to pick the brains of its Executive Chef – Bret Cameron. He left the big smoke in Sydney (including working directly with Colin Fassnidge in his flagship restaurant The Four in Hand) for the charm of the coast, and the chance to combine his passion for quality produce with the sustainable philosophy of Harvest.

Did you eat your veggies growing up as a child in New Zealand’s South Island?

“Yes – we even grew our own veggies! It was a semi-rural town where I grew up – my parents, my family – we always grew our own food. As a kid you’d pot peas and pot broad beans, now I think everyone’s lost where their food comes from. That’s why we are pushing what we push [at Harvest] and try to educate people on where it all comes from. Bring it back round to how it used to be – how it should be. Back to the farmers, back to the roots.”

What’s your favourite thing about being in Newrybar?

“I don’t want to tell everyone – but I think it’s paradise. You’ve got the beach, the weather, a great climate. The produce around here is amazing. A lot of chefs from Sydney come up here looking for produce – and we’ve got it on our doorstep. Everything is here.”

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Harvest Executive Chef – Bret Cameron. Photo: Supplied

You have two Chefs Hats to your name. What are you most proud of?

“Back in the day I used to push for Hats and all that stuff. But that’s one or two person’s opinion … so it doesn’t really affect me know. As long as we have happy people and they keep coming back – and having happy staff as well. Seeing someone smile and say, ‘that was amazing!’ – that’s one of my biggest accomplishments.”

Best piece of advice you would give a home enthusiast?

“Do what you love and do what feels right for you. Recipes are only guidelines – ask any chef in that kitchen. They don’t have recipes, it’s everything to taste. Things taste different at different times of year. Do what you do best and keep working on that to make it better.”

What is your favourite part of creating a menu?

“For me, knowing where the majority of it comes from. I can tell you our beef is from Goonengerry, and the potatoes are from Mike. The relativity and knowing where everything comes from means that when it all comes together on a plate you’re like, ‘wow, that’s pretty cool’. The plate tells a story.”

What ingredient are you just loving at the moment?

“Peaches and nectarines. They’re grown a couple of kilometres up the road. On Melbourne Cup day I went in to pick them up and the motorbike was coming in with them all on the back – they’d just been picked. It’s as fresh as you get! We use them fresh on desserts and on the breakfast. A perfectly ripe peach – you don’t want to do anything with that. The perfume, the aromas, the taste and the texture. The juiciness. You can’t get that from the supermarket.”

I’ve fallen in love with your spiced roast cauliflower with poached eggs, tahini, dukkah and labna. What inspired you to create such a different breakfast dish?

“When you want to do something different that other people aren’t doing – it’s just a matter of trialling. I roasted cauliflower in the oven downstairs [Harvest’s original, 105-year-old wood-fired oven] and it gives it something different. You can’t reproduce that from another oven. Then I thought cauliflower … eggs, kind of middle eastern – and it’s something different.”

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How have the tastes of customers changed over the years?

“People are a lot more open now, I think they are willing to try stuff. There are a lot more ingredients getting put on plates now that, 20 years ago, wouldn’t have got put on plates, or weren’t considered food. Now people are willing to try them. Everyone’s more adventurous, and more educated as well – which is the key. It’s cool to eat out now, where it wasn’t so much 20 years ago.”

What do you most love about your job?

“Obviously I love cooking and getting the opportunity to be sustainable – this is my dream job. I’ve got an amazing restaurant and the opportunity to do amazing things with it. We’ve got a bakery with a 105-year-old oven — there is some serious history in this town and this venue alone. I’ve been saying to people, ‘our history is our future’, which sounds backwards – but it’s right. Everyone that works here, we’re like a family, and that’s what makes Harvest what it is. When you come here, you feel welcome.”

What is going to be the next big thing in the food world?

“People are getting more and more educated, growing their own food, or even just knowing where it comes from. I’m in a unique place where I do know where my produce comes from, I can give people a list of the farmers. But it’s not just a trend – it HAS to happen. It has to become more sustainable – we have to push that. For the benefit of everyone, and the future generation, it has to happen. It’s going to take time and, of course, we can’t do everything at once. As I say – good things take time. My grandfather taught me that.”

The team here at Slow couldn’t agree more.

To get your own taste of Harvest visit harvestnewrybar.com.au/ or give them a call on (02) 6687 2644.

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